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.
Four of us from the Highlands and Islands set out for a winter trip to Estonia between 11-16 March where the country was still in the grip of winter. It was dry throughout but for the first three days the temperature rarely rose above freezing. On our final full birding day the sun shone and temperatures climbed to 6! We recorded 79 species seen and two heard. Main target species was Stellar's Eider and we managed to find the normal wintering flock which was a bit distant for photographs. Other sea duck including Long-tailed Duck (see image) were plentiful. Like here Whoopers were heading north though these ones were going to breeding grounds in Siberia..and amongst them we found a Bewick's Swan. Other new species for me included Nutcracker, and the diminutive Pygmy Owl, hardly as big as a Starling. Amongst the woodpeckers were Black and White-backed which were new to some of the party. Because of the cold weather many breeding birds leave the country in winter though Yellowhammers, Fieldfare, and most of the Tit family seem able to survive. Estonia is a great country to visit if you are interested in wildlife, with easy driving and reasonable hotels and food. If you want a more detailed trip report let me know. More images are in the overseas gallery.
Though Little Egret is a regular vagrant to Scotland and to the Highlands, its cousin the Cattle Egret remains very scarce so the presence of a bird near Stranraer was a bit of a temptation. It also took us near the last remaining population of breeding Willow Tits in Scotland. This Tit once bred in the Highlands and there were historical records for Skye, but its range has contracted significantly. Thanks to the RSPB a small but successful population can be found on its reserves at Wood of Cree and the Ken-Dee marshes in Galloway. Also on our trip list was a Bonaparte's Gull, an american vagrant, which has been turning up at Gourock. To cut a long story short, we managed to find the Cattle Egret, got great views of Willow Tits, but dipped on the gull both on the way down and an the journey home - on the latter visit the bird turned up an hour after we left! The hides at the Ken-Dee marshes were a treat with well stocked feeders attracting all the tits, Great Spotted Woodpeckers and Nuthatch, but the Willow Tits were of course the highlight - see image. There was an obliging drake Pintail at Loch Ryan and a Little Gull at Cardwell Bay. A range of images are in the UK section of 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.