Seabirds of the Butt of Lewis – Part 4

We walked to the viewing point of the reserve. It is almost impossible to get close to the birds and disturbe them through such a wet bog, so having a simple hand piled stone wall was more than enough and it is a less distracting element than a covered hide. From here we again successfully located the Red-necked Phalaropes. The pair was in the very same blooming vegetation in the middle of the lake. They were actively preening during our stay. There were not much bird activity over the boggy lands. Great Black-backed Gulls made a couple visits what kept the local Northern Lapwing pair busy. Two Dunlin, a European Golden Plover, a Common Ringed Plover, 2 Eurasian Curlew, 3 Eurasian Oystercatcher and 3 Common Redshank called from the other corner of the lake and sometimes overflying Red-throated Divers broke the European Sky Lark songs. Around the gate 7 Rock Pigeon, a Northern Wheatear, 5 Hooded Crow, 1 Common Cuckoo, 2 Meadow Pipit have been seen. This protected area was clearly not the most exciting RSPB reserve I have ever seen, but the fact that Red-necked Phalaropes are nesting here makes this place special.

This is a good place for absolute distraction-free birdwatching. Dani obviously enjoyed it. Sony Cyber-shot HX400V © Gyorgy Szimuly

Wild Rock Pigeon with local sheep. Sony Cyber-shot HX400V © Gyorgy Szimuly

Wild Rock Pigeon with local sheep. Sony Cyber-shot HX400V © Gyorgy Szimuly

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I quite liked watching these pigeons no matter how similar they were to the feral relatives in most of England. Sony Cyber-shot HX400V © Gyorgy Szimuly

Red-necked Phalaropes must be in this frame somewhere in the dense blooming vegetation. Sony Cyber-shot HX400V © Gyorgy Szimuly

Dani is watching a Great Black-backed Gull mobbed by a Northern Lapwing. iPhone 6s Plus © Gyorgy Szimuly

Beautiful cotton field bog around the lake. iPhone 6s Plus © Gyorgy Szimuly

RSPB viewing spot with 360° visibility. iPhone 6s Plus © Gyorgy Szimuly

We finished relatively early plenty of time remained until to get to Stornoway ferry port. We used this opportunity to explore the extreme northern part of Lewis. Anyway the whole island could comfortably be driven through within a few hours. On the way to the Butt of Lewis we stopped at a few exciting places. At Borve village we watched feeding Eurasian Oystercatchers and a Dunlin, roosting European Whimbrels and found an Icelandic Black-tailed Godwit in gorgeous breeding plumage at the rocky tidal area. The godwit later took off and disappeared over the ocean. It must be on its Icelandic breeding grounds by now. Over the sea dozens of Northern Gannet flew to the north, a Great Northern Diver (Common Loon) was feeding close to the shore and Northern Fulmars were gliding over the waves.On the cliffs a pair of Rock Pipits chased each other.

Mainly Eurasian Oystercatchers were feeding among these mossy rocks in this small intertidal zone. iPhone 6s Plus © Gyorgy Szimuly

After an emergency breaking at the Loch Barabhat we enjoyed wonderful views of a surprising Whooper Swan couple. I recognized them immediately by their jizz. At the edge of the loch two Common Sandpiper were displaying while a territory defending Eurasian Curlew attacked overflying Great Skuas. All of a sudden more and more Great Skuas turned up from the wast boggy area from the other side of the road. We loved the stunning views of 10 birds soaring over the pond and moving slowly towards the ocean.

Stunning Whooper Swan couple was peacefully swimming on the lake. Sony Cyber-shot HX400V © Gyorgy Szimuly

As we moved closer to the lake these Whooper Swans started singing. Sony Cyber-shot HX400V © Gyorgy Szimuly

A couple of the 10 Great Skuas soaring over the loch. Sony Cyber-shot HX400V © Gyorgy Szimuly

Reaching the northernmost village, Eoropie, we walked through a pasture where lots of Arctic Tern were flying over the rocks. As we got through a herd of sheep and rabbits we had 3 Northern Wheatear and a Meadow Pipit. This place is turned to be a breeding territory of Arctic Terns and Common Gulls and possibly European Shags. We had 36 Northern Fulmar, 40 Northern Gannet, 70 European Shag, 11 Eurasian Oystercatcher, 1 overflying European Whimbrel, 4 Common Murre, 2 juvenile Black-legged Kittiwake, 17 Common Gull (probably under-counted), 18 European Herring Gull, 3 Great Black-backed Gull, 120 Arctic Tern and 2 Rock Pipit.

Some adult Common Starlings were feeding on the lawn. Sony Cyber-shot HX400V © Gyorgy Szimuly

Dani is trying to find a whale. Seawatching was very convenient with this tiny but powerful Opticron spotting scope. Sony Cyber-shot HX400V © Gyorgy Szimuly

Loose Arctic Tern colony on the rocks and on the shore. iPhone 6s Plus © Gyorgy Szimuly

A few times all the birds blasted off the ground and loudly were flying around us. iPhone 6s Plus © Gyorgy Szimuly

Common Gulls were also nesting on the adjacent rocks. Sony Cyber-shot HX400V © Gyorgy Szimuly

The beauty of the elegant Common Gull is rather underestimated in breeding plumage. Sony Cyber-shot HX400V © Gyorgy Szimuly

The green ness in the background is the Butt of Lewis with the North Atlantic Ocean. iPhone 6s Plus © Gyorgy Szimuly

Most of the terns seemed breeding on this sandy, shell covered platform. iPhone 6s Plus © Gyorgy Szimuly

Arctic Terns over the colony. Sony Cyber-shot HX400V © Gyorgy Szimuly

European Shags roosting on the rocks farest from the shore. Sony Cyber-shot HX400V © Gyorgy Szimuly

Ringed Common Gull on a fence in blue. Sony Cyber-shot HX400V © Gyorgy Szimuly

A little road lead us the Butt of Lewis, the tip of the Hebrides.This is place is marked by a nice old lighthouse (which was built between 1859 and 1862) and exciting cliffs with hundreds of nesting seabirds.It was just after 10AM and we thought it was a perfect place to sit at the edge of the cliffs and having our well deserved breakfast. While having our breakfast Northern Fulmars glided centimeters from us. The wingtip of one of them even touched Dani’s hand. It is a truly spectacular place and knowing that there is no Great Britain’s land further to the west from this point. The cliffs were mainly occupied by European Herring Gulls, Northern Fulmars, Common Murres, Black-legged KittiwakesRock Pigeons and Rock Pipits, but we saw British Lesser Black-backed Gulls, Great Black-backed GullsNorthern Gannets and a Hooded Crow as well. Around the lighthouse a Northern Wheatear, a Barn Swallow and a British White Wagtail was singing. This place offers excellent opportunities for birds in flight photography with a good camera and fast lenses. Unfortunately, we couldn’t spot any whales from the calm ocean.

Lighthouse of the Butt of Lewis. iPhone 6s Plus © Gyorgy Szimuly

For some reason people love photographing lighthouses, so do I. iPhone 6s Plus

Great Black-backed Gull is the king of these cliffs. Sony Cyber-shot HX400V © Gyorgy Szimuly

Rock Pipit often made a visit to the yard of the lighthouse. Sony Cyber-shot HX400V © Gyorgy Szimuly

This beautiful Sea Thrift is abundant around the coastal areas of Scotland and the Western Islands. it just makes the coastline even more beautiful in late May. iPhone 6s Plus © Gyorgy Szimuly

How many shades of blue the ocean has. I whad been watching the waves for long long minutes and wondered why humans have been destroying this beautiful planet. iPhone 6s Plus © Gyorgy Szimuly

Northern Fulmar is one of my favourite seabirds. They were abundant around the colonies and their majectic flight was a pleasure to watch. Sony Cyber-shot HX400V © Gyorgy Szimuly

Most of the Northern Fulmars were incubating on their nest while the other parent were hunting over the ocean or rested around the nesting site. Sony Cyber-shot HX400V © Gyorgy Szimuly

We didn’t really want to leave this place. Its remotness and extremetity is fascinating knowing that the next land behind this point to the west is North America itself. These cliffs have survived incredible storms and waves in the history and keep providing breeding spaces for the returning seabirds.
Our next primising trip was a ferry crossing bck to mainland Scotland from Stornoway to Ullapool. Interestingly it proved to be a bit different trip to compared to the crossing to Lochmaddy. During the 148 minutes the most abundant seabird was the Common Murre (183 birds counted but most probably a lot more overlooked). We had a Black-throated Diver, around 40 Northen Fulmar, 30 Northern Gannet, 3 European Shag, 3 Great Cormorant, 7 Great Skua, 1 Arctic Skua, 4 Razorbill, 3 Black Guillemot, 10 Atlantic Puffin, 93 Black-legged Kittiwake, 40 European Herring Gull, 1 British Lesser Black-backed Gull, 4 Great Black-backed Gull, 8 Common Tern, 3 Arctic Tern and a Common Raven (at Ullapool port). Just a few miles from Stornoway I saw bigger splashes in the water close to the ferry. I got real excited when I saw the large and tall dorsal fin and thought it was a group of Orca. I became a little suspicuous when I found that the fin was slightly bended backwards and not pointed upwards as the Orca’s. Based on my research on internet, the six animals I saw, must have been Risso’s Dolphins instead, although the body color was dark or even blackish (the Sun was behind me) and nothing close to grey or grayish and there were white patches in the side of the body. Feedback on this observation is much appreciated.
Stornoway Port from the ferry. iPhone 6s Plus © Gyorgy Szimuly

Stornoway Port from the ferry. iPhone 6s Plus © Gyorgy Szimuly

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Spectacular hills emerge from the sea near Ullapool. iPhone 6s Plus © Gyorgy Szimuly

The happenings of the rest of the day will be summed up in my next blog post.

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