Another year, another race

May 29th 2017

Sunday 28th May, a week or two later than normal, and the Field Club’s annual bird race was on. Two hours of non-competitive! birding around the Stoer ‘peninsula’ with lots of prizes.

A good turnout, from teenagers to octogenarians, meant we had three teams, two fours and a three, all eager to see and hear as many bird species as possible in the allotted time. Setting off more or less at 11am the three team cars followed each other to the first good spotting location, Loch Neil Bhain. After that it was every team for themselves as the choice of roads doubled and the favoured birding spots beckoned.

Soon there were frantic if whispered discussions all over the place, was that a Cuckoo or a Merlin; an Arctic or a Common Tern; a Guinea Fowl or a, what? Yes, a few non-natives have, sadly, found their way to Assynt and into the “should they be counted or not” discussion.

Most wildlife watchers generally start with one subject, whether that be birds, plants, insects, mammals or whatever, and that initial interest often results in them ‘discovering’ the other groups. Balchladich Bay was where Kittiwake, Guillemot, Razorbill and an immature Glaucous Gull were added to the lists but one team, while watching masses of feeding Kittiwake, had a spectacular view of a lunge feeding Minke Whale directly under the birds; it was an adult whale so was around 10 metres long – now that’s the way to ‘discover’ another group!

Back to the race which was due to end at 1pm in the car park at Stoer Lighthouse where the Living the Dream tea van was waiting. Leigh Sedgley, who operates the van, very kindly offers all competitors a 10% discount on any food or drink purchased on the day. Of course no one took advantage of the offer!!

After consuming various types of burgers, pancakes, cakes, teas and coffees the results were announced with the winning team ‘Bird Brains’ having recorded 51 species; runners up ‘The Snipes’ were very closely followed by the ‘Junior Twitters’. Between them the three teams recorded an impressive total of 60 species.

Many thanks to all who took part in this year’s bird race, it was another fun day in warm, calm weather; here’s to next year.

The group photo contains no teenagers as they were being, well, teenagers!

Full bird list –

Blackbird Black Guillemot Black-headed Gull
Blue Tit Buzzard Chaffinch
Common Gull Common Tern Cuckoo
Dunlin Dunnock Eider
Feral Pigeon Fulmar Gannet
Glaucous Gull Goldfinch Great Black-backed Gull
Great Skua Great Tit Greylag Goose
Grey Heron Guillemot Guinea Fowl
Herring Gull Hooded Crow House Sparrow
Kittiwake Lapwing Lesser Redpoll
Linnet Mallard Meadow Pipit
Little Grebe Oystercatcher Pheasant
Pied Wagtail Raven Razorbill
Red-legged Partridge Red-throated Diver Reed Bunting
Ringed Plover Robin Rock Dove
Rock Pipit Sanderling Sedge Warbler
Shag Skylark Stonechat
Snipe Song Thrush Starling
Swallow Twite Wheatear
Willow Warbler Woodpigeon Wren


D. Haines

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