North Uist

 

A much anticipated and well deserved break from London, 7 days on North Uist and my first time on the Outer Hebrides.  Stunning and uplifting scenery with a soundtrack of constant wader calls, skylark song and Corn crakes ‘crexing’.

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Although it was the first thing I heard as I got out of the rental car at Bayhead Caravan, it took me 3 days to properly lay eyes on any of the local Corn Crakes, a new bird for me.

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Excitement and optimism were serious fuel for the birding. 5 am starts with hopes of new world warblers or other bonkers American passerine finds petered out eventually and to be honest after 4/5 days of thorough birding every morning, checking 100s of gulls and waders in the hope of something out of place, I gave into photographing the residents and enjoyed some brilliant views.

Common birds were mostly obliging and often perched on fence posts along the roadside.

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One of the features of the Outer Hebs this time of year is the Skua passage. Despite my efforts all I encountered were the local Bonxies and Arctics. Great to see them on a daily basis flying around over the land. These, Puffins, Guillemots, Razorbills and many Kittiwakes were present on every seawatch. The other Hebridean specialty were breeding plumage Red-necked Phalaropes . Three were seen from the roadside on Benbecula along with a red male Ruff , all stunners in the scope but a bit distant for the camera.

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Short Eared Owls were a daily occurance.

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As were Hen Harriers.

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I had c15 Great Northern Divers during the week. A pair of Red throated Divers were also seen on a small loch N.Uist.

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Twite were present in small numbers. A seldom seen bird down here in the south east of the country and very welcome and expected addition to the trip,

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Apart form the regular breeding birds I had a few decent or notable birds. A surprise Marsh Harrier during a seawatch from the NW point of N. Uist on the 25th. The bird flew along the coast, briefly mobbed by a female Hen Harrier and continued north. A Little Stint was amongst Dunlin on the Machair at Aird an Runair.

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The below leucistic adult Common Gull was probably causing a few of the fly over Iceland Gull reports!

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Meanwhile a real 2cy Iceland Gull was in fields near the Caravan on the 24th.

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Whooper Swans occasionally breed up there, this bird was close to the road on North Uist.

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Little and Arctic Terns were both common place and often sitting on the Machair alongside the usual Ringed Plovers, Dunlin and many Sanderling.

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The below ‘Portlandic’, first summer Arctic tern was nice, I saw it most trips to the sea watching point at Aird an Runair.

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White tailed Eagles were seen on most Days, with a local Adult and sub adult being our regular birds, unfortunately they too stayed to distant for decent shots but wonderful scope views and enjoyed watching scraps with the local Raven mob.

Although no rarities, and many fruitless hours bush bashing and front garden pishing, I had a great time and will be going up again before long. perhaps in autumn when the constant worry of standing on a lapwing chick or oystercatcher nest doesn’t play a part in your mornings walk!

 

9 -19 May, Walthamstow

 

Still some waders moving through the patch. Mike M found this Turnstone on the Lockwood on the 10th, seems to be a different bird to the previous, very Tame also.

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I had a Dunlin on the 11th and Paul and I had 3 Sanderling fly south down the Lockwood on the 16th.

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Swallows are still going through and a pair on the Riding stables seem to be back for the thrird year in a row, they must be the most central breeders in London.

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Lots of fledglings like the above Long Tailed Tit have appeared recently.   Rain over night on the 14th must have brought down this Spotted Flycatcher, only my second ever in spring it was briefly calling and flycatching in the willows on the path between number 1 and 2 – a spot that also currently hosts 2 singing Garden Warblers.

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I watched this Jay burying monkey nuts in the recently planted ‘flower meadows’, not a species that I have really photographed before but great to watch in the open and worth the ‘dead leg’ from crouching behind a make shift hide for 10 mins as it went about its business.

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Tomorrow I fly to inverness on the first part of my trip to the Outer Hebs. More to follow!

 

 

 

27 April – 8 May

This period has seen the mass arrival of Common Swifts to Walthamstow as well as a few more waders coming through with Paul Watts finding a Turnstone on the East Warwick island that stayed for a couple of days and I had 3 Greenshank on the morning of the 3rd.  Arctic Terns are being seen also, I had one on the morning of the third and saw six this evening that Lol had found this pm. I also had my first patch Hobby of the year back on the 4th.

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A trip to Crossness with Rich Bonser on the 6th got us some wader action with a nice pair of Bar-Tailed Godwits and a small flock of Grey plover headed east.

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A couple of Loaves were thrown on the river at Thamesmead and who should appear but X090! An east German ringed Caspian Gull that Dante and I had back in Novemeber at Thames Barrier Park. It looks much much nicer now , a real stunner.

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There are certainly many more 2cy Lesser Black-backs about.

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Some are totally beautfiul, this 2cy from the 02 on Sunday with some moulted wing coverts.

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Yellow-Legged Gulls are still hanging around the Thames, this 3cy was one of 3 seen on Sunday

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Also noted were 2 Caspian Gulls. One of which was ‘Ring Piece’ a 2cy bird that I’ve seen here back in Feburary and a new bird (below) An extremely German looking bird with heavily marked scaps and a dark underwing despite the replaced coverts tail pattern and greater coverts there seems to be some hybridness going on here so if may not be included in our total for the season. This bird was seen at Rainham on the same day by young Dante.

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Mayday Bank Holiday, Patchwatch and Beachy Head

 

Saturday was the Walthamstow Annual Patch Watch Day, despite the date and fairly promising weather the count came in at 79, 9 species lower than last year.  Highlights were a female Pied flycather found by Steven Harris , a couple of Arctic terns and this Whinchat that Paul picked out in the bomb crater field.

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Sedge Warbler

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Peregine

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Little Ringed Plover

I left around lunch and made my way south for another visit to Eastbourne and Beachy Head.

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On arrival I birded around the Hollow and towards Shooter’s Bottom where I had 10+ Wheatears (at least one apparent Greenland, below) a couple of Willow Warblers, Lesser Whitethroats, Mediterranean Gulls but little else.

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One of Beachy Head’s many Euro looking Stone Chats

Laurence and I started Sunday morning first thing with a sea watch from Birling Gap. I’ve never been really into sea watching but try to do abit at least once a year from Dunge in the spring or Cornwall in the late summer. Today wasn’t bad at all with lots of Poms not too far out, Arctics and a few Bonxies as well as a nice passage of waders.  The rest of the day held little of real interest until our visit to west rise, mainly to look through the hirundines that gather there, especially with the rain. We had 2 Little terns through and a suprise Wryneck, both of which were new birds for Local Kris Gillam and Wryneck new for the site.

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