Highland Diary

Tiree in June

  • June 29, 2016
Corncrake

Corncrake

I had visited Tiree a couple of times before on day trips on the ferry from Oban and  had quickly found that a few hours stop off on the island was just not enough time to get pictures of the Red-shanked Carder Bumblebee that I wanted. In Scotland its distribution is restricted to Tiree and the neighbouring Isle of Coll. Otherwise it is only found on the South Wales coast and in the southern counties of England where it is in decline. This year we decided to rent a cottage on the island. Bumblebees aside the island’s birds did not disappoint. What was lacking in the range of species present was more than made up for by the numbers of birds breeding. This was particularly true when it came to waders, terns and gulls. Meadow Pipits, Skylarks and Starlings were present in densities that have long since ceased to exist elsewhere on the Scottish mainland. The lack of any real tree cover except for that found in gardens means that many common species are not present during the breeding season. Chaffinches are replaced by Linnets as garden birds. Despite there being plenty of suitable habitats some other passerines were surprisingly thin on the ground. We came across a few pairs of Stonechats but I only heard one sedge warbler and did not see Reed Bunting or a Wren all week, although I’m sure that they must be present. Another bird I expected to be a very common breeder was Twite. Again we certainly did not see them every day. June is probably not the best month to see migrating birds for which Tiree is well known. Small numbers of waders were still on passage. They would appear on one of Tiree’s many beaches and be gone when one looked again a few hours later. Whimbrel in ones and twos were moving north east all week, often they were simply overflying the island. One of the highlights were 3 Red-necked Phalarope together with a Pectoral Sandpiper that had briefly stopped off on the shore of a loch. Raptors too were scarce apart from a few pairs of Common Buzzards that were breeding. The only others were a couple of Peregrine sightings and a male Hen Harrier, one evening, commuting back over the sound of Gunna to Coll with supper for his family.