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Hebridean Imaging

Hebridean Imaging


The delights of a Hebridean summer…

27th June 2013 – Oh my goodness the last few weeks have been so so busy, working all day then coming home and working all evening, no time for anything and my health is suffering (a long standing condition). Never mind there is light at the end of the tunnel, next week is my last week of fieldwork, it will seem so strange not to go out every day. I’ll have quite a lot of paperwork and data input/mapping to do at the office. Anyway, it’s getting late and i’m just about to put my feet up for an hour and watch the tennis..

Not that i'm obsessed with birds or anything...

Not that i’m obsessed with birds or anything…

28th June 2013 – The broadband is down and the engineer won’t be here until Monday – i could really have done without this, i’m in the process of working on three new websites for clients. In the meantime…. i’m trying not to get stressed. I have my iPad which is connected by the slow as a snail mobile network and no chance of getting my work done on that.

Playing with the photos that i took with the iPad. A cheerful looking bunch of Ox-eye Daisies in the garden.

Daisies - iPad photo

Daisies – iPad photo

29th June 2013 – A horrible grey, wet and wild day. Broadband still out. 🙁 Spent the day indulging my hobby of soapmaking, hadn’t made any since last year, i’d forgotten how much fun it was 🙂 Some of it will be gifts for family and friends when I go south at the end of next month…

2nd July 2013 – The height of summer? What more can i say apart from it’s a disgusting, cold, wet day and we have the heating on for the first time since early April… On the bright side our broadband is now mended so at least i can get on with some work!!

Wet, grey summer's day.

Wet, grey summer’s day.


Norwegian Starling

Excellent news this week is that we’ve had the first ringing details back with information about the Norwegian Starling that Ian caught here at home while i was away in Canada last November. It was first ringed over 2 years previously, south of Oslo, on the 1st August 2010, as a hatch year male. It had travelled a distance of 1094km (680 miles) in a WSW direction and it was 846 days since it was first ringed.

View Starling control – 7534146 in a larger map

Norwegian Starling, ring number 7534146

Norwegian Starling, ring number 7534146

Had a good February WeBS count – i did the counts for both mine and Ian’s sites as he’s still away down on the mainland so that was Loch Bee and the South Ford. There wasn’t anything really out of the ordinary but the weather was kind and i had good views of Scaup at Loch Bee – quite often they are pretty distant.

Mute Swans and Scaup

Mute Swans and Scaup

Back in the dim and distant past i remember sitting on the M25 for 4 hours in a traffic jam, i really, really don’t miss those days! Road congestion has a whole different meaning here in the islands.

Traffic jam, West Gerinish

Traffic jam, West Gerinish

This year, encouraged by the Patchwork Challenge guys, i’ve been entering my daily sightings into BirdTrack, i was happy to discover this week that there is an app available for the iPhone. Not that i have an iPhone but i do have an iPad and the BirdTrack app is compatible with that. Hmm, i can already hear my kids muttering “mum’s still a geeky saddo…” Having an endless fascination with data and spreadsheets (i’m a ringer, we have these weird brains) i’ve found that you can do various things with your BirdTrack entries (you have to do this by logging in to the BTO website). Here is a link to the data that i downloaded, in Excel format – it’s my January Patch list: You can also create rather cool graphs, both are for the patch:-

2013 Species accumulation for the patch

2013 Species accumulation for the patch

2013 Species per month for the patch

2013 Species per month for the patch

One of the things i really like about the BirdTrack app is that you can view what other users at sites within a 50 mile radius have entered into BirdTrack over the last 3, 7 and 14 days by looking at the “Hotspots” page. This 50 mile radius seems to cover all of the southern isles (Berneray, North Uist, Benbecula, South Uist, Eriskay and Barra) plus Rhum, Coll and Tiree, Skye and at least part of Mull and the mainland. Apologies for the fuzzy phone pic my camera battery died at the crucial moment!

Screenshot of the iPhone/iPad BirdTrack app showing the local hotspots that birds have been reported from.

Screenshot of the iPhone/iPad BirdTrack app showing the local hotspots that birds have been reported from.

You can select each red pin and it will tell you the grid reference and what has been seen there. I like it 🙂

I’ve been hanging round the house quite a lot this week, it’s that time of year when i need to get busy, making up all my cards for the Uist Craft Producers shop at Kildonan which will no doubt be opening up at Easter. I’ve also been amusing myself by doing a 5 week Astrobiology course run by Edinburgh University via the Coursera website, i’ve found it fascinating. I’ve also signed up (just for fun you understand) for the Statistics: Making Sense of Data course which will start on the 1st April and is presented by the University of Toronto.

Every now and again i have to take a break from making cards and wander off to see what birds are around. I keep the scope set up in the lounge, it looks out on the loch at the front and over towards Loch Hallan and the machair and dunes and i have a periodic scan across.

The garden feeders have been pretty busy and i’ve had the odd invasion of the “black plague”

Plenty of Starlings around

Plenty of Starlings around

Invasion of the "Black Plague"

Invasion of the “Black Plague”

A couple more patch ticks came my way. The first was a Hooded Crow – pretty scarce here in Askernish, the local gamekeeper is pretty thorough at clearing them out!

Hooded Crow

Hooded Crow

The second patch tick for this week was a Short-eared Owl. On an evening trip up to Balivanich and back my neighbour and i saw 4 – the first ones for this year, happily the last one was just about inside the patch when we turned into the road down into Askernish.

We’ve had some stunning sunsets this week, this one was taken looking out of the front garden:-

Beautiful Hebridean sunset

Beautiful Hebridean sunset

News has arrived of a drake Harlequin Duck that has appeared in North Uist, for details and the write-up by Brian see the local natural history society (Curracag) website’s sightings page:

Hope it hangs around until Ian gets back, he doesn’t have Harlequin Duck on his Western Isles list. I saw the one that was in Lewis in 2004 😉

The weather next week looks pretty promising so I’m hoping to get the moth trap out then – there were a few around in the car headlights last night. Spring is definitely coming!

January 2013

Bird of the month has to be the Gyr Falcon that turned up on the 10th January, and it hung around long enough to give us great views and take photos.

It’s been a funny old month weatherwise.  A few fab calm, sunny days where we’ve been able to get the mist nets out – a rarity in the summer let alone the middle of winter! Then some days of seemingly endless gales. I had five days in Lewis over last weekend and only got back to Uist by the skin of my teeth – it was a pretty rocky ferry ride and there were then no ferries for the two days afterwards. Ian had to go away to the mainland mid-month and was pretty miffed when i was able to add Woodpigeon, Jackdaw and Rook to my Western Isles list for 2013. Sadly the weather conditions were too grim to have a walk around Stornoway Woods to get Blue and Coal Tit on my list as well. Next time. Whoever thought i’d see the day when i’m driving for 2.5 hours and having a 1 hour ferry journey to get Blue Tit on my year list. Crazy!

The ringing during Janaury has been pretty so so, nothing spectacular. Some of the Greenfinches and Starlings that we’ve retrapped were first ringed in 2010. Here is the list for the month – the table hasn’t got the House Sparrow sightings on yet, i’ll add them once they’ve all finished being entered into IPMR.

Western Isles Ringing – January 2013
  New Retraps
Wren 2
Dunnock 1 1
Blackbird 1 1
Starling 19 7
Chaffinch 1
Greenfinch 2 32
Grand Total: 23 42
No. of species: 4 6

The moth trap hasn’t been out at all this month. Ian did find this caterpillar while he was doing some jobs around the garden:-

Large Yellow Underwing larva

Large Yellow Underwing caterpillar

The Patch Birding has been fun, with Ian being off-island i’ve finished the month just ahead of him but i’m sure he’ll catch up later in the year when i’m working full time and won’t have so much chance for prolonged birding. Mind you, over the course of 3 to 4 months i will be working one full day a week on the patch, if i can’t add some species to my list then it’ll be a pretty poor thing!

This last week of January has been pretty rough, on the 29th we recorded a gust of 73mph and a steady 49mph broke our record for 10 minute average wind speed. At the height of the gale i could hear the heavy wooden bench at the front of the house “walking” around the decking which was a bit alarming! The power was off for an extended period both overnight and during the day, had to dig out the old camping stove for cooking and making cups of coffee. Spent the day doing work that didn’t need the computer or mobile phone. The mobile network was down each time the power went off, i’m not really sure why that was.

Today, the 31st January the weather had settled a little, the wind had dropped and was only gusting to just under 40mph, the birds seemed to have returned and i had a wander around the patch to see if the wind had blown anything in. No new birds. Plenty of Barwit and Sanderling on the beach. 23 Greenland White-fronts and a couple of hundred Golden Plover on one of the fields just down the road. There are mountains of kelp washed up on the beach and i found this bone. I’m not sure if it’s a whale bone or a dolphin bone…

Whale or dolphin bone south uist

Whale or Dolphin??

So i’m ending the month with 92 species on my Western Isles year list and 57 of those seen on the patch. Be interesting to see what February brings…

Blackbird Recovery – Barra

We always enjoy receiving an email from the BTO with details of one of our birds that has been recovered elsewhere. We are most certainly always happy to read that the bird was captured alive and well by another ringer rather than the sad but too frequent news that it was “freshly dead” and “killed by cat“.

The latest email shows where one of the juvenile Blackbirds, ringed here in South Uist with number LC66596, had moved to. The records show that the bird was ringed by us on the 9th June 2012 at 04:50 (ah! don’t you just miss those long summer days – i’m writing this while listening to the horizontal rain lashing against the window with hardly any respite in sight for at least the next week). Sorry,  i’m getting sidetracked… The Blackbird headed south and was recovered 125 days later on the 12th October 2012 by another ringer, Mark, in Breibhig in Barra. A distance of 25km.

View Blackbird Recovery LC66596 in a larger map

Spuggy RAS Review for 2012

As a new year begins, it is a time to correlate the past year’s data from our Retrapping of Adults for Survival (RAS) project and to summarise the results. Since the project began in November 2010, a total of 445 House Sparrows have been colour-ringed within our study area here in Askernish, South Uist.  213 birds were ringed in 2012, of which 183 were juveniles and a total of 5995 field observations  were recorded.

When the RAS season ended, we had managed to amass a total of 3783 field observations taken during the 5 month period, April  to August. Breaking this data down to its simplest form, this years flock consisted of 57 adults who have remained within the study area, an increase of 3 on last year. They were joined by an additional 19 adults, the vast majority of these being caught during bad weather in a period when they were probably feeding chicks in the nest. These birds could therefore be having to venture a little further afield from nearby areas, attracted here by the food we provide. This is borne out by the fact that these birds are very rarely, if ever, seen again.

As for juveniles, the number of individuals caught and colour-ringed increased from 81 last year to 183 this. This is in part explained by some additional effort by us, but mainly due to an exceptional breeding season, with many pairs double brooding.

Numbers peaked in July when a total of 160 individuals were recorded here in Askernish. This fell away sharply in August, probably due to dispersal and also the presence of one, sometimes two Sparrowhawks in the immediate area. The majority of the juveniles have now dispersed and most will find pastures new.

September and October is a time when we experience an influx of new birds into our study area as juveniles from elsewhere disperse and integrate with local populations. It is also the time when we hope to hear about sightings of our birds from elsewhere. Sightings away from our study area during 2012 far exceeded those of the previous year and involved some 29 birds.

As can be seen from the map, they were reported from 7 locations, ranging from Balranald in the north to South Glendale in the south. With so many birds being seen in the latter location, how long will it be before one is reported from Barra or beyond?

View House Sparrow Sightings 2012 in a larger map

There were 3 sightings on North Uist, these being at Balranald (47 km), Clachan na Luib (41 km) and Bay Head (43 km) and involved a single bird at each location. The ring numbers of the birds seen at Balranald and Clachan na Luib could not be read so we cannot identify the individuals. A37 seen at Bay Head is a long staying bird originally seen in June 2011, and is now considered to be resident in that area. All three sightings involve a distance travelled of over 40 km, which, for a House Sparrow is considered to be a long distance movement.

There were reports of sightings from 4 locations on South Uist, of which 3 involved more than one bird.  A single bird, C20 was seen in Daliburgh (3 km) on 11th November, only to be joined by another 3 (C80, F83, G04) late in December.  4 birds (B43, C48, C58, C74) were all reported from Carnan  (24 Km) on various dates in October, two of which (B43 & C74) have remained. B43 is of interest as it is the only adult bird (second year bird – ringed as a juvenile in 2011) that has been recorded as changing locations, although it’s whereabouts in between leaving Askernish in July 2011 and arriving in Carnan remains a mystery. The single bird F70 was seen in North Smerclete (11 km) on 10th December.

For whatever reason, South Glendale (11 km) would appear to hold a special attraction for the House Sparrows of Askernish with 22 individuals being reported throughout the year. B25 and B37 arrived in 2011, both being juveniles from that year. B37 was not seen after February 2012 but B25 remains there to this date. As for the other 20 birds, 19 were this year’s juveniles, all arriving during October apart from one which was first seen in November. G05 which was ringed in November in adult plumage is presumed to be a first year bird due to its change of locations. Of all the birds seen at South Glendale, apart from B25, only 2 other birds remained until the end of the year.

Of the birds sighted in South Glendale, 3 were of special interest as they were seen in multiple locations.  C20 was seen in South Glendale on 11-12th October and then in Daliburgh on 11th November. C48 and C58 were seen in both South Glendale and Carnan and initially assumed to have travelled together, where in fact they travelled in opposite directions. C48 was first seen in Carnan on 15th October and arrived in Glendale on 26th, while C58 was in Glendale on 7-8th October and arrived in Carnan 12th. The only other bird known to have commuted between two sites was a first year bird that went between Askernish and South Glendale in 2011, and therefore these additional sightings may well be an indication of the random nature of post juvenile dispersal.

2012 has been a good year for our House Sparrows and our project, which we hope will continue into 2013. Once again, I appeal to anyone who sees one of our colour ringed birds to report the sighting by emailing us at These birds are sporting colour rings that are white with black lettering which consist of A00-99, B00-99, C00-99, F00-99 and G00-99. I would hope one would eventually turn up in your garden.

Once again, our thanks go to Bill for the time and effort he expends helping us with this project. His records are always concise and accurate and the project would be all the poorer without him. I also thank all those who took the time and trouble to report their sightings to us. I can assure you that it is very much appreciated.

2012 Ringing Totals

Ian has worked very hard to get our year-end totals ready. All in all a very good year. The amazing number of House Sparrow resightings is mainly down to our neighbour Bill who faithfully records our colour-ringed birds every day that he is at home. Needless to say his wife is still telling him to “get a life!!” But we say “THANKS BILL!! you’re amazing!”

So here are the final totals for 2012:-

Full grown Pulli Retraps Total
Buzzard 0 1 0 1
Oystercatcher 0 40 7 47
Ringed Plover 0 4 0 4
Lapwing 0 164 22 186
Dunlin 0 2 0 2
Redshank 0 7 1 8
Common Gull 0 11 0 11
Arctic Tern 0 15 0 15
Rock Dove 0 1 0 1
Woodpigeon 1 0 0 1
Collared Dove 20 0 4 24
Sand Martin 1 0 0 1
Swallow 23 18 4 45
Meadow Pipit 280 4 4 288
Pied/White Wagtail 13 4 2 19
Wren 18 0 9 27
Dunnock 7 0 5 12
Robin 15 0 15 30
Stonechat 4 0 0 4
Wheatear 2 0 0 2
Blackbird 52 0 54 106
Song Thrush 35 0 12 47
Redwing 6 0 0 6
Sedge Warbler 9 0 0 9
Blackcap 4 0 0 4
Chiffchaff 4 0 0 4
Willow Warbler 40 0 6 46
Goldcrest 11 0 2 13
Spotted Flycatcher 1 0 0 1
Starling ^ 198 0 36 234
House Sparrow 213 0 5995 6208
Chaffinch 9 0 6 15
Brambling 2 0 0 2
Greenfinch 170 0 297 467
Goldfinch 8 0 1 9
Siskin 4 0 0 4
Linnet 1 0 0 1
Twite 3 0 0 3
Lesser Redpoll 76 0 31 107
Redpoll (Common/Lesser) 3 0 0 3
Reed Bunting 5 0 1 6
Total: 1238 271 6514 8023

^ We are still awaiting details of the Norwegian ringed Starling that was captured here during November.

Moths, Birds, Itchy Feet and a FitBit

Although the weather has been very dry these last few months and we’ve had the odd day over 20’C the conditions haven’t been really ideal for moths with the northerly wind, clear skies and coolish temperatures. However, some of the nights have been pretty good with our biggest catch of the year so far on the 25th July – an amazing 580 moths of 40 species in just one trap (our Robinson 125W MV).

Our best moth night so far this year

The haul included such goodies as Archer’s Dart, Howarth’s Minor, Oblique Carpet, Pretty Pinion, Lime-speck Pug and Yellow Shell which were all new for the year. There were an incredible 193 True Lover’s Knot and 98 Dark Arches.

Bordered Grey

Scotch Annulet – the bugger flew off before i could get a decent shot – i think it’s new for our 10km square

Archer’s Dart – nice moth!

Ingrailed Clay

Purple Clay


The ringing has been pretty decent with plenty of Meadow Pipits on the move, the vast majority of which were juvenile birds. We’ve also been lucky enough to catch and ring 16 new Swallows and a Sand Martin (keep wanting to call them Bank Swallows which is what they’re known as in Canada/North America).

A nice surprise in the net were two Swallows that we had ringed this year as nestlings – one nearby in Askernish and one in a nest in a barn near Hallan cemetary – always good to see them fledged and healthy. A Pied Wagtail juvvy came to vist – we’d also ringed that in a nest nearby here in Askernish.

Sand Martin


Two Starlings had managed to get themselves down a chimney in an empty house in Frobost, both were dead. The first had been ringed back in September 2010 and was an adult male then, the second bird was ringed as a juvenile female in September last year. Neither bird had been retrapped in the intervening period.

Not sure if i mentioned previously that i’ve bought a FitBit (those of you that know me well know that i can’t resist gadgets!), it’s a digital pedometer and it fixes to your bra and counts how many steps you do in a day, how active you are, that sort of thing. It has a wireless base station and whenever you are within 15 feet of the base station (which is plugged into your computer) it “syncs” and uploads your data to the FitBit website. My friend Linda in Lewis also has one and we both heard about it from my daughter Sara (another gadget girl, dunno where she gets that from!?). We started the Hebrides FitBit group: there are only the three of us as members so far but if you know anyone else it’s all just a bit of fun really 😉

FitBit - digital pedometer

FitBit – i got the girlie pink one 🙂

I decided, in a rash moment, that a 14 day step challenge would be a good thing to do. I set myself the task of doing more steps each day than i’d done the day before – sounds easy doesn’t it! Luckily the weather was good for the two weeks of the challenge and it did force me to get my butt off the chair and get out from behind the computer.

Random yellow welly found on the beach during my step challenge. My phone doesn’t take very good pics…

Well, i’ve decided to go off on my travels again. Those itchy feet, just can’t get the better of them 😉 Now, this won’t be a birding trip – i think i’ll be lucky if my list reaches 10 species! My lovely friend Heidi lives in Churchill in Manitoba, Canada – it’s located in the north of the province, on the Hudson Bay and has been saying for the last two years “come visit me!!”. Churchill is famously known as the location the polar bears gather while waiting for the sea ice to form – they spend their winter living out on the ice. I’ll be there during the height of “polar bear season” so i’m hoping to get some great views and some great photos of the bears. Not too much of a close up though, the last time i was there Gerald Azure (of mushing fame) told us “that bear doesn’t want your sandwich – YOU ARE the sandwich” 🙂

I’m also hoping that there will be some aurora as well to take some photos of, although i will be a little early for the best aurora but you never know. I’m busy stocking up on warm clothing as all i have is wussy British winter clothing which probably won’t be up to much against the arctic chill!

Here are some interesting links:-

Telegraph Article: Churchill, Canada, Polar Bear Capital

Churchill Weather (Current conditions)

I visited Churchill previously but that was during the season that could loosely be described as “summer”. Here’s the write up from my old blog:-

Plans: Fly into Winnipeg (via Toronto), stay overnight then fly Calm Air out to Churchill. I’m staying with Heidi from the 8th October until the 29th November – then i will leave on the train and travel back to Winnipeg – approximately 40 hours – this time i’ve booked a cabin for 1 – treating myself to a little comfort 😀 I’ll then have a couple of nights in Winnipeg (providing the train gets there on time!) then fly back to Heathrow via Toronto. From Heathrow i’ll get a flight to Glasgow and stay overnight. The next day i’ll get the flight from Glasgow to Benbecula. Phew!

Had a ringing session at Druidibeg – i went on my own, Ian stayed and ringed at home – there aren’t usually enough birds for the two of us at Druidibeg. It was my first time this year getting midged – no wind at all, the nets were hanging perfectly. Shame there were no birds to go in them! Had a visit from the Eriskay ponies though…

Eriskay ponies

The ponies weren’t at all bothered by me sitting on a rock just a few feet away from them.

Well, here are our ringing totals for July 2012 – a pretty good month! More than happy with the number of House Sparrows ringed for our RAS – again, as with the Meadow Pipits, the vast majority were juvenile birds.

New Retraps
Sand Martin 1
Swallow 16 2
Meadow Pipit 61
Pied/White Wagtail 12 1
Wren 11
Robin 3 1
Stonechat 1
Wheatear 1
Blackbird 10 8
Song Thrush 11 2
Sedge Warbler 4
Willow Warbler 23 2
Starling 21
House Sparrow 94 703
Chaffinch 1 1
Greenfinch 47 50
Twite 2
Lesser Redpoll 31 11
Reed Bunting 1
Totals 351 781
Species 19 10


Magical Machair

I had a great weekend visiting Lewis – i did my bit for the environment and went over as a foot passenger then travelled by bus (OK well maybe it was because i was too mean and stingy to pay the extorionate ferry fare for the car) – at least i could concentrate on the great scenery.

North Harris from the bus

It was my friend Linda’s birthday on the Saturday. Linda runs the Hebridean Soap Company, based in Breasclete, Lewis and as a birthday treat she closed up the shop at lunchtime and we had a lovely long walk out onto the moors with her dog Mindy, it was a little blowy and drizzling but it was great to be out in the fresh air.

Linda and Mindy across the moors

Out on the moors the heather was out in flower and i also found my first Bog Asphodels and Sundews of the year


Bog Asphodel


As i stayed in Carloway, on Sunday i was able to have a lovely long walk down to the Gearranan Blackhouse village and then on up to the top of the hill – had great views of a bonxie (Great Skua) flying low overhead – and even better because it’s not on Ian’s list for this year yet 🙂

Monday came round all too quickly and i got the bus back down to Leverborough to get the ferry. Saw these crofters busy clipping the sheep as i travelled through South Harris

Shearing, South Harris

The new lifeboat was in the small harbour at Leverborough – it has been there since May this year, it covers an area which would take the Stornoway lifeboat 2 hours to reach. It is still uncertain whether this lifeboat will become a permanent fixture, the trial service will be between 1 and 3 years before a decision is made whether or not to make it permanent. See this article on the BBC news website: and on the RNLI site:

Leverborough Lifeboat

And shortly after the ferry came in and it was time to return to Uist

Calmac feryy Loch Portain

Calmac ferry Loch Portain coming into Leverborough

Calmac ferry Loch Portain


The weather has been really amazing – apparantly the jet stream has been way south of us, meaning that England is getting all the foul weather – wind and rain – that we would usually have. Can’t help but smile about that – sorry friends and family 🙂

Loch Hallan, South Uist

Loch Hallan, South Uist

Red-breasted Merganser with young, South Uist

A distant record shot, Red-breasted Merganser with young, Loch Hallan

We’ve been able to get out for plenty of walks and we can’t help but be amazed every single time we go out onto the machair at this time of year – it really is looking right at it’s best at the moment – the sheer variety of wildflowers is just incredible, not to mention the butterflies, moths and bees that are feasting on all the nectar!

Canon 60D with 100-400mm lens

Ian with "The Beast" (our name for the Canon 100-400mm zoom lens - because it weighs a ton!)

Dark Green Fritillary, South Uist

and here's the photo he was busy taking - Dark Green Fritillary

6 spot burnet, South Uist

...meanwhile i was trying to photograph this 6 Spot Burnet moth on Ragged Robin

machair, south uist

It's really difficult to capture the sheer variety of wildflowers on the machair

common twayblade, south uist

Common Twayblade

common vetch, south uist

Common Vetch

eyebright, south uist


harebells, south uist


orchid, south uist, machair

The orchids are still out amongst the other flowers

ragged robin, south uist, machair

One of my very favourites - Ragged Robin

yellow rattle, south uist, machair

Yellow Rattle

Phew! What more can i say – i haven’t even photographed all of the flower species we found! We had an email from our friend Keith in Gibraltar to say that a friend of his was coming over to look at some insects on the machair then shortly after, the guy himself, Dr. Mike Wilson from the Museum of Wales got in touch to say hi and we arranged to meet up for a beer. Mike was here for just over a week and was doing some insect surveys for the Machair Life project.

Dr Mike Wilson

Mike demonstrating suction sampling in next door's meadow/garden

Bird-wise we’ve just about finished with the wader chick ringing but have been catching plenty of juvenile House Sparrows for our project – luckily we had ordered another 300 colour rings. We’re looking forward to a few birds starting to move through within the next few weeks and will have the nets open whenever we can – at the moment we’re averaging about 10 new birds a day ringed.

Finally, Ian has at last got around to putting a little bit about himself on the About Us page



June 2012 ringing totals

A pretty good month, PLENTY of pullus ringed including Buzzard, Oystercatcher, Ringed Plover, Lapwing, dunlin, Redshank, common gull, Arctic Tern, Rock Dove and Swallow. I think the wader chicks have just about come to an end now for this year – there was a few larger-looking Lapwing chicks out on the machair when we were walking but they looked liked flyers!

Good numbers of new House Sparrows ringed for our Retrapping Adults for Survival (RAS) project, mostly juvenile birds. As ever the number in the House Sparrow re-traps column is mainly observed sightings – thanks go, as always, to our neighbour Bill who records sightings of our colour-ringed birds virtually every day.

One of our colour-ringed spuggies, B25, an adult male, was seen in South Glendale, South Uist on the 7th June. This bird was first ringed by us with ring number TJ72861 on the 1st June 2011 when it was a juvenile bird. It was first spotted by John in South Glendale a few weeks later on the 26th June 2011. It was then seen regularly throughout the year until the 29th December 2011. John reports that on new years eve a flare was let off in a neighbouring garden and all the sparrows “headed for the hills”. This is the first time since then that B25 has been seen.

View House Sparrow B25 in a larger map

It’s been good to see plenty of juvenile birds around – lots of Greenfinch, quite a few song thrushes and Blackbirds with a handful of Wrens and Lesser Redpoll.

So, here are the month’s totals:-

New Retraps TOTAL
Buzzard * 1 1
Oystercatcher * 34 7 41
Ringed Plover * 1 1
Lapwing * 49 8 57
Dunlin * 2 2
Redshank * 5 1 6
Common Gull * 11 11
Arctic Tern * 15 15
Rock Dove * 1 1
Collared Dove 9 9
Swallow * 18 18
Meadow Pipit 1 1
Wren 3 4 7
Robin 2 6 8
Blackbird 8 13 21
Song Thrush 11 3 14
Sedge Warbler 2 2
Blackcap 2 2
Willow Warbler 2 2 4
Starling 25 6 31
House Sparrow 64 741 805
Greenfinch 12 50 62
Goldfinch 2 2
Siskin 3 3
Lesser Redpoll 4 7 11
Grand Total: 287 848 1135
Total Species: 25 12 25

* = all ringed as pullus

Control and recovery details…

Well, almost as soon as i’d pressed send on the last blog update an email came through from the BTO with details of the two controls we had in April – a Goldfinch and a very well travelled Lesser Redpoll. Details also came through of one of our Greenfinches that had been controlled by another ringer on the Isle of Rum (one of the Inner Hebridean islands).

Firstly the Goldfinch Y177646 that we caught on the 26th April, a second year female, was first ringed by the Tay Ringing Group in Montrose, Angus, Scotland. 180 days and a distance (in a straight line which i’m sure the bird didn’t follow!) of 189.5 miles.

View Goldfinch control Y177646 in a larger map

Secondly, the second year male Lesser Redpoll Y623168 that we captured on the 29th April 2012, was first ringed on the 29th January 2012 way down south in West Horsley, Surrey!! 91 days and a distance of 495.8 miles NNW. Amazing!

View Lesser Redpoll control Y623168 in a larger map

The Greenfinch TS37535, a second year male, that we originally ringed on the 10th February 2012 was recaptured by a ringer at Kinloch, Isle of Rum, Inner Hebrides on the 23rd March 2012. A distance of 42 days and 44.7 miles ESE

View Greenfinch Recovery TS37535 in a larger map