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Gairloch in North-West Ross-Shire
Part III.—Natural History of Gairloch

Chapter VI.—Birds of Gairloch


IN compiling the following list and notes I have had the valuable aid of Mr Osgood H. Mackenzie of Inverewe, who is a life-long ornithologist and observer of nature. He has spent more of his life in his native country than perhaps any other Highland gentleman now alive. He has very rarely been absent even in winter. He allows me to say that he is mainly responsible for this list. It includes more than one hundred and fifty species, or supposed species. Our effort has been to make the notes absolutely accurate, but nesting-places are generally not stated for obvious reasons. It is earnestly hoped that the information contained in this chapter will not be made use of by visitors to enable them to disturb, destroy, or rob any of the interesting birds of Gairloch.

Mr J. A. Harvie Brown, of Dunipace, has kindly placed at my service a list of birds observed by him in the spring and early summer of 1884 at Aultbea in Gairloch, at Priest Island off the north-east corner of Gairloch parish, and at Gruinard on its northern boundary; and this list is referred to in several cases.

The order and scientific nomenclature are the same as adopted in the revised edition of "Yarrell's British Birds," by Newton and Saunders.

Golden Eagle, or Black Eagle {Aquila chrysaetus).—This noble bird, which is slightly smaller than the erne, is not uncommon in Gairloch. I have seen a pair hovering near the head of Loch Maree, and I have frequently noticed single birds soaring high in air. One Sunday afternoon I saw an eagle mobbed by curlews within half-a-mile of Inveran. It nests in the parish, always on ledges of precipitous rocks. There is an eyrie on Meall a Ghuibhais. For anecdotes of the golden eagle see Part III., chap iii. One was trapped on the Inverewe ground, in February 1885, by Mr John Matheson, who has been gamekeeper at Inverewe nearly twenty years.

White-tailed, or Sea Eagle, or Erne (Haliceetus albicilld).— Occasionally occurs. A pair formerly nested annually in Eilean na h' Iolair (Eagle Isle), on Fionn Loch. In 1850 there was a nest on Beinn Aridh Charr. A fine specimen, trapped on Bathais [Bus] Bheinn, in 1879, is in the collection at Inveran.

Osprey, or Fishing Eagle {Pandion haliceetus).—This now rare and very interesting bird, called by the natives "Allan the fisherman," or "the fisherman," is occasionally seen. One was observed in Gairloch, about 1880, by Mr John Munro. It is not now known to nest in the parish. There were formerly three nesting-places in Gairloch,-»-(i) in Eilean Suthainn, in Loch Maree, on a point nearly opposite Isle Maree; (2) on a fir-tree on a small island in a loch on Eilean Suthainn; and (3) on a stack or insulated rock in a small loch called Loch an Iasgair (the loch of "the fisherman"), near the Little Gruinard River. The last nest in any of these places was about 1852 ; an osprey was shot from the garden at Inveran in that year. I have been told of other nesting-places in Gairloch by old men, who say the osprey used to be abundant in the parish.

Peregrine-Falcon {Falco peregrinus).—The peregrine is abundant in Gairloch. During the spring of 1884 Mr John Munro, who has been gamekeeper on the North Point since 1865, and is a noted trapper of vermin, trapped no fewer than eight peregrines on the North Point, besides what were trapped during the same spring by other keepers in the parish. There are several nesting-places in Gairloch, all on ledges on the faces of rocky precipices If one of a pair preparing to nest be killed, another bird takes its place within a few days, and even where both birds have been destroyed another pair has been known to occupy their nest in a very short time. Though mostly keeping out of gunshot, the peregrine is sometimes very bold. For instance, in 1883, one swooped at a hen close to a house in Ixmdubh; it missed its mark, and, unintentionally no doubt, took a header into a wash-tub, whence it was taken alive. The peregrine destroys more grouse than any other winged vermin ; it is believed that each bird kills at least one grouse for its own sustenance every day, and when they have their young, a pair of them have been known to kill five grouse in one day, so that it has been truly said that the bag made by each peregrine is at the least equal to that of one gun on a moor.

Merlin (Falco asalon).—This pretty little hawk is very common, and its nests are often taken. It usually nests in long heather on a steep hillside.

Kestrel {Falco tinnunculus).—This universal hawk is as common in Gairloch as elsewhere. It builds mostly on rocks. It occasionally kills young grouse, and takes them to its nest. Mr John Munro has actually shot kestrels whilst carrying young grouse in their claws to their young. Mr Harvie Brown has observed similar freaks on the part of the kestrel, but he does not think the defect is generically constitutional.

Sparrow-Hawk {Accipiter nisus).—The sparrow-hawk is common. It nests in trees. I have seen several nests. The female sparrow-hawk resembles the male peregrine both in size and plumage. In all birds of prey the female is larger than the male, whilst in other birds the reverse is usually the case. The sparrow-hawk kills young grouse, and has been seen by Mr John Munro pecking at an old grouse which was still warm, and had probably been killed by it.

Kite, or Glead (Milvus ictinus).—Was formerly common in Gairloch, but has not been observed for many years. Strychnine was on one occasion put into the dead body of a horse, and the result was that a large number of kites were (intentionally) poisoned. This would be about 1825 ; kites were then very numerous here,, and even destroyed poultry. The Gaelic name is Clabhan gobhlach nan cearc, or "fork [tailed] buzzard of the hens."

Buzzard {Buteo vulgaris).—This bird, which closely resembles the golden eagle, but is much smaller, is common, but seldom breeds in Gairloch. It used to nest in Craig Tollie. It is not so destructive to game as some of the lesser hawks.

Hen-Harrier {Circus cyaneus).—This hawk is tolerably common, but is not known to nest in Gairloch. When out grouse shooting one day I saw a hen-harrier strike and kill a grouse just beyond gunshot. I gathered the grouse, but the harrier escaped.

Tawny Owl, or Brown Owl {Strix aluco). — This owl is common, and breeds in Gairloch. They seem to frequent woods and rocks, and at night their loud wailing hoot or howl is often .heard. I believe they are harmless as regards game.

Long-eared Owl {Asio otus).—This bird occurs, but is not common. It is a migrant, and does not breed here.

Short-eared Owl {Asio accipitrinus).—This owl is not uncommon in Gairloch. It is a migrant, and comes with the woodcock. It is not known to breed in Gairloch. Mr O. H. Mackenzie once shot five over setters in the Isle of Ewe in the month of November.

White Owl, or Barn Owl {Aluco flammeus).—This owl is also common, and here generally nests in cracks in rocks.

Spotted Flycatcher {Muscicapa grisola).—Common. It nests near houses. I have seen its nest at Inveran (1885). Both Mr O. H. Mackenzie and Mr Harvie Brown have noticed several pairs in Gairloch parish.

Golden Oriole {Oriolus galbula).—This splendid bird is very rare here. Mr O. H. Mackenzie, and a friend with him, saw one at Coile Aigeascaig on 25th May 1884. One was shot in the garden at Mungasdale (the farm of Gruinard) about 1870. This place is within three miles of the northern boundary of Gairloch.

Dipper, or Water Ouzel {Cinclus aquaticus).—Very common on all rivers and burns, and on the margins of lochs. It is called in Gaelic Gobha dubh an uisge, or "the water blacksmith." I have seen several of its remarkable nests behind small waterfalls, or on rocks overhanging running water. It is one of the first of the small birds to build its nest. On 31st January 1879, and on several days before and after that day, I saw an immense number of dippers on the river Ewe. I counted nearly a hundred within a length of a mile. They were of the ordinary brown-breasted kind. Two of them are in my collection, and other two (I believe) in the national collection. I can offer no explanation of this unusual gathering. It is interesting to watch this active little bird diving in running water. It is now acquitted of the charge formerly made against it of eating the ova of fish. It lives on water insects and their larvae.

Mistletoe Thrush, or Storm-cock {Turdus viscivorus).—This bird occurs in Gairloch, though not commonly. Mr O. H. Mackenzie saw a nest in a rock at Inverewe recently. He unmistakably identifled the birds and the eggs. The storm-cock used to be abundant in Gairloch, and built generally in oak trees.

Song-Thrush, or Mavis {Turdus musicus).—Very common. It nests in trees, bushes, and tall heather. Mr Reid, of Isle Ewe, says that the mavis builds in walls there for lack of trees. Some years ago Mr O. H. Mackenzie killed one with a ring round its neck, such as the ring-ouzel has. This anomalous specimen may be seen at Inverewe.

Redwing {Turdus iliacus).—Common. It has been known to remain in Gairloch all summer, making it probable that it breeds here.

Fi eld fare (Turdus pilaris). —Common. A migrant. Not known to nest here.

Blackbird (Turdus meruld).—Common enough now, but it is said to have been formerly unknown in Gairloch.

Ring-Ouzel {Turdus torquatus),-— Common, and, like the mavis and blackbird, very destructive to fruit. I often see a number about my cherrytrees in the garden at Inveran.

Dunnock, or Hedge-sparrow {Accentor modularis).—Common, especially near houses.

Redbreast, or Robin {Erithacus rubeculd). -Common everywhere, and at all seasons.

Redstart {Ruticilla phcenicurus).—Rather common. Both Mr O. H. Mackenzie and I have often seen it, and Mr Harvie Brown noted it as seen at Gruinard in 1884.

Stonechat {Saxicola rubicola).—Fairly common. It nests early. Mr Harvie Brown saw it at Aultbea in 1884, more abundantly than the whinchat.

Whinchat {Saxicola rubetra).—Abundant. Mr Harvie Brown noted it as "common" at Strath na Sealg in 1884, and Mr O. H. Mackenzie and I have often seen it in Gairloch.

Wheatear {Saxicola cenanthe).—Very common. It arrives about the end of March or the beginning of April, and nests mostly amongst stones.

Sedge Warbler {Acrocephalus sehamobcenus).—Occurs. Not common.

Blackcap {Sylvia atricapilla).—This bird is not common, but occurs.

Willow Wren, or Warbler {Phylloscopus trochilus).—Frequent. Mr Harvie Brown found it common at Gruinard in 1884.

Chiff Chaff {Phylloscopus collybita).—Common. Seldom seen, but often heard. It is a migrant.

Goldcrest, or Golden-crested Wren {Regulus cristatus).— Very common. I found one in the house at Inveran one evening, and have often seen flocks in the larches close by.

Wren {Troglodytesparvulus).—Common everywhere all the year round.

Creeper, or Tree-Creeper {Certhia familiaris).—The creeper is tolerably common. I have often seen it creeping or almost running up the side of the house at Inveran, pressing its tail against the wall after its manner.

Blue Titmouse, or Tom-Tit {Pants cceruleus).—Very common, . but not so much seen as the coal-titmouse.

Coal-Titmouse {Parus ater). — This spry little bird is very common, and is seen at all seasons of the year; often in large flocks, frequently in company with the long-tailed titmouse.

Long-tailed Titmouse, or Bottle-Tit (Acredula caudata).— This tiny bird is abundant.

Pied Wagtail, or Water Wagtail {Motacilla lugubris).—Very common. Like the other wagtails, it is a summer visitor ; it arrives in the end of March.

White Wagtail {Motacilla alba).—This bird visits Gairloch. I have seen at least two pairs on the River Ewe in most years. An ornithological friend shot two specimens near Poole we bridge some years ago, and identified them as being undoubtedly the white wagtail of Yarrell.

Grey Wagtail {Motacilla sulphurea).—This beautiful bird is tolerably common here. On 30th July 1886 I obtained at Inveran a singular variety of this wagtail; it was a young bird in nestling feathers, but strong on the wing, of a white and fawn colour intermixed,—not an albino.

Meadow-Pipit, or Titlark {Anthus pratensis).—This is one of the commonest birds in Gairloch.

Rock-Pipit {Anthus obscurus).—The rock-pipit is frequent here. Mr Harvie Brown noted it as common at Gruinard in 1884.

Skylark, or Lavrock {Alauda arvensis).—The skylark is not common now. It used to be so, and no reason can be given for the falling off in its numbers. Mr Harvie Brown observed it at Aultbea in 1884.

Snow Bunting, or Snow Fleck {Plectrophanes nivalis).—This pretty bird is common, and is frequently seen in large flocks in winter. It is believed to breed on the higher hills, but there is no evidence that its nests have ever been found in Gairloch. Donald Fraser, the old forester at Fannich, who had been head tod-hunter to the old Duke of Sutherland, told Mr O. H. Mackenzie about thirty years ago that he had often seen the nests of the snow bunting under flags on the top of the Scuir Mor of Fannich. On the same mountain Mr O. H. Mackenzie saw (about 1858) several broods of snow buntings flitting about when deerstalking there. The young birds were in nestling plumage.

Bunting, or Common Bunting {Emberiza miliaria).—The common bunting, which is rare in some parts of Britain, is abundant in Gairloch, and is with us all the year round. I shot a cream-coloured bunting at Inverasdale some years ago ; it is in my collection at Inveran.

Yellow Bunting, or Yellow-Hammer {Emberiza citrinella).— This bunting is very common ; it is one of the tamest of wild birds.

Blackheaded Bunting {Euspiza melanocephela).—This peculiar-looking bird is common here. I have seen their nests.

Chaffinch, or Spink {Fringilla cotlebs).—The chaffinch is perhaps the most commonly seen bird in Gairloch.

Mountain Finch, or Brambling (Fringilla montifringilla).— The brambling is rarely seen here. Mr O. H. Mackenzie once shot one out of a flock of chaffinches in Gairloch. He saw more at the time.

House-Sparrow (Passer domesticus).—The house-sparrow used to be unknown in Gairloch. It is said to have first come to the Free Manse at Aultbea or to Isle Ewe in the mail-packet from Stornoway. This was about 1852. Mr Harvie Brown noticed it at Aultbea in 1884. It is now pretty common where it can find nesting-places about houses. It often builds in trees close to houses, if it can get no better place.

Green finch, or Green Linnet (Coecothraustes Moris).— Common, but not known to breed.

Goldfinch (Carduelis elegans).—Mr O- H. Mackenzie shot several at Charleston many years ago. It has not been observed latterly.

Siskin, or Aberdevine (Carduelis spinus).—Not common, but sometimes seen in flocks in late autumn. It is a migrant.

Redpoll, or Lesser Redpoll (Linota rufescens).—Common. Seen in flocks.

Linnet, or Grey Lintie (Linota cannabina).—I am not positive that I have seen this bird in Gairloch parish, and Mr O. H. Mackenzie has never observed it. Mr Harvie Brown saw it in the adjoining parish of Loch Broom in 1884, and I think it only right to include it in the list of Gairloch birds. .

Twite, or Heather Lintie (Linota flavirostris).—Common, especially near the sea-shore. Mr Harvie Brown noted it as seen at Aultbea in the summer of 1884.

Bullfinch (Pyrrhula Europcea).—This handsome bird is quite common now, and destroys the young fruit of plum trees, and the fruit buds of gooseberry bushes, so that gardeners wage war against it. Mr O. H. Mackenzie says it was unknown in Gairloch about thirty years ago.

Crossbill (Loxia curvirostra).—Not common, but occurs. Mr O. H. Mackenzie shot three out of a large flock, in a larch tree close to the house at Inveran, about 1851.

Starling (Sturnus vulgaris).—Very common in places. For want of old trees it builds in heaps of stones and old walls; and in the island of Foura, at the mouth of Loch Ewe, it uses holes in the ground for its nest, along with the stormy petrel.

Rose-coloured Starling, or Pastor (Pastor roseus).—This rare bird probably occurs here. One was shot at Torridon about 1880, so close to the southern confines of Gairloch parish as to justify my mentioning it in this list. It is in Mr Darroch's possession at Torridon ; it is a beautiful specimen in mature plumage.

Chough, or Redlegged Crow (Pyrrhocorax graculus).—This bird is rare indeed. Mr O. H. Mackenzie saw one at Tournaig in the summer of 1883, the only instance he knows.

Raven (Corvus corax).—The raven is very common here, and has many favourite nesting-places, all in crags. It is the earliest bird to build its nest. The raven is very voracious; it lives mostly on carrion, but destroys the eggs of grouse and other game birds.

Hooded Crow, or Grey Crow (Corvus comix),—The hoodie is very common. It nests in trees and sometimes in rocks. It destroys many eggs of game birds. Mr O. H. Mackenzie has not observed the black or carrion crow (the kindred species) here.

Rook (Corvus frugilegus).—The rook is common, but is not so abundant as it used to be. After the breeding season all the rooks in the district gather each evening in one large flock, and roost every night from the end of October to the end of March in the fir wood on the River Ewe, a little below Inveran. During the rest of the year not one is to be seen at this place, for they are engaged elsewhere with their nests and young. There are now at least three rookeries in the parish, viz., at the burial-ground at Culinellan near Kenlochewe, at the Poolewe manse, and on the crannog or artificial island on Loch Kernsary. Formerly there was no rookery in Gairloch. The rook destroys eggs. Mr O. H. Mackenzie has caught rooks in the very act of demolishing hens' and partridges' eggs.

Daw, or Jackdaw (Corvus monedula).—The jackdaw is occasionally seen in winter, but it does not breed in Gairloch, at least not in the present day.

Pie, or Magpie (Pica rustica).—The magpie is now unknown in Gairloch, but Mr O. H. Mackenzie says that in the early part of the century, as old people tell him, numbers of magpies lived in the fir wood which then covered the knoll at the back of Srondubh house.

Swallow (Hirundo rustica).—Occurs, but is not common. I caught one in the house at Inveran on a summer evening in full plumage, with the brilliant red colour about the head.

Martin, or House-Martin (Chelidon urbica).—Is not common now, though it used to be. Within a few years I have seen several martins' nests in the windows of Poolewe church. Mr O. H. Mac-kenzie remembers when they nested in hundreds on the face of the "Black rock," at the east end of the range of Craig Tollie.

Sand-Martin (Cotile riparia).—Very common. Burrows its nest in almost every gravel or sand pit which has a higfi bank.

Swift (Cypselus apus).—Occurs occasionally, but is not numerous. It is not known to breed in Gairloch.

Night-jar (Caprimuigus Europoeus).—Several pairs of the nightjar visit the parish of Gairloch annually to breed. I have many a time heard their singular note or jar, like the hum of a winnowing machine, resounding under the shade of Craig Tollie on a summer evening. Mr Harvie Brown heard and saw night-jars at Gruinard in 1884. This curious bird nests on the ground under heather. I have seen a night-jar in the garden at Inveran.

Cuckoo (Cuculus canorus).—The cuckoo arrives in great numbers near the end of April, and until the middle of June the whole country resounds with its calls. I first saw the cuckoo this year (1885) on 23rd April. I do not think it is more abundant in any-other part of the kingdom. It lays its egg mostly in the nests of the meadow-pipit. In July the cuckoos take their departure, but I have seen young ones as late as the middle of August. I have noticed three cuckoos at one time in my little garden at Inveran. They seem to be fond of gooseberries.

Kingfisher {Alcedo ispidd).—This most brilliant of all native birds is almost unknown in Gairloch. I have never seen it here. Mr O. H. Mackenzie has seen one on the River Ewe, and one on the River Kerry; both these occurrences were some years ago.

Ring Dove, Wood-Pigeon, or Cushat (Columba palumbus).— A few wood-pigeons are here all the year round, and breed in the parish. I have seen their nests in tall trees.

Rock Dove {Columba livia).—The blue-rock is very abundant, and inhabits caves and fissures in the rocks all along the coast line of Gairloch. It is here seldom found far inland. Mr Harvie Brown, however, says that it is found inland above the head of Little Loch-broom. I have noticed several variations in its plumage, some birds being mottled, and others very pale in colour. It is the parent of, and closely resembles, the common domesticated blue pigeon. It is excellent eating.

Turtle Dove (Turtur communis).- Very rare. One was shot on the glebe at Gairloch in 1880 by Mr W. B. Mackenzie, a son of the minister of Gairloch, who brought it to me for identification. It was consorting with golden plover in a turnip field. It was a bird of the year.

Black Grouse, or Black Game (Tetrao tetrix).—Black game are fairly abundant about Gairloch, but they wander a good deal, and sometimes the sportsman is disappointed in his search for them. They are polygamous, and it is important to keep down the cocks, otherwise the black cocks may become numerous out of proportion to the grey hens. They say the best proportion is one black cock to three grey hens.

Red Grouse (Lagopus Scoticus).—The grouse is abundant on all the moorlands of Gairloch, but its numbers in any season are liable to be greatly "affected by wet or cold'weather at the time of hatching. Many early broods are lost, and consequently there is no lack of "cheepers" on the "Twelfth." Disease occasionally appears; it is certainly not due to over-stocking. The grouse is monogamous. The cocks generally exceed the hens in number. It is very beneficial to a moor to kill off the unmated cocks. The grouse in the Highlands are slightly smaller than those on English and Irish moors.

Ptarmigan (Lagopus mutus).—Common on the mountain tops, where it breeds. It seldom visits lower regions, but one was shot on the North Point some years ago in tempestuous weather, at an elevation of not more than seven hundred feet above the sea-level; and another was shot on Isle Ewe by Mr O. H. Mackenzie, many years ago, on a top not more than a hundred feet above the sea.

Pheasant {Phasianus colchicus).—Introduced some years ago at Shieldaig, probably about 1860. It is now pretty common, and sometimes wanders away from the coverts where it has been bred.

Partridge (Perdix einerea).—The partridge is fairly common in Gairloch, but is never very abundant, owing to wet breeding seasons and the number of rooks and domestic cats.

Red-Legged Partridge (Caccabis rufd).—Introduced some years ago, but now believed to be extinct.

Quail {Coturnix communis),—Very rare. Mr O. H. Mackenzie shot one in Isle Ewe about i860. It may be seen at Inverewe.

Land-Rail, or Corn-Crake (Crex pratensis).—Now rather rare. It used to be very abundant in grass or corn.

Water-Rail (Rallus aquaticus).—This bird is occasionally found in Gairloch.

Moor-Hen, or Water-Hen {Gallinula chloropus).—Common. I have frequently seen it feeding with my ducks at the end of the garden at Inveran abutting on the River Ewe.

Dotterel (Eudromias morinellus).—Very rare. Donald Fraser, an old forester at Fannich, who was a keen and accurate observer of birds, told Mr O. H. Mackenzie that the dotterel formerly bred on Beinn Bheag, near Kenlochewe. It is called in Gaelic Feadag chuirn, or "cairn-plover."

Ringed Plover, or Ring Dotterel (Aigialitis hiaticuld).- -Abundant on all the sandy shores on the coast of Gairloch. I have seen it also on the shore of Loch Maree, at Slatadale, in the breeding season. It is called in Gaelic Tarmachan na tainne, or "the ptarmigan of the waves."

Golden Plover {Charadrius pluvialis).—Abundant, and breeds in considerable numbers on high moors.
Lapwing, Peewit, or Green Plover (Vanellus vulgaris).—Not abundant. Arrives early in February, and nests in the parish.

Turnstone (Strepsilas interpres).—A common shore bird in Gairloch. Seen in summer, but not known to build.

Oyster-Catcher, or Sea Pie {Hazmatopus ostralegus).—Very common, and breeds abundantly on island rocks in the sea, and sometimes on the mainland close to the shore. I have seen many of their nests.

Woodcock (Scolopax rusticula).—Abundant. Large flocks arrive in October and November, and a few pairs breed in the country. I have seen the little woodcocks running about in June, and have shot full-grown birds in August. I have often observed a woodcock carrying a young one in its claws. When standing in the garden at Inveran, late on a summer evening, the woodcock, with its young one borne in this manner, has frequently flown within six or eight yards of my head. Mr O. H. Mackenzie has actually seen the woodcock pick up its young one, when nearly full-grown, at his very feet, and fly off with it.

Snipe {Gallinago cozlestis).—The "full snipe" is common throughout Gairloch. It breeds in the parish. I have seen nests. Numbers of snipe come in autumn from other countries.

Jack Snipe {Gallinago gallinula).— This bird is an immigrant, and arrives about the end of October. It was formerly more plentiful than it is now-a-days.

Dunlin (Tringa alpina).—This is a very abundant shore bird, and occurs in flocks on all the sandy sea-beaches. It is believed to breed on moors in Gairloch.

Purple Sandpiper (Tringa striata).—This also is common. It is seen mostly on rocks and shingle, at the very edge of the sea.

Knot (Tringa canutus).—Uncommon. Mr O. H. Mackenzie shot one on Loch nan Dailthean one autumn,—a solitary bird. It is to be seen at Inverewe.

Common Sandpiper (Totanus hypoleucus).—This bird is very common in the breeding season, along the shores of all waters. Its shrill piping is almost a nuisance in the month of May. 1 have often found its nests, and seen its pretty chicks.

Redshank {Totanus calidris).—Fairly common, and as it is seen all the year round it is believed to breed in Gairloch. Mr 0. H. Mackenzie says it was formerly very rare or unknown here.

Greenshank (Totanus canescens),—Fairly abundant. It arrives in February, and breeds on moors. I have seen one nest, and heard of others. It sits very close on the nest. It is a shore bird, except in the breeding season.

Bar-tailed Godwit (Limosa lapponica).—A rare winter visitant. I saw two specimens at Inverasdale in the winter of 1880-81, and a friend with me shot one. Mr O. H. Mackenzie shot a specimen near Inverewe several years before.

Curlew, or Whaup (Numenius arauaia).—Common, and breeds in abundance. It nests on moorlands, and is found on or near the sea-shore all the rest of the year. Its peculiar whistle is well known, and sounds very weird, especially when heard inland on a summer evening.

Whimbrel (Numenius photopus).—This bird, resembling a small curlew, used to be numerous in Gairloch, but, though still noticed, is becoming rarer every year. It is a migrant. Mr O. H. Mackenzie saw four or five whimbrels below the Inverewe garden in the first week of June 1886.

Arctic Tern (Sterna macrura).—This tern, which closely resembles the common tern, is abundant in Gairloch in summer. It nests on small islands in the sea, or in fresh-water lochs near the sea. The common tern has not been identified in Gairloch.

Black-headed Gull (Larus ridibundus).—This gull is not uncommon in Gairloch, and has several nesting-places on small islands in fresh-water lochs. Some specimens have the black on the head of so dull a colour, and extending so little beyond the forehead, as to closely resemble the gull figured in the books as the masked gull. The black-headed gull entirely loses the black colour on the head during winter. Sometimes the breast of the bird is of a lovely rosy pink colour, which fades after death.

Common, or Winter Gull (Larus canus).—The common gull is not nearly so common in Gairloch as the black-headed gull. It has several nesting-places on small islands in fresh-water lochs, and it sometimes lays its eggs on the neighbouring mainland.

Herring Gull (Larus argentatus).—A few pairs of herring gulls nest along with the lesser black-backed gulls on the islands of Loch Maree. It nests also on Foura, and I think in some other places in the parish of Gairloch. Numbers breed in the Shiant Isles, and a good many visit the Gairloch shores during autumn and winter.

Lesser Black-backed Gull (Larus fuscus).—This voracious bird breeds in thousands on the islands of Loch Maree, and seems to be increasing in numbers. The nest is beautifully formed of moss. The eggs, which are generally three in number, but sometimes only two, and occasionally as many as four in number, are much sought after by the natives and others as articles of food; but Sir Kenneth Mackenzie, to whom the islands belong, has endeavoured to check the depredations. This bird, though called " lesser," is larger than any of the other gulls, except the herring gull and the great black-backed gull. The young are grey until they reach maturity, which is not until their second winter. Both the species of black-backed gulls destroy many eggs of game birds.

Great Black-backed Gull (Larus marinus).—This noble but predacious bird is frequently seen in Gairloch. It does not associate with other birds, or even with other pairs of its own species. A few pairs nest on islands on Loch Maree and other fresh-water lochs, and I believe it occasionally nests also on stacks in the sea close to the mainland. It is commonly charged, as is also its lesser con gener, with being guilty, like the raven, of killing sheep and lambs, beginning the process of murder by blinding its victims.

Glaucous Gull (Larus glaucus).—Mr O. H. Mackenzie has occasionally observed this gull in the parish of Gairloch.

Iceland Gull (Larus leucopterus).—This pale-coloured gull is occasionally seen in the parish. I have identified a specimen shot by Mr John Matheson.

Kittiwake (Rissa tridactyla).—This graceful gull is common on our coasts. It breeds in great numbers at the Shiant Isles, on ledges of high rocks above the sea. On my visit to these islands a shot was fired, when a vast crowd of birds filled the air, and there were innumerable cries of " kittiwake, kittiwake," pronounced as distinctly as if spoken by the human voice.

Great Skua (Stercorarius catarrhactes\—The great, or common skua is rarely seen in Gairloch, but may be occasionally observed attending on parties of gulls, whom it robs of the fish they catch.

Arctic, or Richardson's Skua (Stercorarius crepidatus),—This skua occasionally occurs in Gairloch, but is not abundant. One stormy day in late autumn I observed several about the head of Loch Ewe.

Manx Shearwater (Puffinus anglorurri).—Mr O. H. Mackenzie has occasionally seen this bird on Gairloch waters.

Storm Petrel (Procellaria pelagica).—This tiny sea bird, which makes its home on the ocean waves, is seldom seen in Gairloch. I have observed a small party at the mouth of I.och Ewe. They used to breed on the islands of Longa and Foura, at the extremities of long burrows in grassy slopes, and probably do so still. A specimen was recently brought to me which had been found dead on the roadside between Gairloch and Poolewe. It was in stormy weather.

Razor-bill, or Auk (Alca torda).—This bird is seen in Gairloch and Io>ch Ewe often along with the guillemots and puffins, and I think it is more abundant than either. It nests in the Shiant Isles, and, like the common guillemot, lays its single egg on ledges on the face of cliffs. Mr Harvie Brown saw a very few pairs in a crevice on the east shore of Priest Island, on 4th July 1884.

Guillemot (Uria troile).—This sea bird frequents the coast of Gairloch. It has no breeding station within the parish. The nearest is at the Shiant Isles, twenty miles away, where a large number of guillemots deposit their single eggs, all of exquisite colouring and marking, but no two the same, on ledges in the face of a high cliff.

Ringed Guillemot (Uria lachrymans).—It is now settled that this is a dimorphic form of the guillemot, and not a different species. I have obtained mature specimens with the ring or bridle only partially developed, and there is no doubt it is a marking which occasionally occurs in the common guillemot, and is not distinctive.

Black Guillemot (Uria grylle).—This beautiful bird is common, and has many nesting-places in Gairloch, on rocky islands in the sea, and sometimes on rocks on the mainland overhanging the sea. In winter the plumage of the black guillemot changes to a speckled grey colour. Mr Harvie Brown says that he has in his collection male specimens in speckled plumage taken off the eggs in the Badcall islands. Neither Mr O. H. Mackenzie nor I have noticed the speckled plumage in breeding birds. The young have the plumage yet more speckled than the mature winter dress.

Rotche, or Little Auk (Mergulus alle\—The little auk is rarely seen, but is occasionally driven to the shores of Gairloch by storms. One was brought to me which had been found dead near the shore of Loch Ewe.

Puffin, or Sea-Parrot (Fratercula arctica).—This curious bird is common on the Gairloch coast at some seasons of the year. Like the guillemot it breeds abundantly on the Shiant Islands. The puffin lays its single egg at the extremity of a burrow formed on grassy banks sloping towards the sea. The egg which, when laid, resembles an ordinary hen's egg, soon becomes more or less of a dirty brown colour.

Great Northern Diver (Coiymbus glacialis).—This largest of our divers is common on these coasts. There are always some on the Gairloch and on Loch Ewe, except perhaps in July and August. I once saw one near the Fox Point on Loch Maree, but not in the breeding season. It remains in our waters until the beginning of June, and then goes north to breed. It has now no authenticated nesting-place in the British Isles. Mr O. H. Mackenzie has an egg which he had taken for him in one of the Shetland Isles many years ago,—probably the last British specimen. Dr Saxby, author of " Birds of Shetland," obtained the egg for Mr Mackenzie. It is very much larger than the egg of the black-throated diver. Mr Mackenzie had often heard of the nesting-place in Shetland from Dr Saxby's brother.

Black-throated Diver (Coiymbus arcticus).—It breeds on a number of fresh-water lochs in Gairloch. The nests are usually on islands, but I have seen one on the mainland. This diver is seldom, if ever, observed in Gairloch, except during the breeding season.

Red-throated Diver (Colymbus septentrionalis).—This diver is not so common here as the black-throated diver. I know two nesting-places in Gairloch. Mr John Munro has known four pairs nesting in the same locality. The red-throated diver is more frequently seen on the wing than the other species, and when flying frequently utters a loud wailing cry, which is said to prognosticate rain. A specimen was brought to me which had been caught in a herring-net.

Sclavonian Grebe {Podiceps auritus).—This grebe is often seen in winter. A pair of grebes has for many years nested annually on a fresh-water loch in Gairloch parish; in some years there have been two pairs on the same loch; and sometimes another pair has nested on a loch about two miles away. Mr E. T. Booth saw the grebes on the former loch in 1868; he was unable to decide the species at the time, but in a letter he wrote to me on 2nd March 1885, he said that " from the last description of the bird that he received he came to the conclusion that it was a Sclavonian." Mr H. E. Dresser saw one old and one young grebe on the same loch on 30th June 1886. He could not get a distinct view of the bird, but he was satisfied it was either the Sclavonian or the eared grebe. Mr John Munro, who has annually seen and scrutinised the birds during the past twenty-one years, and has compared his impressions of them with the pictures of the several species of grebe from Mr Dresser's " Birds of Europe " and other works, believes that these birds nesting in Gairloch are Sclavonian grebes; indeed there can be no reasonable doubt that they are so. Mr Booth has called the birds in question Sclavonians in his "Rough Notes." I believe this is the only recorded instance of the Sclavonian grebe nesting in the British Isles.

Dabchick, or Little Grebe (Podiceps fluviatilis).—It is common here as everywhere.

Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo).—The great cormorant is not very common in Gairloch, but I have known one or two pairs nest in the parish, on rocks overhanging or surrounded by the sea. Mr Harvie Brown found it abundant on Priest Island on 4th July 1884. He saw there a colony of about a hundred pairs. It is commonly seen on fresh-water rivers and lochs, where it engages in fishing. I have often observed it fishing within a few yards of the garden at Inveran.

Green Cormorant, or Skart, or Shag (Phalacrocorax graculus). —The common shag is abundant on Gairloch and Loch Ewe. It nests on high rocks on islands in the sea. It is never seen on freshwater.

Gannet, or Solan Goose (Sula bassana).—This singular bird is often observed fishing, after its peculiar manner, in Gairloch and Loch Ewe. It flies, or rather dashes, rapidly to and fro, and when it sees a fish in the sea, darts or falls so suddenly down upon it, that one almost fears the concussion with the water must injure the bird. Its nearest breeding station is at St Kilda.

Heron (Ardea cinered).—The heron abounds in Gairloch.

There are three heronries, which are strictly preserved. A number of herons frequently roost in autumn and winter in the fir wood on the River Ewe, along with the rooks.

Grey-lag Goose (Anser cinereus). — This wild goose, which seems to have been the origin of the domestic goose, resembles it more closely than any other species of wild goose. It is common in Gairloch, but not so abundant as formerly. It does not attain maturity until its second winter. It nests on small islands in freshwater lochs. Farmers destroy the eggs whenever they can get to the nests, on account of the injury the wild geese do to the crops. This is no doubt the cause of the diminution in their numbers. A smaller species of wild goose has been occasionally noticed by Mr John Munro consorting with the grey-lag goose, but it has not been identified. The grey-lag goose becomes very tame if brought up in captivity.

Brent Goose (Bernida brenta).—Rarely seen here. Mr O. H. Mackenzie has shot two on a grass field at Tournaig, close to the edge of Loch Ewe.

Whooper, or Wild Swan (Cygnus musicus).—Occasionally visits Gairloch in winter. It is sometimes on the sea, but appears to be particularly fond of I«och Maree. On Sunday, 30th January 1881, I saw six of these splendid birds, all in mature white plumage, pluming themselves on the beach within a hundred yards of the house at Inveran. That was an exceptionally severe winter. Mr O. H. Mackenzie broke the tip of the wing of one on Loch Ewe with a bullet, and sent the bird to the Zoological Gardens, Regent's Park, where it still (1886) lives.

Bewick's Swan (Cygnus Btwicki).—This lesser wild swan also visits Gairloch occasionally in winter.

Sheld-Duck, or Shieldrake (Tadorna cornuta).—This magnificent duck, though very abundant in the Hebrides (and there called " Cradh gheadh "), is rarely seen in Gairloch. I obtained a specimen on the River Ewe, at the foot of the garden at Inveran, on 25th November 1880, in stormy weather. Although when first observed this bird had been seen to fly, it was found on examination to have had the quill feathers of both wings clipped. It was probably one of the semi-domesticated specimens so commonly kept along with poultry in North Uist. The bird was a drake in full plumage, and was in company with my tame ducks. It is in the collection at Inveran. Mr O. H. Mackenzie saw one for several days together on the shore at Inverewe some winters ago. It was very wild and unapproachable.

Mallard, or Wild-Duck {Anas boscas). — The wild-duck is abundant, and breeds on islands and on moors near water.

Pintail (Dafila acuta).—This bird is rare. Mr O. H. Mackenzie -shot one at Inveran more than twenty years ago.

Teal (Querquedula crecca).—This beautiful little duck is plentiful, and breeds in Gairloch.

Wigeon (Mareca penelope).—The common wigeon is rather rare here, but is occasionally seen, especially in winter. It sometimes .nests. I obtained a specimen near Inveran on 19th January 1881.

Pochard {Fuligula ferind).—The dun bird is often seen on Gairloch waters, and occasionally breeds with us.

Scaup {Fuligula marild).—The scaup is not uncommon. I have a pair in my collection which were shot on Loch nan Dailthean, in June 1883, by Mr John Matheson. I saw several on the river Ewe in the winter and spring of 1885 They were sometimes close to the garden at Inveran. The drake when swimming appears to be snow-white on its back. I see one of them as I sit in my study writing these notes. The scaup does not nest in Gairloch.

Tufted Duck {Fuligula cristata).—It is not often seen, but I observed a few pairs on the River Ewe, at the end of the Inveran garden, in the hard^ weather of January 1881, and shot one for identification on 27th January 1881.

Golden Eye {Clangula glaucion).—Common; its nest has not been found in Gairloch, but pairs have been seen on fresh-water lochs in the breeding season, and Mr John Munro has seen the young with the old birds, so there is no doubt this duck breeds within the parish.

Long-tailed Duck (Harelda glacialis).—This sea duck was formerly very common on this coast, but is now rarely seen. Mr Percy Dixon procured a young immature one in the summer of 1883 on the River Ewe. It had evidently been injured.

Eider-Duck {Somateria molissima).—This large duck is very Tarely seen in Gairloch, although it is so abundant in the Hebrides. A female was killed at Shieldaig in 1884.

Common Scoter {(Edemia nigra).—This sea bird is rare. Mr O. H. Mackenzie has observed it on the Gairloch coast. Mr E. T. Booth, in his " Rough Notes," speaks of scoters breeding in North-West Ross-shire. They certainly do not nest in Gairloch, nor, as far as I can learn, in any of the adjoining parishes.
Goosander {Mergus inerganser).—The goosander is tolerably abundant here. I have seen several of its nests in Gairloch parish, and so has Mr O. H. Mackenzie. Mr Harvie Brown noted a pair on the Meikle Gruinard River both in 1883 and 1884.

Red-breasted Merganser {Mergus serrator).—The merganser is very common on almost all Gairloch waters, and many of them breed in the parish. I have no doubt it destroys great quantities of the ova and fry of both salmon and trout. It nests on banks, or in holes, or under heather or juniper bushes on islands, or on the mainland near water.

Smew {Mergus albellus).—I have not observed the smew duck on Gairloch or Loch Ewe, but I have seen it In numbers at the mouth of the Meikle Gruinard River, which is little more than a mile beyond the northern limit of the parish of Gairloch. I think therefore it is a Gairloch bird.


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