Corncrakes continued to call all over the island during the month. The finalised count total this year for the island was 385 calling males, which was very similar to the 2010 figure of 391 birds. The weather was mostly good throughout July, so hopefully breeding success will again be high, thanks once more to all the Corncrake friendly techniques employed by the island’s crofters and farmers.
Most of our birds seem to have had a reasonably good breeding season, although numbers of young raised were no doubt knocked back by the gales in late May.
Mute Swans for example only managed to rear two broods totalling 7 young from at least 11 nesting pairs in April. The waders, gulls and starlings all appeared to produce plenty of young, with large mixed flocks building up once more on the first cut silage fields.
Wildfowl also did well given the wet spring and many broods of Mallard, Shelduck, Red-breasted Merganser, Pintail and Tufted Duck were noted on the island’s wetlands, as well as a Gadwall brood at Kilmoluaig and a fledged Shoveler brood at The Reef.
The total number of Greylag broods was down on previous years as a result of the on-going goose management scheme, although many broods were still to be seen at their favoured lochs.
As in 2010, seabirds benefited from an abundance of sand eels throughout the month and 32 Little Terns plus over 100 Arctic Terns fledged from colonies around the island. The other seabirds had mixed results: at Ceann a’ Mhara, Shags produced a fair number of young as always, as did the Razorbills, whilst Guillemots fledged some 260+ young. However, numbers of young Fulmars in their nests dropped steadily through the month, whilst the very low count of 200 pairs of Kittiwake at Ceann a’ Mhara managed to fledge a respectable total of 205 chicks.
Smaller birds also appeared to do well, with many scattered families seen around the island of Linnet, Twite, Sedge Warbler and Wheatear. Scarcer species also did well – a pair of Chiffchaffs fledged 4 young for the second year at Balephuil, Greenfinches fledged young at 4 sites and Common Redpolls fledged young at 2 sites.
July is not normally a good month for scarcer migrants, as birds are mostly still on their breeding grounds. However, failed breeders and younger birds started moving once more during the month and there were a few notable records. The most unusual sighting was that of a juvenile Blackcap at Balephuil (4th), the first mid-summer record of this species from the island and presumably a wandering youngster from the increasing population on the Argyll mainland.
Other good birds included an adult Sea Eagle at Traigh Bhi (12th), the long-staying Golden Eagle again at Ceann a’ Mhara (23rd) and an early Sooty Shearwater off the south of the island (20th). Return wader passage picked up during the month and included 5 Whimbrel (from 11th), 4 Common Sandpipers (from 13th), 13 Blacktailed Godwits (from 13th), 121 Sanderling at Gott Bay (18th), a Ruff at Loch a’ Phuill (28th) and up to 10 Greenshanks daily on the larger lochs (from 20th).
Up to 10 Whooper Swans, two Great Northern Divers, 2 Pink-footed Geese and a lone Barnacle Goose summered on the island, whilst 3 Hen Harriers, including a fine male, returned (from 19th). Offshore, there were moderate numbers of Basking Sharks all around the coast, regular pods of Harbour Porpoises and occasional exciting sightings of Orcas.
Many thanks to those of you who have kept me posted with your latest observations. If anyone would like to report unusual sightings of birds or other wildlife on Tiree, please contact me at the address below: John Bowler, Pairc na Coille, Balephuil, Isle of Tiree PA77 6UE. Tel: 220748