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’.
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.
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.
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.
Short Eared Owls were a daily occurance.
As were Hen Harriers.
I had c15 Great Northern Divers during the week. A pair of Red throated Divers were also seen on a small loch N.Uist.
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,
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.
The below leucistic adult Common Gull was probably causing a few of the fly over Iceland Gull reports!
Meanwhile a real 2cy Iceland Gull was in fields near the Caravan on the 24th.
Whooper Swans occasionally breed up there, this bird was close to the road on North Uist.
Little and Arctic Terns were both common place and often sitting on the Machair alongside the usual Ringed Plovers, Dunlin and many Sanderling.
The below ‘Portlandic’, first summer Arctic tern was nice, I saw it most trips to the sea watching point at Aird an Runair.
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!