The Greenshank

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22nd March 2021


“Although a few Greenshank winter with us, it’s that time of the year when birds return to their breeding territories in Skye and Lochalsh.  Birds were known to breed in the Sligachan area in Victorian times but were unfortunately regularly targeted by egg collectors, such was their national scarcity.  Fortunately times have changed, and we now have over 50 pairs nesting in the area.  It is a bird of remote hills and glens, with an evocative alarm call to give itself away.  This is beautifully captured by Norman MacCaig in his 1974 poem -

     “His single note - one can’t help calling it piping, one can’t help calling it
       plaintive - slides droopingly down no more than a semitone, but is filled
       with an octave of loneliness, with the whole sad scale of desolation”

From an early age I was privileged to see migratory Greenshank near the village where I was brought up in Perthshire.  I remain privileged that I can hear territorial Greenshank piping near my home in Skye, a true harbinger of spring.”