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Trip to the Uists and Benbecula

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Old Thursday 16th May 2019, 16:36   #26
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An enjoyable read of a great area!
Yeah pretty spectacular
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Old Thursday 16th May 2019, 16:38   #27
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A really enjoyable read, which camera do you use
Best regards
Stan
Hi Stan

I use Canon 7D Mk2 and a Sigma 150-600 lens bit blooming heavy but can get some reasonable shots with it ,I have a harness thing now to take the weight,the neck strap used to cripple me after Half an Hour or so.

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Old Thursday 16th May 2019, 18:29   #28
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A Tern for the Worse

Day 9 Sunday 5th of May

Well with a north westerly wind forecast the plan was up at dawn and hit Aird an Runair for a bit of seawatching with Skuas in mind, unfortunately I have a bit of an IBS flare up , I am never eating Haggis again, get no sleep and consequently donít get to Balranoid til 10.30 only 5 hours late!! Margie and I walk round the reserve, the wind is North Westerly and blooming cold I give it an hour Seawatch a few Gannets go through and there are loads of Arctic Terns over the sea, plenty on the reserve as well displaying with fish in their bills!! No Skuas although apparently 3 had gone through earlier. Plenty of the usual birds, Whimbrel, Ringos, Eider, Oystercatchers, Wheatears, Pied Wags etc on the way out we stop at the ďThe DunesĒ sandwich van where I try to fix my stomach with a Bacon Roll and a large slice of Victoria Sandwich, think it worked.
We drive back via the Committee road and the Hen Harriers perform well again , we return home to rest my aching stomach but manage a couple of shots of our local Common Gulls.


Bit cloudy today making pics difficult especially annoying with the cracking Great Northern Diver in pretty much full summer plumage just of shore!! Still I done me best.

https://onedrive.live.com/?id=6356FB...56FB2BA7828F28

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Old Thursday 16th May 2019, 19:06   #29
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Is it? Can it be?

Day 10 Monday 6th of May

Following some advice from a fellow birder we headed to South Uist to Loch Eynort , the day started well as we had two Red-throated Divers on a Loch on the main road, nowhere to park meant no pics but a nice sighting a little further along two Swans are upside down in another roadside Loch as we are nearly past one puts itís head up Whoopers!! Car right up my arse so canít stop, note to self, look on way back.
We get to Loch Eynort a nice area of woodland we pull up and park, first bird is a Robin the first we have seen on the Islands ,some more birders turn up as they get out of their car one calls Golden Eagle ,look up and a Goldie glides over our heads ,cheers guys!! We enjoy a lovely walk around the mountainside Willow Warblers are calling everywhere at least two Blackcaps are singing, We can here 3 Cuckoos calling, we then get one flying making the Bubbling call , Redpolls are flying around calling, lovely to see Broom covered in bright yellow flowers, as we get back to the shore I pick up another Eagle flying across ,White-tailed getting harassed by a Hoodie, several pics taken!! Scanning the Loch, I pick up at least four Red-throated Divers all pretty distant and a pair of Mergansers much closer. We return to the carpark, Two van loads of birders are present!!
Lucky for us as they immediately pick out an Otter amongst the many Seals on the rocks!! Hurrah!!! many thanks to the lady in the group who called it to our attention, they then spot two Golden Eagles, a White-tailed and then amazingly a Golden Eagle getting attacked by a Merlin, miles away but great to see , the pic ainít great but I done me best!! Of course with one Otter in the bag it was no surprise to spot another on the first causeway back on to Benbecula, putting to rest, once and for all Margieís conspiracy theory that there were no actual Otters and it was just propaganda to bring in the tourists, in her defence we have scanned about a million miles of rocky shoreline before hitting the jackpot!!
As we head back up the road, I remember the Swans, they are still on the Loch, so I pull over and get a couple of pics, great finish to a fantastic day!! By the way Iím definitely coming back as a Seal , what a life frolic in the water, seafood diet and lying about on the rocks 90 % of the day !!

If birds would sit still and give me a bit of notice the pictures might be a bit better!! My efforts for the day at the link below


https://onedrive.live.com/?id=6356FB...56FB2BA7828F28

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Old Thursday 16th May 2019, 19:23   #30
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Hi Stan

I use Canon 7D Mk2 and a Sigma 150-600 lens bit blooming heavy but can get some reasonable shots with it ,I have a harness thing now to take the weight,the neck strap used to cripple me after Half an Hour or so.

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Hi
Many thanks for the reply I think it would be too heavy for me.
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Old Thursday 16th May 2019, 19:42   #31
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By the way Iím definitely coming back as a Seal , what a life frolic in the water, seafood diet and lying about on the rocks 90 % of the day !!

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I've got one word to say to that - Orca!

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Old Thursday 16th May 2019, 20:08   #32
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I've got one word to say to that - Orca!

John
Yes possibly reword that as a seal on the South Coast!!
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Old Thursday 16th May 2019, 20:11   #33
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Hi
Many thanks for the reply I think it would be too heavy for me.
Regards
Stan.
It is heavy and of course with birding most photography is handheld don't think I've ever had it on a tripod, was considering a monopod. But the Harness does work pretty well can go a few hours now with no real problem.

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Old Friday 17th May 2019, 18:33   #34
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Another lovely day!

Day 11 Tuesday the 7th of May

Today with blue skies and less wind promised we decided to give RSPB Balranald a proper go, we have been before a couple of times but with weather conditions less friendly, Corn Bunting was having a singsong in the car park but no Corncrake calls were forthcoming so we headed down the nature trail, plenty of Wheatear along here with the Pied Wags, Skylarks and Mipits, Rock Dove, Common Gull and Whimbrel on the fields and plenty Oystercatchers of course. As we walked into the dunes, we heard another Corn Bunting singing and there were 3 more knocking about, a flock of Eider were close in on the bay as were a couple of Great Northern Divers, the beach was alive with small waders, with Dunlin, Sanderling, Ringed Plover and Turnstones galore.
Hitting the point the local Arctic Terns were very vocal and visible calling and flying about, Ringos and Wheatear were running about all over and a couple of Common Gulls were doing what comes natural when the sun shines! Despite the less than ideal conditions, wind in the wrong direction etc I decided to have a Seawatch, not much about though a Black Guillemot going south was nice, more GND on the sea as well as a Shag and a Cormorant ,some Gannets went through and a small party of Terns, suddenly along the beach comes a Bonxie didn’t get the camera on it til it was nearly past but managed a couple of shots, a Barnacle Goose appeared and did a circuit before disappearing the way it had come ,suspecting it might be on the small loch just back from the point we headed back the way we had come sure enough there it was pretending to be an Oystercatcher, distant but got a few pics, as we are watching a flock of four geese come by heading North they don’t look like Greylags, sure enough Pinkfeet record shots obtained of the departing birds we head back towards the visitor center we bump into a couple of birders who say they have had a couple of Purple Sandpipers on the tide line with the Dunlin, despite the fact that there are thousands of waders almost invisible in the seaweed and even more on the beach we decide to give it a go!! As I am scanning through the scope, very focused dismissing Dunlin after Dunlin, Turnstone after Turnstone etc etc a small white bird appears in the scope strange looking wader I’m thinking before the brain makes the leap Little Tern!! Soon joined by another with a fish and we watch their strange little courtship dance until rudely interrupted by a Common Gull trying to nick the fish, no class some birds!! Anyway, all hell breaks loose the Little Tern gives the gull a right kicking then returns with the fish as he is doing it a Purple Sandpiper walks straight into scope view, bonus!!
We decide it’s cake time and head back to the start where “The Dunes” sandwich van on the campsite provides Smoked Salmon rolls and an excellent and large slice of Coffee and Walnut cake, very nice coffee as well, heartily recommend the place if your visiting, we eat our repast in the car hoping to be serenaded by Corncrakes but it’s not to be have to make do with Skylarks and Corn Bunting oh well!! After this we head up to St Kilda’s watchpoint hoping for a repeat of the Raptorfest from the other day Nada!! Still heading back down I spot a Snipe sat on a post which posed nicely for a good couple of minutes!!
After an hour back at base we decide to spend the rest of the afternoon at the Beach on Baleshare as we arrive a massive flock of something is heading North ,possibly Golden Plover? The tide is out and it looks lovely though birdless the sun is so bright on the sand I have to wear me shades, we walk along the deserted beach, blue sea ,big sky all is right with the world a lovely place to be with the woman of my dreams, there are patches of rocks along the Beach and of course Margie wants to explore and take arty pics etc, though I refuse to take me top off far to cold in the breeze!! As we approach the first patch of rocks, a small group of Dunlin erupt out ah this is where they are hiding, almost impossible to see we change tack as not to disturb them, although it’s basically impossible as they fly well before you see them although the occasional one sits still and poses for pics, they and the Ringed Plovers with them are constantly up and down with the waves anyway ,I leave Margie to it and head up to the dunes a few Lapwings and some Rabbits seem to be about it heading back to the beach I pick up two dark dots way in the distance heading this way, Skuas? Oh yes arriving deceptively fast around the bend I nearly miss my chance but get on the first bird a Dark Phase Arctic, but fail miserably to get on the second one, (I notice a Long-tailed Skua was reported south past Balranald anyone know what time? And if so, was it with an Arctic?) Still happy as I walk down the beach and pick up another larger dot coming off the land, White-tailed Eagle carrying something (Appears to be Seaweed from photos) but it spirals high out to sea. We walk back along the beach very relaxed and happy with the world!

Some pics at the link below not easy in the bright sunshine, most of the arty rockpool/beach type ones are Margie

https://onedrive.live.com/?id=6356FB...56FB2BA7828F28
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Old Friday 17th May 2019, 18:48   #35
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Bad Belly Day

Day 12 Wednesday 8th of May
A disaster ,my IBS is back and this time means business, painkillers donít touch it, no sleep for me, Margie suggests maybe down to too much cake I control my rage at the very suggestion, I think itís the Haggis and possibly the Crunchy Nut Granola anyway whatever the reason no birding today ☹
As I loll around the house feeling sorry for myself, although as with most men despite the horrendous pain I hardly complain at all, Margie looks after me well although I decline the offered air ambulance, still not really sure if this is a genuine offer, preferring to suffer bravely on being no trouble to anyone.
We pop to the shop at Solas and get brief views of a Male Harrier and the local Red Deer, Wheatear and Stonechat try to keep my spirits up! Margie seems happy enough reading her book and having a well deserved relax so not all bad!!

No pics today :(
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Old Friday 17th May 2019, 19:09   #36
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Search for the Dotterel

Day 13 Thursday the 9th of May

Despite a still burning tummy I bravely head to Balranald to see if yesterday’s reported Dotterel are still present, Margie not feeling the best with a possible Migraine, although I offer to stay and nurse her she insists I go, so I’m on me own.
I walk from the carpark towards the beach scanning the wide open spaces as I go, I’m not sure where they were seen and no other birders present, all the regular birds are present although far less Wheatear today though lots of Whimbrel, as I approach the carpark for Aird an Runair I see three birds running about on the grass, could it be? Oh yeah baby 3 stonking Dotterel right next to the path fill ya boots!!
After about twenty minutes the birds moved further up the hill and I decide to mooch a bit further round, a Purple Sandpiper is on the beach and I manage a few better pics. The Arctic Terns are still doing their thing and Corn Buntings are singing but I decide to head back to base to nurse Margie back to health bravely not visiting “The Dunes” in case Margie’s crazy cake theory has any basis. We spend the rest of the day recovering with our trip to Mingulay Tomorrow in mind !! Except another phone call, despite perfect weather the boat trip is cancelled once again!! A cable has snapped, and the part hasn’t arrived in time, with no time to organise anything else it's fair to say I'm not a happy bunny.

A few pics at the link ,quite happy with the Dotterel.

https://onedrive.live.com/?id=6356FB...56FB2BA7828F28

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Old Saturday 18th May 2019, 09:15   #37
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Superb Paul. Those Harriers are immense.

Rich
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Old Saturday 18th May 2019, 10:00   #38
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Superb Paul. Those Harriers are immense.

Rich
Thanks Rich it's strange we had great views of Harriers, but never seemed to get the "perfect" shot always moving I guess but I'm happy with a few of them and it was immense watching them do their thing especially the day when we had 2 pairs having a spat, and the Male Skydancing.

You will be relieved to know there are only another couple of days to go!! :)


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Old Saturday 18th May 2019, 10:13   #39
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Gannets Galore

Day 13 Friday the 10th of May

So instead of a boat trip and hundreds of Puffins we decide to head for Berneray, we are a bit deflated but head out determined to enjoy our last full day, at the causeway we watch Gannets diving for fish though I obviously fail to get the crucial just entering the water shot, although in my defence they were blooming quick and quite tricky with quite a few feints and aborted dives!!
After a brief stop at the Seal watchpoint we drove around around to East Beach, Little Terns are feeding but by the time we are out of the car they have moved on, Gannets are flying out at Sea impressive with the Mountains of Harris behind them , a few of the usual Waders on the beach the scenery is again spectacular especially the showers over the distant mountains.
We drive around to the Machair, walk out to the dunes, another stunning beach under blue skies, another load of Great Northern Divers just off shore, interesting watching a Great Black-backed Gull loitering waiting for the Divers to surface and trying to nick their catch, have seen other Gulls do this to Eiders before. There are a few Twite in the dunes and plenty Skylarks on the flat grass. Gannets fly by here as well, not the Puffinfest we were hoping the day would bring but still A lovely day to be out and about.
We head back to base to start packing and despite frequent visits to the bedroom window my Shortie doesnít appear to say goodbye. ☹

A few pics at the link,a bit Gannet heavy but I always enjoy watching them fish!! the diver looks pretty smart in summer plumage and good light for a change.

https://onedrive.live.com/?id=6356FB...56FB2BA7828F28

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Old Saturday 18th May 2019, 10:59   #40
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The Long Journey Home

Day 15 Saturday the 11th of May

Well to catch the early ferry we have to be awake at five , the sky is tinged red as the sun begins itís rise, the Short-eared Owl is sitting on a fence post to say goodbye,how could I have doubted him, it is completely quiet and still, a distant Cuckoo starts calling, Iím going to miss this place ,I love waking to the sounds of Curlew and Oystercatcher.
We head to Lochmaddy, in the harbour some Common Terns are fishing and loafing on a buoy , as the ferry pulls out a Black Guillemot is on the sea,as we enter the more open sea I pick up 2 Skuas disappearing behind the stern, Iím thinking they look small ,but the very blurred photos are not bad enough to string LTS ,Pale Phase Arctics they are, the windless journey is pretty quiet, although about ĺ of the way across a load of Gannets are fishing and there are Auks on the sea with this time some Razorbills amongst them, the last significant bird of the holiday is a Bonxie an ironic hint of what might have been, a no sign of any Puffins, all those from the journey out, must have relocated to Mingulay, Iím not bitter, I'm not bitter, I'm not bitter, I'm not bitter and thatís it for the birding, a nice breakfast of Pancakes at Cafť Sia in Broadford on Skye, we meet up with me old birding buddy Mowla and his good lady at Luss they are coincidently heading up to Argyll and Bute on holiday, after much texting back and forth we eventually meet up, a quick drink then head our separate ways, Lunch at the Tebay services, what a refreshing change to the dross usually served up at these places, and we head home ,arriving at 12.38 am on Sunday morning!!! Bloody long drive!!

Some final pics at the link below

https://onedrive.live.com/?id=6356FB...56FB2BA7828F28

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Old Saturday 18th May 2019, 12:18   #41
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Final Thoughts

Many thanks as usual,to Margie for putting up with me, although she was in the bad books for a while, what with standing there laughing while I was floundering in the muddy pit of doom, however she did redeem herself by spotting the corncrake and several other awesome birds and also completely saved my shoes and also by being the usual good company !! I promise the next holiday will have more castles.
Thanks as well to Christina at Claddach Cottages a very nice place to stay with absolutely everything you need for an enjoyable stay,the bed was comfy,the shower fantastic obviously from a birders point of view the garden and surrounds are superb,the list of birds seen from the house was insane including Golden Eagle,Hen Harrier, Short-eared Owl,Merlin (while I was washing up!!) Wheatear,Stonechat,Skylark,Curlew,Whimbrel,Redshank,Oystercatcher,Lapwing and Arctic Skua!!. When the Wi-Fi is back up and running it will be perfect(it probably is by now)

The Uists and Benbecula are a fantastic place great scenery and awesome birds, Eagles and Harriers are majestic and the Twite were superb, the soundtrack is fantastic mix of Skylark, Corn Bunting, Redshank, Curlew and Oystercatcher calls and song, Sea watching was a bit pants, one of the reason we decided to book our holiday here and this time of year were the reports of huge numbers of Poms and Long-tailed Skuas going through,Not to be,the weather that gave us the blue skies and sunshine unfortunately gave North to East winds when for big Skua action you need a howling storm blowing in from the Atlantic, still you canít have it all!!
The remoteness is one of the attractions and although there are few places ,cafes,restaurant and a couple of pubs , with 4 or 5 shops itís mainly the scenery and wildlife that attracts, I spent too much money in the Hebridean Smokehouse although the smoked sliced Scallops were lovely .Strangely difficult to find Hebridean Lamb considering the islands are crawling in sheep, and of course there was very little Organic food in the few shops, we made a commitment after last yearís walk for wildlife to where possible only eat organic food, so we had to suspend that for the duration ,although we did take a bit with us.
For me the Uists seem to be at a bit of a crossroads, with the people maybe not fully appreciating the wildlife or it's potential for tourism, there seemed a lot development around with new house being built pretty much on any bit of land vaguely above sea level, there were a lot cars, vans, lorries and even buses seemingly abandoned in fields, a lot of the beaches had a lot of rubbish at the tide line mainly fishing tackle, pots, ropes etc all of which spoilt the aesthetic somewhat.
Although there are longer walks for the serious walkers, there seemed fewer of the shorter circular type walks for normal tourists and birders, RSPB Balranald and Druidibeg and a reserve at Loch Eynort seemed about it although there was good access to the Machair and the Beaches.
Probably the most depressing thing was the number of cats we saw wandering about, one of the most important places in the country for Ground Nesting Birds, the last refuge for the Corncrake and rare wading birds and yet there seemed no control at all, thousands of pounds has been spent removing introduced hedgehogs from the islands to protect the birds which seems pointless with the onslaught from cats, the lady who rented us the cottage told us the Corncrakes in her garden had been predated by cats and we even saw one at the entrance to Balranald. As I understand it the modernisation of farming practises also seems to be having a negative effect on the wildlife, Be interesting to go back in ten years and see how the wildlife has fared. Hopefully the local government will act to try and stop the loss of the things that make the Islands unique and special before they are gone. Doing a bit of reading I think there are projects to encourage the crofters to go back to traditional methods although I think it's a hard life to make a living at,hopefully grants will be given to encourage wildlife friendly farming going forward.
The above are small quibbles for me the Islands are superb for bird watching, especially in the spring and the scenery is fantastic especially as Iím a big fan of big skies and wide open spaces, the beaches, even the smelly ones are fantastic , and itís lovely to have a whole one to yourself!! Will we return? Almost certainly, although having not visited Mull, Islay or the Shetlands yet it may not be for a few years maybe next time I will finally hit the Skua passage right!!

A great holiday with some memorable encounters with wildlife, a place to feel really relaxed and happy. Heartily recommend the Uists and Benbecula to everyone.

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Old Saturday 18th May 2019, 13:37   #42
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Great report that brought back some good memories of a Western Isles trip a few years ago.
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Old Saturday 18th May 2019, 16:12   #43
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Fantastic. Really mouthwatering stuff. As I said we wee there only two years ago, but really makes one want to go back, possibly earlier in the season, for Twite and Corncrake!

Well done.
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Old Saturday 18th May 2019, 18:42   #44
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Great report that brought back some good memories of a Western Isles trip a few years ago.
Thanks I will certainly remember it for awhile
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Old Saturday 18th May 2019, 18:43   #45
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Fantastic. Really mouthwatering stuff. As I said we wee there only two years ago, but really makes one want to go back, possibly earlier in the season, for Twite and Corncrake!

Well done.

Thanks , you should definitely go back I know I will!!!!
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Old Sunday 19th May 2019, 14:55   #46
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Some of the best bird pics from the trip in one place

https://onedrive.live.com/?id=6356FB...56FB2BA7828F28

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