This page features current news and views from Skye and elsewhere. It will also provide an opportunity for others working locally to report research and results.
The preferred habitat of corncrakes is croft land and it’s best to listen from roadsides as this year’s grasses are just starting to grow now. Please don’t go into the meadows. The repetitive, rasping call of the male is best heard late at night but they do call through the day too. If you hear a corncrake (day or night!) it would be helpful if you could tell me where you heard it and when. Please call, email or pass the information on to Bob at Skye-birds.com. All reports from Skye Birds visitors are extremely helpful with the annual RSPB count of corncrakes on Skye. If you would like to know more about the work RSPB is doing on Skye for corncrakes please feel free to get in touch. The image is courtesy of David Hammond. Thanks and enjoy the summer!
All reports are greatly appreciated either through this website or directly to Shelagh Parlane on 01470 582498 or 07771545409 or email
"RSPB Scotland scientists have uncovered new evidence that could help to halt the dramatic decline of a rare upland bird. Scotland’s population of ring ouzels – popularly known as mountain blackbirds - has dropped by 36% since 1999 and these striking birds are vanishing from many of their former haunts in the rocky hillsides and gullies of the highest parts of the country. As the elusive birds begin to return to breed in the uplands from wintering in the mountains of North Africa, a long-running project in the Cairngorms has shone new light on the mystery of their disappearance and offered fresh hope for giving them a home. Intensive research at Glen Clunie in Aberdeenshire has suggested that the decline there is likely to have been caused by a drop in the survival of young birds in their first year. It is thought that the low survival rate could be influenced by a lack of suitable habitat. Ring ouzels are known to forage for invertebrates in short grass and a mix of grass and heather early in the summer, before switching their diet to blaeberry and rowan berries later on. They also need access to deeper vegetation, such as heather, to hide their nests and newly-fledged young. Scientists now hope that creating suitable habitats at breeding grounds could help to attract the birds with safe nest sites and abundant foraging areas, as well as concealing young birds from predators."
Ring Ouzels breed extensively in Skye and Lochalsh though little is known of overall numbers and distribution. Image of a bird at Kintail by Rule Anderson.
With regard to the Scottish White-tailed eagle population, as it now numbers in excess of 70 territories the population monitoring is, for the most part, no longer being carried out by paid RSPB field workers. In future the Raptor Study Groups will be taking over the role of collecting/collating information, as they already do with our other native raptors. The recently appointed Highland Raptor Study Group WTE co-ordinator is Justin Grant, who having spent seven years as an RSPB field worker on Skye and a further nine years as an RSPB contract WTE ringer, already knows his way reasonably well around the existing Highland population. So any WTE information can be sent to him especially if it may relate to a recently occupied or possibly unknown territory at The image shows Justin ringing a chick on Skye. Any information passed to this site will be sent to Justin. All Raptor Group workers operate under licence issued by SNH on the basis of standards set out in RAPTORS - a field guide for surveys and monitoring - published by The Stationery Office, Edinburgh (TSO)
RSPB Scotland staff and volunteers who have dedicated years to helping birds of prey have spoken of their anger and disappointment after 16 birds were confirmed dead in Ross-shire. Police have confirmed that the death toll in the area is now 12 red kites and four buzzards. At least some of the birds of prey were poisoned. The conservation charity has urged anyone with information to contact Police Scotland and has offered a £10,000 reward for information that leads to a successful conviction. Brian Etheridge has worked for the RSPB for 27 years and marks 19 years as a red kite officer in the Black Isle this week. Instead of celebrating, he is still reeling from the deaths of many birds he has worked with for more than a decade. Brian said: “This has been the worst two weeks of my life. I have worked with all of the birds – each one was ringed and tagged by me. I was there at the very beginning when they were only a few weeks old and I was there at the end when I went to collect their bodies. It’s a huge mix of emotions; I’ve gone from being very, very angry to extremely sad. Some of these birds I’ve known very well and for a very long time.” One of the dead birds was a 16-year-old female that Brian first tagged in 1998. She had been breeding in the Black Isle for 14 years and had raised between 25 to 30 young – one of which, an eight-year-old female, was also among the dead. Brian said: “I’ve gone to her nest every year since she first bred back in 2000 and I’ve climbed up to her nest so she probably knew me quite well. She was like an old friend and a very familiar sight so I will miss her this year. She had mated with one male for 13 years and he was so faithful. He has been sitting on their nest, waiting for her to come back. “Something like this can just wipe out so many birds and so many years of work. This is by far the worst example I’ve ever witnessed. There has been a huge reaction from the public. The community has really taken these birds to its heart. This was the very first reintroduction programme in Scotland so most people are very proud of their red kites.”
Every year we are lucky to enjoy sightings of Kites on the west coast which will be birds from the Black Isle population. We always hope that Kites will return to breed on Skye as they once did, but tragedies such as this severely impact on the population and set back the natural re-colonisation by years.
The annual bird report for Highland for the year 2016 has just been published by Highland Branch SOC. Many of the records contained in this website are included in the report. Sean Morris from Rum wrote the Lochaber summary in the report and ‘yours truly’ wrote the Skye and Lochalsh summary. Several colour images have been reproduced and include several from Bob and Martin Benson. I have a small number of copies available at £9, otherwise contact Highland Branch SOC at www.highlandbirds.scot.