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.
With the settled weather I managed to fulfil a long held ambition to visit St Kilda, now possible on a day trip out of Uig - http://www.gotostkilda.co.uk. St Kilda is a National Nature Reserve and World Heritage Site and of course the bird interest lies in its seabirds with 140,000 pairs of Puffins, 68,000 pairs of Fulmars and the largest gannetry in the world on Boreray with an estimated 60,000 pairs. On a day trip with 4 hours ashore it is an almost surreal experience. The weather was positively benign but despite that there was a fair Atlantic swell as we circled the towering stacks of Boreray, a truly amazing experience (see image). There are also significant numbers of Great Skuas breeding as well as a few Arctic's. Although I heard a St Kilda Wren it remained out of view. Such a remote group of islands will also pick up a few migrants so a female Whinchat seemed to be well out of normal range, and some Wheatears also looked to be on the move from further north. An image of a moth was id'd by Steve Duffield as a Nettle-tap and we are waiting to find out if this is a first for St. Kilda. On the journey out and back we picked up a small pod of Common Dolphins, a couple of Minke Whale and nearer Uig, good numbers of Harbour Porpoise. Bird highlights included a few Storm Petrels but all this paled to insignificance alongside the special atmosphere which makes St Kilda a world apart. Thanks to Derek and Nicola for an extremely professional and safe trip.
In an effort to visit most of our offshore islands, Stephen Bungard the Botanical Recorder for the area organised a trip to the remote group of islands north-west of Uig comprising Fladda-chuain, Gaeilavore Island, Thon Eilean, Gearran Island, Am Bord and An t-Iasgair. Only the first is readily accessible and some of our group also managed to land on Gaeilavore. Access was by rib provided by skyeXplorer out of Uig. Most of the recording was done from the boat but because of what turned out to be a fantastic day with little wind, we were able to spend over three hours on the largest island in the group, Fladda-chuain. These are the best seabird colonies in the Skye and Lochalsh area and are visited most years by the Shiants Ringing Group. Information provided by seabird surveys in the past provides a record of fluctuating numbers especially amongst species such as Arctic Tern and Puffin. It was estimated there were at least 500 pairs of Arctic Terns which were confined to Fladda-chuain. There must have been 500+ pairs of Puffins which appeared to be nesting on all the other islands including An t-Iasgair. Guillemots, Razorbills and Puffins with sand eels indicated that young were perhaps being fed but there was little evidence of any young birds on the sea. Many Kittiwake were also nesting but again there was not much evidence of chicks. Conversely, Shags were doing well with many broods of three and 20+ pairs of Cormorant, a restricted breeder in these parts, had produced many young on Thon Eilean. It was encouraging to see a young Peregrine on the wing. At least 6 pairs of Great Skua were present and 3 of them were breeding and had produced chicks. In all some 25 bird species were recorded in what was a wonderful trip in glorious sunshine to a spectacular and rarely visited corner of Skye. Puffin image by James Merryweather and there are other images in the Gallery.
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.