September is the month when large numbers of birds are on the move as they head south once more for the winter. Lying on the East Atlantic Flyway, Tiree is well placed to see migration in action as wildfowl and waders pass through from their Arctic breeding grounds, whilst strong winds from fast-moving Atlantic depressions often bring more unusual species to the island.
With a very active hurricane season off the eastern seaboard of America during the month, winds were predominantly from the west and these brought bumper numbers of American waders to the island, part of a record influx to Britain and Ireland. These included an adult White-rumped Sandpiper at The Reef (15th), just the second record for the island following the first at Gott Bay in August, a juvenile Baird’s Sandpiper at Sandaig (26th-27th), single juvenile Buff-breasted Sandpipers at Loch a’ Phuill (3rd) and Barrapol (29th), plus a scattering of up to 5 juvenile Pectoral Sandpipers (9th-27th).
Easterly winds on the back of the depressions however brought the rarest bird to the island when a Blyth’s Reed Warbler appeared at Balephuil (19th-26th). This small brown warbler is very similar to the more widespread Common Reed Warbler but is subtly different in shape and plumage. It breeds in Russia and other parts of Eastern Europe and normally winters in India, so it was well off course! Equally lost was an exotic-looking Hoopoe(pictured) at Balemartine in wet and windy conditions (30th), which quickly realised the error of its ways and moved on.
Other wanderers from Continental Europe included a Nightingale at Vaul (3rd-8th), juvenile Common Rosefinches at Balephuil (19th-24th and 30th), a juvenile Dotterel at Ruaig (25th-26th) and an Osprey at Moss (13th). There was no replay of the Lapland Bunting invasion that occurred last autumn and instead there was a more typical showing of just 3 birds (from 19th), whilst the first 4 Snow Buntings were seen (from 25th).
NW gales on 7th-14th brought high numbers of seabirds off the north coast including 6 juvenile Sabine’s Gulls, 46 Sooty Shearwaters, 28 Leach’s Petrels, 8 Storm Petrels, 2 Pomarine Skuas, 48 Arctic Skuas and some 94 Great Skuas in amongst hundreds of Gannets, Kittiwakes, Manx Shearwaters, auks and Arctic Terns, whilst there was a Grey Phalarope off Soa (28th).
Wader interest included an influx of at least 45 Curlew Sandpipers, 5 Little Stints, 10 Whimbrel, 31 Black-tailed Godwits and a record influx of Ruff including a group of 33 at Loch a’ Phuill (18th). Large numbers of smaller birds were also on the move, with the gardens and other areas of cover attracting common migrants such as Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, Blackcap, Sedge Warbler, Goldcrest and Greenfinch, plus the first Robins and the odd Dunnock. Less common migrants included a very late Grasshopper Warbler at Balephuil (15th), Garden Warblers at Balephuil (2nd) and Vaul (4th), a late Whitethroat at Balephuil (24th-25th) and up to 4 Common Redpolls. Small numbers of Corncrakes, Sand Martins and Swallows hung on to the end of the month whilst winter migrants passing through included the first 12 Pale-bellied Brent (from 18th) and 13 Whooper Swans at Loch a’ Phuill (16th), although no Redwings had been seen by the month-end.
Winter raptors such as Hen Harrier, Merlin and Kestrel were also back in force, whilst the lone sub-adult Golden Eagle lingered around West Tiree. 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