Tag Archives: RSPB


Woodchat Shrike at Carnan Mor (John Bowler)

Woodchat Shrike at Carnan Mor (John Bowler)

May continued with the theme of cold northerly winds, whilst occasional spells of heavy rain kept the grasslands wet. Many migrant birds were late arriving in the unusually cold conditions and the breeding season was extensively delayed for many species .


After the first arrivals towards the end of April, the Corncrakes were slow to arrive with concentrations of calling birds in the few areas of taller cover. They did not return in any numbers until the third week of the month, when birds were reported more widely around the island. The annual night-time census will be completed in June and these will reveal how numbers compare this year with the count of 371 calling males in 2012.

Other birds

The first small Lapwing chicks were noted on 17th, a full 6 weeks later than last year, although there seemed to be good numbers of broods around the island at the end of the month. The first Redshank and Ringed Plover broods were also noted later than normal towards the end of the month, whilst Oystercatcher broods had appeared by the month-end. The first Greylag broods appeared from 8th, but numbers and brood size appear low so far. Just one brood of Stonechats was noted from 3 pairs around the island – a poor showing compared to last year, whilst the synchronised mass fledging of young Starlings which normally occurs in the last week of May, is still awaited in June. Seabirds were also slow to get down to nesting with the cool seas presumably hampering foraging. Numbers of auks, Fulmars and Kittiwakes were all well down at Ceann a’ Mhara and many birds had still not laid eggs by the month-end. Similarly, the Arctic Terns had not yet got down to laying eggs in their scattered colonies around the island.
Should anyone out walking find themselves being mobbed by waders or crowds of terns and gulls, please bid a hasty retreat. The eggs and young broods are very vulnerable to attack by gulls and crows, which can sneak in while the parent birds are busy trying to drive you away. Please also watch out for young birds crossing the roads at this time. Unlike in May 2012, a lack of warm SE winds meant that scarcer migrants from the continent were at a premium. Bird of the month was a splendid Woodchat Shrike which appeared at Carnan Mor (19th) in a small fall of migrants there that also included a Wood Warbler and a Garden Warbler. From further north, a Northern-race Eider was noted at Hough Bay (7th) and then at West Hynish (14th), whilst a late Iceland Gull at Balephuil (16th) and a Snow Bunting at Hough Bay (8th) both added to the wintry feel.A few southerly migrants did make it through from the mainland whenever the northerly winds eased off, including a drake Garganey at Ruaig (13th), 2 Golden Eagles briefly at Ben Hynish (3rd), a female Marsh Harrier at Loch Bhasapol (9th), a Little Gull at various sites (1st- 9th), a Turtle Dove at Balemartine (13th), up to 4 Cuckoos calling around the island and male Pied Flycatchers at Balephuil (8th and 20th). Tiree also shared in a record-breaking passage of Long-tailed Skuas up the west coast of Scotland with 9 birds recorded heading north off West Hynish (23rd), whilst there were 2 Pomarine Skuas in Gunna Sound (24th).

Passage of migrant waders on their way north to their Arctic breeding grounds, was intermittent in the unusual conditions, but included some 230 Whimbrel through, peaks of 1,400 Sanderling (29th), 610 Dunlin (7th), 180 Ringed Plover at Hough machair (11th), 213 Black-tailed Godwits (3rd), 3 Knot, 2 Grey Plovers at Baugh (7th), a Ruff at Loch a’ Phuill (10th) and 1800 Golden Plover at the Reef (1st), whilst a nice aggregation of waders at Loch a’ Phuill (30th) included 4 adult Little Stints, 1 Curlew Sandpiper and 1 Wood Sandpiper. A high total of some 500 Pale-bellied Brent passed through (to 20th) and 76 late Barnacle Goose remained at Cornaigmore (6th), whilst up to 24 Whooper Swans lingered through the month. Basking Sharks were very late returning in the cold conditions, with the first noted off Hynish (28th), six weeks later than in 2012.
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, Tiree PA77 6UE. Tel: 220748

RSPB information – September 2011


photo courtesy of Jim Dickson

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

Skills for work helps RSPB

bridge building

As part of the Skills for Work programme Ruaridh Munn and Ewan Brown have been helping at The Reef Reserve since 2009.

The help they have given includes building a stock bridge over a burn – ensuring easier accesss for cattle to different parts of the reserve, providing new areas of nesting habitat by raking out gravel and sorting out waterlevels in the wetland area of the reserve.

John Bowler from the RSPB says “ Both Ruaridh & Ewan have been a real asset to the reserve over the last few months and have worked really hard to learn new skills and then put them to good use. They built the new bridge in around 2 hours, but it will hopefully last for years and make it easier for stock to move between wetland compartments without them churning up the ditch-banks as they had been doing”