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A Black-winged Pratincole Visits Ness

Thursday 2nd August was a very special day for local birdwatcher Tony Marr. He was about to pack away his telescope, having checked out the new arrivals at Loch Stiapabhat Local Nature Reserve, when his attention was attracted by one final arrival. Tony got more and more excited as he went through a careful identification process, until he finally came to the conclusion that he had found a Black-winged Pratincole [Latin - pratum (meadow); incola (inhabitant)]. A quick call, on his mobile, to Birdline Scotland promptly confirmed his identification and a 'Rare Bird Alert' was put in place, to notify birders and twitchers from far and wide. The Pratincole is a family of eight species and the Black-winged breeds on the steppes of southern Russia and winters in southern Africa, so this particular individual's satnav was seriously faulty. This sighting was a first ever for the Outer Hebrides and only the fourth ever in Scotland, the last being in 1996. The bird has a very striking appearance, resembling a huge swallow or swift, is extremely agile and adept at catching insects on the wing. According to Tony, the bird stayed at Loch Stiapabhat for five days and was seen by about a dozen people during that time.

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