RSPB information - May 2009
May brought rather mixed weather with strong westerly winds and rain at the start of the month, followed by warm spells of light easterly winds, clear skies and increasing temperatures. The rain at the start of the month ensured that the machairs did not dry out and they bloomed impressively in the last week. The month was busy as awlays for both breeding and migrant birds.
Corncrakes There was a steady return of Corncrakes throughout the month with birds widely reported from all over the island and early indications are of similar numbers to last year. The annual night-time census rounds started at the end of the month and we will have to wait until June to see how final numbers compare this year with the record count of 408 calling males in 2008.
Once again, the island's coasts, grasslands, lochs and gardens were home to large numbers of breeding birds. Many bred early in the mostly settled conditions and there were some very early broods of Stonechats and Mallards, plus the first Shelduck, Greylag and Mute Swan broods. There were very large numbers of young Lapwings all over tw island by the monffi-end, together with smaller ntwrbers of Ringed Plovers, Redshanks and Snipe. The very first Oystereatcher chicks appeared at the month-end whilst the annual mass emergence of young Starlings was
a few days late this year, with the first appearing on 2nd June. 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.
May proved once more to be an exciting month for more unusual birds caught up in spring migration, with improved coverage this year from several visiting birdwatchers. Bird of the spring was the splendid male Bluethroat skulking in
a marsh at Kilkenneth on lst June. This was the first record for Tiree of this gaudy robin-like bird, which breeds in Arctic bogs in Scandinavia and Russia. Almost as good was the female Red-necked Phalarope which fed with
Sandeding along the tide-line at Goff Bay (1801). This brightly coloured wader formerly bred on Tiree but nowadays is a very rare visitor on spring migration as birds head north to breeding grounds in Iceland. Other spring rarities included a mobile pair of Marsh Harriers, which were seen at several sites around the island , 4 Dofterel at The Green , 2 Curlew Sandpipers at Goff Bay , Lesser Whitethroats at Carnan Mor , Vaul and Balephetrish , Siskins at Scarinish and Balephuil , a Turtle Dove at Ruaig , a Wood SandDiDer at Middleton and a female Garganey at Balinoe. More regular spring scarcities included at least 6 Woodpigeons, 2 Sandwich Terns, some 40 House Martins including a record count of 9 at Balephuil
), 10 Spotted Flycatchers, 9 Whitethroats, 8 Blackcaps, 17 Chiffchaffs, 2 Garden Warblers, 4 Mealy Redpolls, 6 Lesser Redpolis and 3 Swifts. There was also
a very late male Snow Bunting at Balevullin pools (24th-25th), followed by a Short-eared Owl at the same site (31st). Cuckoos were again very scarce this year, with just 1-2 birds heard calling at Caman Mor. This species has declined rapidly throughout Britain in the last few years and was recently added to the "red" list of birds of conservation concern.
Huge numbers of passage waders passed through during the month on their way north to their Arctic breeding grounds, with peak counts at Goff Bay of 400 Ringed Plover , 1600 Dunlin , 64 Knot (16th) and 1700
Sandeding (16th). No less than 11 colour-dnged Sanderling were identified with ringed birds hailing from sites as varied as Ghana, Mauritania, Orkney, Iceland and Greenland, giving a good indication of the migratory routes used by this species. Even more surprising was a colour-dnged
Black-tailed Godwit at Heylipol , which turned out to have been ringed as a chick in the Netherlands in May 2008 and was therefore the first confirmed record for Scotland of the nominate continental-race of this species! Groups of up to 31 Great Northern Divers gathered in the bays, some 14 Whooper Swans remained from the winter, as did a late Greenland White-fronted Goose at Balephetrish (10th), whilst a European White-fronted Goose was found paired to a Greylag at Balinoe. An all-white
Glaucous Gull remained at Ruaig until 24u', whilst a late
Iceland Gull was at Clachan Mor (10th). 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
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