Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Outer Hebrides 2/3

Corn Bunting
 Tuesday, bright sunny and clear later on. I had an earlyish start this morning, back along to Balranald, where a Corn Bunting showed down to a few feet allowing some nice photos. A chance I'll never get at home. Behind the info centre the ever elusive Corncrakes were still 'giving it what for' so imagine my surprise when I scanned along a raised ditch bank and saw one sunning and calling away. Some careful stalking, despite the constant attention from Peewits overhead, got me close enough for a reasonable shot.

Back at the car, I told a visiting Yorkshire birder that one was showing in the open, he had to pick himself up before stuttering 'Where is it!' I pointed him in the direction and left him to it...

 After this we had a drive south, on a hunch to find some very rare breeding Red necked Phalaropes. Getting specific info on these is like asking for the crown jewels, so it took me ages of internet searching before I got a sniff of a site. Even then I wasn't convinced I would see any, however, on arrival I soon located two fresh summer females and one duller male hiding in emergent mares tails. I couldn't believe my luck!

Although they were too skulky and distant to photograph scope views were good. My first breeding plumaged ones in the uk ( though I saw loads in Iceland). Keeping with the trend, Im sorry I cant give a location.

Also here were 7+ Rock Doves, 4 Black tailed Godwit, 1 Shoveler, 2 Wigeon, 1 Raven and a Peregrine.

Next stop was Ardivachar Point, South Uist. The highight here was a flock of 27 Ravens feeding on the shore and a song flighting Dunlin over MOD machair land. Tremendous.

What a day!

Red necked Phalarope
Wednesday was a lovely day, sunny with a pleasantly cool easterly breeze.

While having breakfast in the garden, a male Hen Harrier flew over and caught a fledgeling pipit in the field opposite. No sooner had that happened,  one of the 'garden' Corncrakes flew out briefly giving a short but nice glimpse.
Hen Harrier
We headed north today to check out some beaches and to look for orchids. Hornish Strand has to be one of the finest beaches on the planet! We also checked out Lingay Strand and Grenitote that were almost as good.

 I couldnt find any Hebridean Marsh Orchids ( too early) but Early Marsh Orchid of the form coccinea was new for me. A few were scattered around. 
The unspoilt low impact farming here means there are lots of flowers. Yellow flag irises and Marsh Cinquefoil were abundant. Seaside Pansy was a new form for me here.  

The first of only 2 Arctic Skuas of the trip flew low over the moors nearby.

Hornish Strand, North Uist
Yellow Flag Iris, Marsh Cinqfoil, Seaside Pansy, Early Marsh Orchid
Still searching the machair for my main target of the trip we headed back to Balranald ( its really nice here) where we soon found them - 3+ Great Yellow Bumblebees, the rarest of the kind in the UK, found only here and along the far north of Scotland. Great things watched beside the hebridean race of Moss Carder Bee, that was very orange and black a bit like tree bumblebee. I wish I had taken their pcture too, I dont know how I overlooked this. Too busy just enjoying them buzzing about the masses of clover and trefoil.

Great Yellow Bumblebee
So it was back home where the Corncrakes were seen briefly squabbling and jumping into the air, just behind the garden.


The Wessex Reiver said...

I was a bit too early for corncrakes when in Orkney in April, one of my bogey birds as I've never heard one. Great shot of the the yellow tailed bumbler

Trent Duval said...

Great blog. Beautiful area.

Stewart said...

Andrew - Corncrakes all over at night calling. Worth a trip. This was only my third sighting though...
Trent - Cheers.