Monday 1 April 2013

More from the Hebrides

With the Harlequin and Cackling Canada Goose under the belt, Saturday was basically a free day until our ferry back to Oban mid-afternoon. After the morning viewgasm from the hostel, we packed up, and following a hearty breakfast of strong coffee and multiple cereal bars, we headed for the west beach at Berneray, there to see what we could see. Up first on the Machair was a mixed flock of Twite with a few Snow Bunting thrown in. This wasn't strictly a photographic mission, so time was limited, but I managed a few out of the car window. More of the Twite here.

We walked the short distance to the beach, four miles of white sand. If I do bring the family here, this beach will feature heavily - it was superb. And completely empty. I suppose it could be busier in summer, but with four miles to choose from, would you really notice? Out on the sea were upwards of 20 Great Northern Divers, four spectacular Summer-plumaged Slavonian Grebes, with a supporting cast of Auks and Long-tailed Ducks.

I rarely feature on this blog, as I'm always behind the camera, however here I passed it over to Bradders, making sure, of course, to carefully conceal my chins. Anyway, here I am complete with camo hat, hat hair, and a lightweight camera. Any grey visible is purely photographic artifact, excess sharpening, errr.... And no, I have no idea what Nick is up to behind me.
Bradders points out where a Snowy Owl might decide to summer......
Onwards to a spot of different habitat, a road over some higher ground where we had seen Short-eared Owl briefly the previous evening. We hadn't gone up this road more than about half a mile before Nick called a Harrier to our right. One soon became three, including a displaying male bird - incredible. Being from down south we naturally had to resist the urge to shoot them out of the sky, but up here it seems that they are under no pressure. The lack of expensive, elitist Grouse shoots and sly old gamekeepers is of course purely coincidental. We had a cup of coffee and yet more museli bars whilst enjoying the spectacle.

A quick spin around Balranald to dip the Snow Goose again, and we crossed back to Benbecula and over to South Uist where we dipped an American Wigeon but enjoyed a very smart male Merlin and another male Hen Harrier. A spot more birding in various locations added Greenland Whitefronts, a diminutive White-tailed Eagle on the deck, juv Kumlien's Gull and our first Robin, Dunnock and Chaffinches of the trip - exciting!! It was soon time to go though, and the ferry was perfectly on time - Calmac runs a great service. Perhaps forty people on the boat, but it goes anyway. Speaking to a member of the crew they run it empty if needs be as the boats need to be where the boats need to be - truly the lifeline of the communities out west, and ideal for birders. Bruichladdich was on special....

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