Hebrides Today

News from the Western Isles

Western Isles boasts exotic visitors and an eagle fighting lamb!

Posted by Editor On February - 18 - 2009



The islands offer a variety of habitats for bird life

The Western Isles is revealed as an exceptional wildlife haven featuring some extraordinary animal behaviour in a new study of its bird life funded by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH).  


The 10th Outer Hebrides Bird Report is packed with information on the area’s resident and visiting bird species gathered over two years by bird experts, enthusiasts and local people across the length and breadth of the island chain.


The report’s 240 pages cover the populations and movements of all the islands resident birds and exotic visitors across the four seasons. It highlights detailed individual records of sightings and photographs contributed by ornithologists, amateur birdwatchers, local crofters, fishermen and visiting holiday makers.


The book reveals fascinating insights into the struggle for survival between birds and animals throughout the islands. Most bizarre is the recorded sighting of a lamb head-butting a golden eagle at Balallan in June 2006 and an immature golden eagle running along the ground trying to catch rabbits on the Sollas machair.


SNH area Manager David Maclennan welcomed the publication, he said: “The rich diversity of bird life in the Western Isles is one of the great natural attractions for many of the visitors who come to these islands.

“These islands offer a wide range of habitats to bird species in the form of sea cliffs, machair, mountains, woodland, peat lands and even back gardens. This publication does a great service for the islands by recording the behaviour and movements of different species of birds including those exceptionally rare and unusual visitors which draw bird enthusiasts here from all over the UK.”


The report also carries a detailed account of the diet of the reintroduced sea eagle population through the prey contents of nests. These were shown to contain the remains of seabirds mainly and fulmars in particular, followed by mackerel, lumpsucker, dogfish, red deer, mountain hare, lamb, brown rat, raven, short eared owl, great black backed gull, puffin, greylag goose and eider duck.


Elsewhere the report charts some of the remarkable stories of migration which some species undertake to reach the Western isles in the course of their seasonal wanderings.


Travellers to the islands included an arctic tern from the Democratic Republic of Congo, a woodcock from Russia, sandpipers and whooper swans from Iceland and storm petrels from County Mayo. One determined dunlin left the balmy shores of Setuba in Portugal to head for Stinky Bay, Benbecula.


The report also notes the earliest ever sightings of snowy owls and the arrival of two colourful hoopoes from sub-tropical climes,


New arrivals to the islands include a pair of Arctic skuas hunting ringed plovers, a sighting of an isabelline shrike at Brue, a pine bunting at Carinis, an olive backed pipit at Port of Ness, a Pallas’s warbler at Loch Eynort and a Wilson’s phalarope at Rubha Ard vule.


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