Skye Birds - A Birding Guide to the Isle of Skye

The Skye-Birds Blog

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.

Hen Harriers in Skye & Lochalsh 2018

9th August 2018


The weather was exceptional throughout the main period of the breeding season.  In the North Skye study area there were probably 6 territories occupied either by pairs or single birds.  This population has remained relatively stable since it crashed in 2013.  Much of this area was affected by extensive hill fires in early spring 2018 which as well as removing some historical nest sites, also reduced foraging opportunities over significant areas.  Although 5 pairs may have bred, information on an island breeding pair was inconclusive.  The four remaining pairs were successful producing a total of 9 fledged young and as far as can be established, no nests were predated.  In south Skye and Lochalsh there were at least 5 territories, two of which were new and it is suspected young hatched at all sites.  Unfortunately, three subsequently failed with fox predation being a factor at one site, and unknown causes at the other two.  The other two nests produced at least four young.  Overall results were that of 11 known territories in Skye and Lochalsh, 6 were successful producing a total of 13 young.  Three nests were known to have failed at the stage when young were in the nest.  It is suspected a single male in one territory failed to attract a female.  Whilst an adult female was seen on an island site breeding was not proved.

Disturbance at nest sites was avoided.  Historically there has been a problem at nest sites due to fox predation.  Foxes are known to follow human trails.  However, by avoiding visits to nest sites in the last two seasons, there is already some indication that breeding productivity has increased as shown on the attached table which relates to north Skye.

Many thanks to everyone who has contributed records.


Red-necked Phalarope

5th August 2018

 This is a tiny wader, little bigger than a sparrow, which spends most of its time at sea.  It is a summer visitor to Scotland and breeds in small numbers in the Western Isles and on Shetland.  Little had been known about where it spends its winters.  In the last few summers a number of birds have been caught in Fetlar on Shetland and fitted with tiny geolocators.  Trapped when they returned to breeding grounds the following year these have revealed that the Shetland population crosses the Atlantic and uses Pacific wintering grounds off the west coast of south America.  In so doing they join up with the breeding population from Iceland, Greenland, and North America.

Red-necked Phalaropes have never been known to breed on Skye and there are only a few records from Skye in recent years.  What this research shows is that the bird named B/B following its departure from Shetland on 23rd July, 2016, visited the Western Isles then had a quick trip over the Minch to visit Skye at the end of July, then Canna, before continuing its westwards journey to eventually reach its wintering grounds in the Pacific.  Had it not been for the scientific advances in the use of geolocators, this amazing migration might never have been unlocked.  A truly amazing feat for such a tiny bird and perhaps understandably, its brief visit to Skye was never recorded until now.

Highland Bird Report 2017

Published by Highland Branch of the SOC, the 2017 report is now available at a cost of £9.  The report extends to 180 pages and contains a Skye and Lochalsh year summary provided by yours truly.  There are also several images in the publication from Martin Benson and myself. 

© 2019 Skye Birds