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A mixed success for breeding birds on a croft in the north of Scotland

It’s fair to say that this spring in the northern Highlands has been the wettest and coldest for many years, and, for me personally, certainly the wettest and coldest in the 6 years I’ve lived here. As I write this blog on the very last day of May, the temperature has just crept up to a heady nine degrees at midday, and the rain continues to tip it down from grey and dreary skies. Putting aside the depressing effect of this on me and my wife (hardly a subject for a wildlife blog) and the problems it’s given us on our croft (muddy fields, grumpy ponies and grass hardly growing), it’s been a tough time for breeding birds – or at least some of them. One species which I’m fairly sure has been a casualty is the Common Sandpiper. This entertaining and rather impressive little wader – with its fast flight but yet minimal wing beats – usually nests along a stretch of river bank on the boundary of our croft. But this year the river has frequently flooded, and I fear that at least one attempt at breeding definitely failed as the waters took away their nest. The photo above is one I’ve just taken, and normally at this time of year the level of water would be much lower. As a more positive consequence of the wet weather, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Mistle Thrush and Robin all seem to have done well, and I’ve seen good numbers of young birds for all four species. Of course the reason for this is the ease of catching earth worms in wet soil, and certainly in past years May has been very dry here, and to the point I’ve even had to water young trees I’d planted in the winter months! So not all bad news, and yesterday I even heard a rumour that the second week of June is set to bring a heat wave. I won’t hold my breath though.