Further north in the Hebrides for Red-necked Phalaropes

The plan to explore the closer area around Lochboisdale early in the morning, died last night. My bed was ridiculously comfortable and I simply couldn’t wake up at 4AM. I tried hard again at 5AM and I thought at 6AM I will jump out of the bed. It just didn’t work. At 7AM the lady of the house knocked on the door saying that the preordered classic English breakfast was already on the table. The breakfast was nice. Well, sort of… Dani still needs to get to used to this sausage and mushroom thing. After we checked out we headed back to the north to catch our ferry from Berneray to Leverburgh allowing enough time for birding slong the way.

As we got some insight of the birdlife of the west coast of the Uists, I wanted to see how the landscape and its birdlife changes on the eastern part (east of the A865 road). Our first stop was at the Loch Eynort which is a massive but narrow loch at the beginning but turns into a huge loch towards the Sea of the Hebrides. As most of them, this loch is enclosed by hills and higher mountains. The 620 meter high Beinn Mhòr looked to be very promising for Golden Eagle, from the other side of the loch. A pair of Red-breasted Merganser moulting into breeding plumage provided cracking views, then further to the east we heard a Corncrake, but annoyingly it didn’t pop out of the grass. From the foothills a Common Cuckoo was calling Near the Pier at the bottom of the Beinn Bheag Dheas, a familair bird song emerged from the tiny scrub. It took a good 5 minutes before we had perfect views of the endemic Hebridean subspecies of Eurasian Wren (Troglodytes t. hebridensis). This unusually pale wren was busy in collecting nest materials from the lichen covered scrub and mossy rocks. Over the little cottages wild Rock Pigeons flew.

Bad angle shot of the Red-breasted Merganser pair feeding just under the bridge. Sony Cyber-shot HX400V © Gyorgy Szimuly

Bad angle shot of the Red-breasted Merganser pair feeding just under the bridge. Sony Cyber-shot HX400V © Gyorgy Szimuly

image

Panoramic view of the Loch Eynort at low tide. iPhone 6s Plus © Gyorgy Szimuly

From the other side of the loch we had much better view to the opposite hills, the Beinn Bheag Dheas and the giant Beinn Mhòr. We started scanning the mountain ridge in a hope to catch a gliding or soaring Golden Eagle and after two minites a majestic bird flew opposite to us. Dani quickly spotted the scope on it and we enjoyed the view until it descended in the valley of the two named hills. Unfortunately, we couldn’t spot it again.

image

The cloudy Beinn Mhòr is the highest hill of the South Uist with the 167m high Beinn Bheag Dheas in front of it. iPhone 6s Plus © Gyorgy Szimuly

Just after returned to A865 a Merlin entered a nesting territory of a Northern Lapwing pair. It took just a fraction of a moment for the lapwings to start chasing away the intruder – with success.

By crossing the lovely Bagh nam Faoileann strait we took a left turn to possibly the only Red-necked Phalaorpes site in Benbecula. A NatureTrek team was already at the site and saw Red-necked Phalarope sleeping in the vegetation at one the little islands. The bird was later disturbed by a pair of Common Shelduck and flew to the other small island. It wasn’t a satisfying view so we left the area after a 20 minutes wait.

image

This is the gorgeous An Ceòthan bay with sandy dunes just next to the Benbecula Airport. iPhone 6s Plus © Gyorgy Szimuly

image

Driving through the azure Oitir Mhòr intertidal zone. iPhone 6s Plus © Gyorgy Szimuly

Our deadline to catch to booked ferry approached slowly but we allowed a few minutes for ourselves to try for a better view of the Black-billed Cuckoo. At the same house a small group of twitchers looked at one direction at our arrival. I slowly and quietly pulled over and we were ready for the bird to reunite. It was out sight for a more than 10 minutes when I saw a bird movement from the other side of the yard. I was the only one looking to the opposite direction and when I spotted the cuckoo one of the twitchers had to say, – That must be a House Sparrow. – without even raised his binoculars. I was sure in what I saw and walked to the other side of the hedge where the Black-billed Cuckoo was sitting on the fence with no cover at all.

image

This is one of the 16 Black-bellied Cuckoos ever recorded in Britain. Sony Cyber-shot HX400V © Gyorgy Szimuly

image

Black-billed Cuckoo frequently used this fence for looking for insects and catepilar larvae.

image

More detial of finding this spectacular bird was published in the BirdGuides online Webzine (click on the photo for getting the article) Sony Cyber-shot HX400V © Gyorgy Szimuly

After the cuckoo watching we headed to the port of Berneray to check in on time. I don’t know how, but even with GPS navigation in front of my nose, I missed a junction and almost missed the ferry check-in. Thanks to the drivers with the same risk of being delayed, I quickly and easily adopted to their racing style and got in the lane three minutes before deadline.

At the tiny Berneray ferry port a Spotted Flycatcher was flycatching. I was looking forward to have another ferry crossing which this time took only 1 hour. The ferry crossed the Sound of Harris between Berneray and South Harris zigzagging between small islets. As I expected it was quite birdy. 12 Red-throated Divers crossed this small strait during this single hours. I’m not sure they were still in migration or just moved in an out between inland nesting sites and the open sea for feeding. The strait must be rich in food as Northern Gannets were actively hunting around the ferry. A Great Skua and Arctic Skua was flying northeast and around 90 Arctic Terns were hunting around the islets and larger rocks. We haven’t seen to many alcids but Black Guillemots was the most abundant among them with 28 birds.

Ferry crossing the Sound of Harris. iPhone 6s Plus © Gyorgy Szimuly

Ferry crossing the Sound of Harris. iPhone 6s Plus © Gyorgy Szimuly

Rocky islets accross the ferry route. iPhone 6s Plus © Gyorgy Szimuly

Rocky islets accross the ferry route. iPhone 6s Plus © Gyorgy Szimuly

From Leverburgh we drove west on the A859 and enjoyed the spectacular scenery, the sea, the mosaic of sandy and rocky beaches with emerging hills straight from the other side of the road. We passed the beautiful Blue Reef Cottages offering amazing view to the North Atlantic Ocean.

We couldn’t resist walking into the shallow water of the large intertidal sandflat between Northton and Scarista and enjoying the close company of a small feeding shorebird community including 12 Eurasian Oystercatcher, 2 Northern Lapwing, 1 Common Ringed Plover, 4 Common Redshank, 1 Dunlin, 4 Black-headed Gull, 2 Common Gull and 6 European Herring Gull. At the coastal marshes we heard a singing territorial Dunlin, found a family of Northern Lapwing and an incubating Eurasian Oystercatcher which kept an eye of a patrolling Common Raven.

image

Beautiful sandy intertidal zone with crystal clear shallow water preferred by shorebirds. iPhone 6s Plus © Gyorgy Szimuly

image

Dani enjoyed the warming up water in the chilli wind. iPhone 6s Plus © Gyorgy Szimuly

Guarding Northern Lapwing over it's chicks. Sony Cyber-shot HX400V © Gyorgy Szimuly

Guarding Northern Lapwing over it’s chicks. Sony Cyber-shot HX400V © Gyorgy Szimuly

image

Another interesting Eurasian Oystercatcher nest just at the edge of the main road photographed from a wider perspective. Sony Cyber-shot HX400V © Gyorgy Szimuly

image

Beutiful shiny oystercatcher eggs. Sony Cyber-shot HX400V © Gyorgy Szimuly

image

Northern Lapwing chicks are master of hiding when parents are alarming. We didn’t manage to locate them in the grass until they started feeding again. It’s just fascinating. Sony Cyber-shot HX400V © Gyorgy Szimuly

image

It’s very hard to think about birdwatching when driving through such places like this stunning bay. iPhone 6s Plus © Gyorgy Szimuly

image

Almost every bay, like this, had a few Eurasian Oystercatchers or European Herring Gulls. iPhone 6s Plus © Gyorgy Szimuly

image

Dani promised himself to swim in the ocean no matter how cold it was. I joined him and hell, it was a freezing 8°C cold. I couldn’t feel my legs and pretty much anything… iPhone 6s Plus © Gyorgy Szimuly

image

While Dani was swimming and enjoying photographing in the cold water, like a good dad, I prepared our beach style breakfast. iPhone 6s Plus © Gyorgy Szimuly

image

This was the beach where we stopped for doing something different than birding. Of course I kept my eyes on the distant waters. iPhone 6s Plus © Gyorgy Szimuly

image

Just another visual orgasm from Scotland. Could you believe it? iPhone 6s Plus © Gyorgy Szimuly

image

Son and his dad selfie time. iPhone 6s Plus © Gyorgy Szimuly

From this beautiful coastal area we started our journey up to the north to the Loch na Muilne RSPB Reserve which is known to be another nesting site for Red-necked Phalaropes. On the way, at Arivruaich, we stopped to watch European Golden Plovers flying over the road, but we couldn’t manage find them on the hillside moorland.

image

Away from the coastline we drove through magical lochs, hills and moorlands. iPhone 6s Plus © Gyorgy Szimuly

We arrived late and it was very cold there. We managed to make a short visit to the viewpoint just to know where we go next morning. We did see a Red-necked Phalarope pair, a few Eurasian Curlew, Northern Lapwing, Rock Pigeons and a lot of Common Starlings were flying for roosting to the cliffs at the shore. The night was very cold and misty.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s