More than 300 bird species have occurred naturally in the far north thanks to the diversity of habitats for resident birds and the area’s favourable location for passage and migrant birds.
Along the coastline in summer the high cliffs and stacks support amazing seabird colonies. Later in the year the bays shelter migrating and wintering ducks and the beaches provide refuge and feeding for numerous wader species. Seabird passage can be spectacular particularly along the East coast.
At inland sites, many species that have suffered badly from intensification of agriculture in other areas are still to be found in reasonable numbers here. Undisturbed moorland and flows support some very special breeding species such as Greenshank, Black-throated Diver and Common Scoter.
With a number of great birding locations and always wonderful scenery, birding in Caithness and Sutherland can be very rewarding at any time of year and there’s plenty of scope for discovering something interesting and unusual.
Colin Baird blogs about travelling in Scotland by bicycle on his cyclingscot.co.uk website. His aim is to explore the entire country on his bike. Caithness and Sutherland is one of his favourite areas - he loves the quiet, single-track roads and the …
Humans have always looked to the birds. In mythology, they are carriers of souls, messengers to the gods, our familiars. In ecology, they are our measure, our meter, they mark the seasons…
A Flyway is a migration route used by birds travelling from their breeding to wintering grounds and back each year. Northern - as the project is focusing on birds from the Northern Hemisphere, specifically those in Northern Europe.
The project is the brainchild of Jenny Sturgeon (Salt House, Jenny Sturgeon Trio) and Inge Thomson (Karine Polwart Trio, Da Fishing Hands). In 2017 they wrote and created Northern Flyway – an audio-visual production exploring the ecology, folklore, symbolism and mythology of birds and birdsong.
Alongside Jenny and Inge, Northern Flyway also features singer/multi-instrumentalist Sarah Hayes (Admiral Fallow, Rachel Newton Band) and vocal sculptor/beatboxer Jason Singh (Follow the Fleet, Tweet Music). Jason improvises on all the songs creating different soundscapes during each show.
The live show combines vocal and instrumental composition, interviews Jenny and Inge conducted with the public, well over 50 different bird songs, instrumental bird mimicry, sonic experimentation and lush visual footage of landscapes, flocks and murmurations. The imagery is stunning, with high quality footage from Scotland: The Big Picture and Shetland videographer Richard Shucksmith. The show is popular because it contains so many different elements – sonically (music, bird song, interviews, soundscapes) and visually (projections, set design, musician stage wear designed by NielaNell).
Themes of human and avian migration, the seasons’ cycle and humanity’s relationship with nature resonate through this multi-dimensional work.
The music draws on the extensive field recordings of birdsong expert Magnus Robb, Sturgeon’s background working as a bird biologist and Thomson’s home turf of Fair Isle, Shetland.