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.
Fresh advice has been issued by the Rare Breding Birds Panel in conjunction with the RSPB, BTO and SOC. It is also being supported by a number of national websites and Skye Birds is happy to endorse these policies locally. There are at least 12 species which breed on Skye which because of their rarity, are vulnerable to disturbance, and to do so deliberately or recklessly is against the law. Although some species, particularly raptors, are still persecuted by game managers in some areas, there has been an increasing incidence of disturbance by birdwatchers and especially by bird photographers. Although such disturbance may be accidental, inconsiderate or careless behaviour can lead to birds deserting their nests or losing their eggs or young to predators. To support this we will NOT publish any images of rare breeding species at nesting sites during the breeding season.
Rare breeding birds inevitably attract attention and interest from a wide range of people, most of whom wish them well. Certainly, most birdwatchers would like to be able to watch rare breeders, since by their nature they are not encountered often and are usually very interesting in their breeding habitat, but most people realise that approaching them is likely to cause harm and don't do so. However some individuals wish to harm our rare breeders. This might be because they want to kill them (usually raptors on land used for shooting) or because they want to take their eggs or young for personal satisfaction or gain. Other people may not wish to harm them but could do so by behaving irresponsibly. This would include people trying to take photographs of breeding birds at close range or of nests.
All species of bird are fully protected by law under the Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981) but some species are assigned special protection when at the nest — these species are included in Schedule 1 of the Act. It is an offence to intentionally disturb these birds while they are building a nest, or in, on or near a nest containing eggs or young; or to disturb dependent young even if not in the nest. It is also an offence to recklessly disturb these species, through for instance trying to get a better view by going too close to the birds, leading to the potential for accidental disturbance. The list of species covered by RBBP is available here: www.rbbp.org.uk/rbbp-species-list-full.htm.
Although not ideal summer conditions, corncrakes are returning to our shores to breed. The corncrake is an extremely rare bird, particularly on Skye, but we have at least two males calling on the island just now. I’m hoping that a few more will turn up so am very keen for your reports. Corncrakes are famous for their ability to be heard but not seen and they spend most of their time hiding in tall vegetation. In May they’re likely to be amongst the flag iris, reeds, nettles, or indeed any rough field margins. They move into the hay and silage meadows as those grasses start 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. It is best 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 summer survey. If you would like to know more about the work RSPB is doing on Skye for corncrakes please 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
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.