The annual Bird Race, from Stoer Hall to the Lighthouse, took place on the second of several seriously hot days, with shade temperatures rising to 26degC (79degF). This probably explains the small turn-out and a general paucity of birds, but we enjoyed ourselves nevertheless. Gwen, with friends Rod and Jean Haslam from the Glamorgan Bird Club, comprised one team, Ian and Clarinda Chant the other.
A cuckoo was heard just after we started out and Loch Neil Bhain harboured mallard as usual, with swallows hawking around Totag. Round the corner at Elderbank, the Sleight’s well-planted garden sheltered dunnock, house sparrows, robin, rock doves and a noisy wren, with a male stonechat at the top of a tree nearby. A wheatear was seen amongst old walls a little further on and a great skua flew over. Passing places overlooking Loch na Claise added greylag goose, great black-backed gull, herring gull and lapwing on the lochside, with a pair of skylarks gathering food in a field above the road. The beach at Balchladich, unusually, provided only a pair of oystercatchers, but there were pied wagtails at the bridge near Tigh Ban.
The road between the beach and that to the Lighthouse gave us hooded crow, a solitary raven overhead and a greenfinch from the garden at the junction. The Bay of Culkein is usually very productive but, with a very low tide and visitors, it yielded only a single curlew and some common gulls. However, a well-wooded garden halfway up the back road added redpoll, song thrushes with young, willow warbler and a noisy sedge warbler in a scrubby corner.
The two teams met up in a crowded Lighthouse carpark, and then made their way up to the Lighthouse itself to add some seabirds. We saw fulmar, shag, a raft of guillemots and a solitary gannet well out in The Minch. Other species noted on our travels included a blackbird, and several meadow pipits.
On reckoning up, the contest was declared a draw, with both teams scoring 28, and a grand total of 33 species. The Race concluded with a variety of tasty butties provided by Clive at the refreshment kiosk, and a group photograph.
Ian Evans and Gwen Richards