Thursday, 14 August 2014

South Uist, Ardvule, Bornish and Loch Bee 13th August 2014

Hi, well this blog is going to take sometime as you'll soon find out why...

After having a discussion the night before, my Granny and I both decided that going to Ardvule would be a nice start. We also knew that we'd travel up to the north end of Loch Bee in search of Grannies friend and guide for some trips, Martyn. So the first stop was Ardvule, and after having a quick look on Western Isles Wildlife Recent Sightings we knew there was an American Golden Plover hanging around. While going past a few lochs and lochans we managed to find some scaup, also round the edges, Twite, Starling, Meadow Pipit and Pied Wagtail.

After getting lost a few times we managed to conjure up a route towards our destination! We soon arrived at Bornish, a small Village leading up to Ardvule. We were in search of the Machair that the AGP had been sighted yesterday, sadly the plan didn't pay off. However, we did mange to find a freshly cut field that house a flock of both Golden Plover and Lapwing. There were also a few Curlew and Oystercatchers hanging around. After getting out of the car with my Scope and Binoculars and having a good search through the Waders, a moment of unrest occurred... All the Starling, Pied Wagtails, Meadow Pipits, Oystercatcher, Curlew, Golden Plover and Lapwing took off all alarm calling, what was happening? This happened:
Female Ringtail Hen Harrier hunting!
Here are some of the Lapwing.
How about that seeing a Female Ringtail hen Harrier hunting Golden Plover and Lapwing, WOW!!! Not many people see this! After this we found a juvenile Stonechat on a post with food in its mouth...
Now we had reached Ardvule, one of the best seawatching places in Britain, perfect weather but maybe not the right mindset... After getting my scope out of the car and walking down on to the bay I managed to find a good collection of waders. 5+ Ruddy Turnstones, 50+ Ringed Plover, 10+ Dunlin, 1 Sanderling and 20+ Oystercatchers. Out in the bay there were around 10 Eiders, only females and juveniles, we haven't seen a drake duck yet :( Also out in the bay was a female Red-Breasted Merganser which stayed long enough for this rubbish photo!
Soon after a Wagtail popped out in front of me, but this one seemed different due to its yellow head!
Don't know if you can see the yellow head!
I suspect that its just a normal Pied Wagtail but a juvenile. No Citrine, PLEASE LEAVE A COMMENT!
Moving on, after losing my scope lens cap for a short while I had look on some of the rocky islands and was able to see a juvenile Arctic Tern, that was just to far for my camera to cope with! Then suddenly a small raptor darted in front of me, I quickly fiddled with the tangle of camera/binocular knots then was straight onto a very smart and cool looking female Merlin. It looked fairly mobile and was obviously hunting. The camera was out and about to take the picture until... It took off again, thanks Mrs Merlin, thanks!!! Nothing much happened after that only a few Gannets. While driving away though a Snipe flyed high with its unusual twisting flight. 

Granny and I decided now to go to the Howmore river, we had a nice look but only managed to find a few Oystercatchers, 1 Ringed Plover and several Common Gulls. Although I did manage to record a nice shot of some Oystercatchers flying over. That I can't show you because of this blumin machine!

We now tried to get in contact with Martyn, a guide and keen birdwatcher who has recently colonised on the isle, by Loch Bee. We had a chat and he told us that in his garden he has Corncrakes breeding, also in a field he owns directly outside his front door he has Spotted Crake breeding OMG! Lapwing, Ringed Plover, Redshank, Snipe and Oystercatcher also share the field with them, now that is incredible! He also commented that the Corncrakes, Spotted Crakes made the evening chorus for him, do you know of anyone else who experiences this all through Spring? After having a nice drink of water he gave us a tiny tour outside and gave us views of a Black-Tailed Godwit. Oh, I forgot, also in the Spring he saw three White-Tailed Eagles outside his kitchen window, not to shabby hey!!!

Both Granny and I also had a quick look closer down towards Benbecula but only managed to find Curlew, Dunlin, Common Gulls, Oystercatchers, Hooded Crows and a Ringed Plover. Remember, that's only now! Our next stop was at the northern tip of Loch Eynort, a sea loch that supposedly has good bird sightings. However, before arriving at Loch Eynort a broad-winged bird of prey was hunting. A short-Eared Owl, another first and this one was a cracker! The habitat was perfect, the lighting was perfect and the awe inside the car was astounding! I am quite happy with the photos I managed to get!

My favourite!!!

Greenland raced Wheatear, a first for me! They were right, our first bird in the vicinity was a
Beauty, even though it didn't show for long judging by the picture!
Lapwings and Common Gulls dominated our next few birds with only a few Oystercatchers and Curlews...  
Not only did the feathered variety please us, the sheer number of Harbour Seals forced me to take a photo!
When driving back I noticed a wader sheltering from the wind behind a rock. Another fantastic bird, the Greenshank this one like the second that you'll hear soon did seem to have stage fright, as it left the scene shortly after I pointed the camera at him! When we were just about to leave I asked my Granny to wait as there maybe something lurking unseen... We did, and practically seconds after my Granny spotted a "Ringed Plover" that I shortly re-identified as a Common Sandpiper, apparently rarer in these parts.

Going down the other side was a definite and was most certainly worth it after finding the second Greenshank of the day, this one again shy, did stay still enough though for a few shots...

This is the 1st one we saw, very distant!

So that was the day wasn't it! No, well sought of yes but while driving back we encountered a Golden Eagle flying high beside the Uists hills, with a Crow for comparison. Also while driving I spotted another Female Ringtail Hen Harrier hunting just in front of the Co-Operative! After a few army rolls Granny safely manouvered outside of the Skoda, and we earnt a nice pasta, tuna, beans and dolmio sauce dinner!!!

So that was probably one of my favourite days birding ever. The only thing that I would change is the weather, to many prolonged showers for me!


  1. Hi Alex & Granny , wow what a great days birding , great write up and pics Alex , i looked at your Wagtail pic and agree with you as juv Pied :-)

  2. Biff

    Obviously having a good time, your Sooty Shearwater is in fact an Arctic Skua, that's the beauty of a picture it never lies, SS does not show the pale primary wedge as in your pic and it is very deep chested sorry

  3. Thanks Paul, yep! I haven't had internet so couldn't update it, I know it was just so excited a the time! After ther Balearics, stupid really! Thanks for the feedback Rob :)