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.
We had been trying to organise an all day pelagic trip to the waters north of Skye but the weather had been against us. Finally we headed out of Portree yesterday on the Aspire and spent 8 hours in the Sound of Raasay, north of Rona, and reached the southern edge of the Burma Bank. Conditions were good though there was still a northerly swell. There were good numbers of Kittiwakes and Auks in the Sound, especially Guillemots so plenty of feeding around which probably accounted for the numerous groups of Common Dolphins encounters, probably reaching totals of 200+ - Andy Williams's image is shown. There were several small groups of Harbour Porpoise and at least one Minke Whale. Another unidentified Whale breached but we were unable to find it. The bird highlights included two Storm Petrels, two Sooty Shearwaters, a Pomarine Skua, 12 Arctic Skuas and at least 8 Great Skuas. But it was the Dolphins which stole the show and we were regally escorted back into Loch Portree. Thanks to Kevin of the Aspire for such a safe and enjoyable trip.
I have just written a paper which has been published in Scottish Birds and the introduction is as follows:-
"The first comprehensive summary of the occurrence of Montagu’s Harrier in Scotland was contained in The Birds of Scotland (Forrester et al. 2007). The author of the species account, Chris McInerny, concluded that had it not been for the criminal behaviour of sporting interests and gamekeepers, at a time of significant range expansion of the species in the 1950s, we might all have been able to still enjoy such a beautiful bird breeding in Scotland. Though Montagu’s Harrier had attempted to breed in Scotland earlier, the first successful breeding was at Braco Moor in south Perthshire in 1952 (Blake 1953, 1977, 2001, Blake & Stephen 1953). Birds were present in the area in successive years, and bred again in 1953 and 1955, which was thought to be the last breeding occurrence in Scotland. This paper provides significant additional information for the historical record."
A pdf of the paper is available here:
With its proximity to the Atlantic the Western Isles has developed a reputation over the last 20 years or so for producing scarce migrants, many windblown across the Atlantic. The discovery of an American Redstart on Barra was extremely tempting, only the 2nd record in Scotland, and the 6th in Britain. The risk is always that birds disappear before you get there but my friend Andy and I made the double ferry crossing keeping a close eye on the bird network systems. We arrived early afternoon on Sunday 10th to typical hebridean weather of strong winds and heavy rain, conditions not ideal for the bird showing. With over 100 twitchers visiting the island since the 9th when it arrived we were delighted to have the place to ourselves and despite the weather, the bird showed well (see image). Had such a bird turned up at a more accessible location thousands may have gone to see it. One enthusiastic and well off group of birders flew from Manchester in a charter plane only to crashland a short time later - luckily all escaped safely. Other charter flights did land on the famous Barra beach. Content with two ferry crossings we made our way back delighted to find another american visitor, a Semipalmated Sandpiper on South Uist. One was found a few years ago by Martin Benson in Broadford Bay but it was a first in Scotland for Andy, always a special buzz when it is self-found. As I have reached a significant age this year, I'm keeping a Scottish Year List which has now reached 199! Bob
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.