The public wildlife-viewing hides at Loch a’ Phuill and Loch Bhasapol were both installed as part of Nadairfunded community projects and are now over 13 and 18 years old respectively.
Constantly exposed to Tiree’s weather, they were both in need of a bit of TLC this summer. Much of the woodwork around the windows on the Loch a’ Phuill hide was rotten, and the roof was leaking, whilst the door handles on the Loch Bhasapol hide had rusted off completely, preventing entry! Coupled with broken slat hinges and swollen doors, there was a lot of work to be done.
New materials were obtained using monies donated to the Tiree Community Development Trust from last September’s Yellowbellied Flycatcher twitch and sterling repair work was conducted in July and August by volunteer David Clark, who gave his expert DIY time for free. A pair of Swallows had set up a nest in the Loch Bhasapol hide, as one of the window slats had fallen of, so the work had to be conducted around them and the window kept open to allow the fledglings to be fed and to leave the hide successfully (which they did).
There is still some work to be done to replace some rotting arm-rests in the Loch a’ Phuill hide, once we can get hold of some marine plywood, but both of the hides are now dry, in much better shape and are accessible to all once more. They are both well worth a look, with the bird autumn migration period just around the corner.
Many thanks are due to Tiree Community Development Trust and to David Clark for enabling this work to happen.
On the morning of Tuesday 15 September 2020, a very rare bird was spotted in the gardens at Balephuil. This proved to be a young Yellow-bellied Flycatcher, a colourful migrant that breeds in the northern spruce forests of North America during the summer and winters in the tropical forests of Central America. This species has never been seen before in Europe, let along the UK, and had presumably been blown off course across the Atlantic by the fast-moving depression that hit the island on 13 September.
Knowing that such an exotic vagrant would attract much attention from other birders wishing to see it, and given the current Covid19 situation, we decided not to publicise the sighting. Unfortunately, one of the other birders present on the island at the time let the news slip to a friend of his and by midnight it was clear that the news had been broadcast widely. Together with Hayley Douglas, the Tiree Ranger, we therefore had no option but to manage the ensuing “twitch” following strict ScotGov Covid19 guidelines.
Some 120 people arrived over the following three days, car-parking was organised with help from neighbours, and a strict queuing system was put in place. Fortunately, everyone who came was well behaved and followed the advice given, such that they were all able to see the bird safely. Access to the gardens was closed on the Friday night to give everyone and the bird a rest.
A further 40 people arrived in much smaller groups over the following five days and most were able to view the bird from the adjacent track. After nine days of busily feeding up on insects, including many of our neighbours’ honey-bees, the bird finally departed on the night of 23 September. This was a cold clear night with a light northerly breeze, ideal for the bird to continue its journey south. Quite where it will end up is a mystery. Let’s hope it will refuel again in Spain and end up wintering in the tropical forests of sub-Saharan Africa.
As a thank-you gift, the visiting birders (and some who didn’t come) donated generously to the Tiree Community Trust via a bucket on the site and through a just-giving page. To date this has raised at least £1,800 so far for the island.
John Bowler & Hayley
Image courtesy of John Bowler