May 17th - It rained all night but the wind wasn't so bad. Woke up early for my morning stroll at Aird an Runair. Lots of waders on the beach today including Purple Sandpipers and Little Stint. Divers on the sea were represented by both Great Northern Diver and Black-throated Diver. A small passage of Skuas produced a light phase Pomarine Skua, a few Arctic Skuas and a few Great Skuas.
On the headland Arctic Tern and Common Tern were both evident while passerine interest was produced by a few Twite.
Arctic Tern, Aird an Runair
Common Tern, Aird an Runair
Purple Sandpiper, Aird an Runair
Twite, Aird an Runair
By mid morning the rain was getting heavier. A brief look at Loch Sandary gave another Whooper Swan, Red-breasted Merganser and three Black-tailed Godwits.
On Benbecula, Loch Mhòr didn't have any Phalaropes on show but did have a Corncrake briefly. Stinky Bay had another good selection of waders plus Great Northern Diver and Eider in the bay.
Great Northern Diver, Stinky Bay, Benbecula
Snipe, Stinky Bay, Benbecula
I was starting to pay the price for getting up early. So I drove to Baleshare, had some lunch and fell asleep to the sound of the waves. Awoke sometime later to the louder sound of waves and squawking gulls; the tide had come in and the birds were feeding along the tide line just yards away. Masses of Sanderling, Dunlin, Common Gull and Turnstones. A lone tern along the shore piqued my interest and closer inspection proved it to be an adult Black Tern, a decent bird on these islands.
Ruddy Turnstone, Baleshare
That's about it for today except for some good views of the zetlandica subspecies of Starling. Tomorrow will be better.
Starling, ssp. zetlandica, Balranald
May 18th started like a lot of mornings here...wet! but only a mist or light drizzle today and no wind. The sea at the headland was like a mill pond. Waders and seabirds much the same as yesterday except no Little Stint and a few more Purple Sandpipers. Some extra Northern Wheatears also seem to be about. There were a few Arctic Skuas and a large flock of Whimbrel. The mist made it difficult to sea watch from the carpark so I walked to the end of the headland. There seemed to be masses of Great Northern Divers, at least 40, a flash of white caught my eye and I had reasonable views of White-billed Diver before it flew South.
I decided to spend the day, or most of it, at Loch Euphort looking for raptors having received some good intelligence about White-tailed Eagles. I stopped briefly at Loch nam Feithean with it's, now usual, waterfowl. There were also three Ruff lekking on the North bank.
Aird an Runair
Ruff, Loch nam Feitham
I eventually reached the parking area / turning circle at the end of Loch Euphort. I had heard that up to six White-tailed Eagles could be seen sitting on Treanaigh, and island viewable from that car park. It was immediately obvious that there was a White-tailed Eagle there, a young bird that stayed there all day.
I hung around that area all morning watching a female Otter and a well grown cub on Treanaigh, fly past Red-throated Divers and Black-throated Divers, Peregrine and also Hebridean races of Wren and Song Thrush. Red-breasted Merganser and Black Guillemot were on the loch. The weather was not too good with low cloud and drizzle though.
Eaval from the end of Loch Euphort, covered in low cloud.
Song Thrush, ssp. hebridensis
Wren, ssp. hebridensis
Peregrine, male, Sidinish
Red-breasted Merganser, Sidinish
White-tailed Eagle, on Treanaigh, Sidinish
I decided to have lunch on the Committee Road before returning to Loch Euphort in the afternoon to meet Steve and Marc, fellow campers and birders.
The raptor watch point on the Committee Road was exceptional with awe inspiring views of Hen Harriers and Short-eared Owls.
Hen Harrier, female
Hen Harrier, male
Hen Harrier aerobatics.
THIS IS HOW HEN HARRIERS ARE SUPPOSED TO BE SEEN! NOT LYING IN HEATHER WITH TWO OUNCES OF BUCKSHOT INSIDE IT.
Still recovering from the display I had just witnessed I drove back to Loch Euphort where Steve, Marc and I continued to watch a total of two White-tailed Eagles, four Golden Eagles, another male Hen Harrier, Great Skua and a surprise fly past Long-tailed Skua found by the owner of the house there.
Male Hen Harrier, Sidinish
Treanaigh (with WTE)
Male Northern Wheatear.
White-tailed Eagle, Treanaigh, Sidinish
Back at the campsite we decided to go for an evening walk after tea. We found several calling Corncrakes around Heougharry along with a flock of Corn Buntings. A new trip tick, Bar-tailed Godwits, were found in the bay there.
Testosterone fuelled Skylark displaying to female just out of shot.
Dawn at Balranald woke to the sound of various waders, marking territory or showing off their prowess. And, like every other morning, I stumble around for 45 minutes trying to get my heart started and head off to Aird an Runair to see what's about. Rock Dove, Corn Bunting, Arctic Tern and Little Tern are all busy.
Corn Bunting, Aird an Runair
The sea was quite quiet with just a few Gannets, Fulmar, Great Northern Diver and Arctic Skua for company. A Corncrake was calling from the direction of Loch a Roe, behind the headland.
Something different on the beach though, running amongst the Sanderling and Dunlin was a nice Little Stint.
I decided to go to the Ranges on South Uist, today in search of the reported Dotterel and Crane. Loch nam Feithean had Wigeon, Ruff, Little Grebe, Whooper Swan and Garganey today. I didn't find any Dotterel but did have distant views of the Crane. A large female Peregrine purveyed all from her perch.
One of the Whooper Swan pair at Loch nam Feithean
Lots of waders holding territory here and are particularly bold (or daft) where their territory is concerned.
Common Redshank, Ardivachar
Snipe, Ardivachar, South Uist
Getting tired of Shelduck, Greylags and Eider (tough! they're everywhere). Headed to Sidinish along Loch Euphort to look for Eagles. Didn't see any despite scouring their usual haunts. There was some recompense provided by a flock of 40 Whimbrel, one or two Black Guillemots, Red-breasted Merganser and a female Hen Harrier. I then headed back to Balranald for tea, meeting the Glaucous Gull again.
Hen Harrier, female, Sidinish
Glaucous Gull, Balranald
Time marches on and it was evening before I decided to head along the North of the island to Loch Portain in search of Eagles again. Along the way a Greenshank (not common here apparently) was flushed by the car from Loch Fada Gearrachun. I can't say the same for the belligerent Cuckoo I came across further on. I think he was upset because I was blocking his view of the female across the road. He fixed me with a gimlet eye and gave me what for. At one stage I thought he was coming for me. Drive on.
Not a happy Cuckoo
Definitely not impressed.
Feeling intimidated I drove to the crags at Loch Portain and was rewarded with a pair of Golden Eagles soaring there. Two smaller birds trying to drive the Eagles, and each other off, turned out to be a male Hen Harrier and a Raven.
Golden Eagle, Loch Portain
I decided to push my luck further to see if I could find White-tailed Eagle around the harbour at Lochmaddy. I didn't fancy my chances but a Buzzard call made me look up to see something that appeared to be a barn door soaring overhead. A very fine, adult, White-tailed Eagle. What an end to the day.