Merlins have been reappearing on Barra in the past few days, says Bruce Taylor.

"Through the autumn they are often our most frequently seen bird of prey on the island," said the Barra-based 'birder'  on Twitter at the weekend.

Meanwhile, Highlands and Islands MSP Donald Cameron announced yesterday (Sunday August 11th) that he has committed to fight for Scotland’s nature by signing Scottish Environment Link’s “Standing up for Nature” pledge.

Mr Cameron is the Scottish Parliament’s species champion for the merlin.

Mr Cameron said: “The fate of the merlin shows why it is so important that we challenge biodiversity loss, and why I am more than happy to sign this pledge.

“The merlin is a beautiful bird, usually only glimpsed as it dashes across moorland in pursuit of a pipit or lark.

“They are Scotland’s smallest bird of prey – the males only the size of a thrush – but quite capable of defending their territories against much larger birds. They have even been seen harrying eagles which have strayed near to their nests.

“However, the merlin suffered a very serious decline in numbers during the 1950s and 1960s due to organochlorine pesticides getting into the food-chain which caused them to suffer breeding failure. When the pesticides were removed, the birds made a recovery.

“They are still an officially red-listed species which means they are of conservation concern, so we must not get complacent, but it shows that if we get the science right, it is possible to take effective action."

The pledge reads:“The joint emergencies of rapid biodiversity loss and climate breakdown require transformative action. As a member of the Scottish Parliament, I pledge to stand up for nature. I will do everything in my power to ensure Scotland’s natural environment has strong and effective protection, alongside ambitious targets for its recovery and enhancement. When 1 in 11 species in Scotland is at risk of extinction, these measures are vital, whatever our future relationship with the European Union.”

Photograph by Bruce Taylor