Birdwatchers who had flocked to the Hebrides to catch a glimpse of a rare swift from Asia were left stunned after witnessing the sudden death of the bird after it flew into a wind turbine.
The arrival of the white-throated needletail on Harris caused a stir among the birdwatching community.
It is considered to be one of world’s fastest birds, with an estimated top speed of 105mph.
The swift was spotted over Harris on Monday and the Rare Bird Alert, an online service that notifies users of sightings, had passed on reports of the white-throated needletail on Tuesday.
Around 70 twitchers from across the UK crossed the Minch to catch sight of the bird, with many posting pictures on Twitter.
However, the excitement of the trip was wrecked when the swift made a fatal swoop into a community-owned wind turbine at Drinishader yesterday.
A spokesman for Rare Bird Event said they had been informed the bird died on Wednesday.
The organisation said yesterday: “The white-throated needletail on Harris flew into a wind turbine and has died, a pathetic way for such an amazing bird to die.”
Student David Campbell, from Epsom in Surrey, was one of many who travelled for 12.5 hours to get to Harris.
He got to Loch Plocrapool just in time to witness for himself the sudden and unexpected end of the needletail.
He said: “It is a very aerial bird and this one had got lost and was well away from where it should have been. I got there just in time and had just seen it in silhouette.
“I saw it hit and fall to the ground. Everyone stopped. It was a moment of horror.”
Ornithologist Josh Jones said on his blog on the Bird Guides website: “Sadly, after providing a memorable day for the birders that made it to Harris, news filtered out early evening that the white-throated needletail had collided with a small community wind-turbine on South Harris and died. An incredibly sad end for what was, for some at least, one of, if not the most, enigmatic species that has graced the British Isles in modern times.”
The needletail is a migrating bird and is black with white patches around its throat and undertail. There are theories it might have got lost migrating from Siberia and it should have been as far away as Australia.
The first record of a sighting in the UK was in 1846 in Essex and since 1950 there have been half a dozen sightings, including Orkney in 1988 and Shetland in 1991.
With very short legs for clinging to vertical surfaces, they normally build their nests in crevices in cliffs or trees in the Himalayas, other parts of central Asia and southern Siberia.
A spokeswoman for RSPB Scotland said they did not know the exact details of the case but that migrating birds can be blown off course when travelling. She said the needletail may have lost its bearings and ended up in Harris.
She added: “While the collision of this visitor with a small domestic wind turbine is unfortunate, incidents of this sort are really very rare. Careful choice of location and design of wind farms and turbines prevents, as much as possible, such occurrences on a large scale.
“Wind energy makes a vital contribution towards mitigating the impacts of climate change, which is the biggest threat to our native birds and wildlife.”
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