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.
In the spring of 1885 two Nuthatch were reported "haunting the trees" at Waternish House by Captain MacDonald, a record which was accepted at the time and included in the historical accounts. However, it is one of these records which has always been regarded with a degree of scepticism, and it has taken 130 years for a genuine record to turn up. Lorna Flavelle found a bird on her feeders in Broadford on 19th April and luckily had a camera on hand to record the event. It visited fatballs three times that day but there have been no other reports anywhere in the area since, so check your feeders carefully!! In 2010 a bird was recorded by Brian Neath at Carr Brae, Lochalsh, and at the same time a bird had turned up at Morar. It is a species which is slowly expanding its range, and especially in winter, is very much dependent on garden feeders. This is as far up the west coast as the bird has been recorded. The record still has to go before the Highland Record Committee but the availability of images makes that a formality.
Corncrakes are returning to their breeding grounds at this time of year and already we have at least one calling male here on Skye. This signals the start of the RSPB annual corncrake survey! Corncrakes are famous for their ability to be heard but not seen and they spend most of their time hiding in tall vegetation. Flag iris, reed or nettle beds, or indeed any rough field margins, are favoured until the hay and silage meadows begin to grow. The repetitive, rasping call of the male is best heard late at night but they do call through the day too. They are found mainly on croft land but please don’t go into the meadows. We always advise to listen for them from the roadside to avoid damaging the hay and silage. If you hear a corncrake (day or night!) I would really appreciate a call, email or text saying where you heard it and when. Or let Bob at Skye-birds.com know. All reports from Skye Birds visitors are extremely helpful with the 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. Thanks and have a great summer!
All reports are greatly appreciated either through this website or directly to Shelagh Parlane on 07771545409 or email
Great Northern Divers winter in Skye and undertake a complete body moult at this time to assume their stunning breeding plumage. Black-throats are scarce breeders on Skye and their courtship display of synchronised swimming and aquaplaning is spectacular but rarely seen. Watching a single Great Northern on Loch Slapin yesterday, I became aware of another diver coming into the middle of Kilmarie Bay which I realised was a Black-throated Diver. There was then several minutes of interaction between the two, which initially appeared aggressive mainly on the part of the Black-throat. I then realised it was a courtship display with a lot of chasing, diving, head dipping, birds rearing out of the water and moving across the surface. Whilst I managed to take a series of images, these were all fairly distant but the image shown shows the significant contrast in size. It was the Great Northern which eventually took sanctuary at the side of the loch and throughout the episode the Black-throat had certainly appeared to be the the main pursuer. There have been records of hybridisation between the two species, one in Scotland at Loch Maree many years ago. It was a fascinating encounter.
One of our remotest and interesting peninsulas is the subject of a new website. There will be a visit to the area soon led by John Phillips of the Highland Council Ranger Service. There is a lot of bird interest in the area but it is rarely visited and the sea watching potential is terrific. I contributed a wee paragraph on the birds and Stephen Bungard made a contrition for the website on the botanical interest. The area of course is best known for its archaeological interest. Well worth a visit.
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.