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Hebridean Imaging

Hebridean Imaging

Camino de Santiago – Arriving and Days 1 to 3

10th September 2013 – Arrived back from Gibraltar yesterday afternoon, a lot chillier here in the UK! Kat and Phil picked me up from the airport. Lovely to spend the evening with mum and dad. This morning I was up early and nipped up to Tesco for some last minute food supplies to take with me for the next few days. Re-packed my rucksack – discarded a few items, i’m trying my best to pare it down to the minimum weight possible…

In the afternoon mum and dad took me down to Wellington station. They presented me with a silver St. Christopher and told me I must wear it on my travels, I had a big lump in my throat as I said goodbye to them. Mum said she wished she was young and fit enough to come with me. I got the train to Birmingham airport where I had booked a hotel overnight.

Mum and I at the station

Mum and I at the station

11th September 2013 – Everything went OK with my flight to Paris and then getting the train from Paris to Bordeaux. Well actually I had a few trials and tribulations, mostly of my own making, but I won’t bore you with them! I was able to practice my schoolgirl French, it’s been a very long time lol! I managed to enquire about my tickets and buy coffee.

The train was amazing, slap bang on time. It was the TGV and was double decker. Comfortable and spotlessly clean. I found the hotel in Bordeaux no problem it was just a two minute walk from the station. I’d decided to stay somewhere nice as it may be a few weeks before I have a comfy bed again.

12th September 2013 – I got the train from Bordeaux early this morning to Bayonne and then another to St. Jean Pied de Port. The only slight mishap was i got on the wrong half of the train – i found out after we left Bordeaux that the train was going to split at some point before Bayonne. The young lady who was the ticket collector was very friendly and helpful and told me where we would be stopping long enough for me to leave the train and head up to the front.

St. Jean is a beautiful little town in the French Pyrenees. The train journey was beautiful. Little Egret from the train. There are many pilgrims here waiting to start their walk. I wandered around sightseeing and taking photos. Went to the pilgrims office to get my pilgrims passport (credencial) and got it stamped. Visited a bar for wine and chatted with some other pilgrims. Mooched around all the lovely shops that are full of delicious looking meats, cheeses and chocolate.

Met up with Sarah. We are ready to walk tomorrow! Birds today: Little Egret, Grey Heron, Starling, Chaffinch, Swallow, House Sparrow.

The lovely streets of SJPdP

The lovely streets of SJPdP

Saint Jean Pied de Port

Saint Jean Pied de Port

St. Jean Pied de Port

St. Jean Pied de Port

13th September 2013 – Camino de Santiago, Day 1 –  Sarah and I were full of both excitement and trepidation as we walked out of St. Jean Pied de Port this morning! 790km stretch in front of us and we’ve vowed to walk every step of the way, carrying our gear. We must be mad 😀

A few hours later I was feeling even more like we must be mad as we headed ever upwards over the Pyrenees, but the scenery was spectacular! We only walked 8km to Orisson hostel but it was a tough first day for us. We were so glad to see the hostel appearing out of the mist! And very relieved that we hadn’t decided to walk to Roncesvalles in one go, it would have been very hard for us, we’d have been wrecked!

Our feet and legs are intact! No blisters 🙂 The hostel is lovely, 3 rooms of 6 beds each and a hot shower. Spent most of the afternoon sitting on the viewing area outside the albergue, watching the odd Griffon Vulture drift past below us.

Only 782km to go…

Leaving the town gates, our first day walking!

Leaving the town gates, our first day walking!

Beautiful view up over the Pyrenees

Beautiful view up over the Pyrenees

Sarah, heading ever uphill!

Sarah, heading ever uphill!

Must be getting high now, we're in the clouds!

Must be getting high now, we’re in the clouds!

Orisson! Our hostel for the first night, boy were we glad to see it appearing out of the mist!

Orisson! Our hostel for the first night, boy were we glad to see it appearing out of the mist!

Our hostel at Orisson.

Our hostel at Orisson.

14th september 2013 – Camino de Santiago, Day 2 – woke to a clear morning and a wonderful sunrise over the Pyrenees. Just getting light as we left the hostel to continue our climb over the Pyrenees. We knew it would be a long hard day but at least the weather was kind to us – sunshine and just enough breeze to keep me cool. The scenery as I climbed was truly spectacular and I took photos, but after a while decided that photographs just wouldn’t do the scenery justice.

Total silence apart from the sound of Meadow Pipits and the tinkling of sheep and cow bells. An early morning Griffon Vulture circled slowly above the rise in front of me.

I crossed the border into Spain! the border consisted of just a fuente (water fountain) and a cattle grid. I sat awhile drinking the cold, fresh water then re-filled my bottle and headed onwards and upwards.

The highest point is Col de Ibañeta at 3,450 feet above sea level. An amazing view and no one else around. I phoned mum to tell her I was at the top of a mountain in the Pyrenees and she was happy to hear from me. Not long afterwards as I sat relaxing on the grassy bank, waiting for Sarah I heard Ravens and four flew over cronking noisily. Ben had found me! I knew he would. A teary moment.

Sarah arrived. We’d agreed right from the start that we’d walk at our own pace. The walk down to Roncesvalles was a steep descent through lovely Beech woods. We were amazed at the hostel when we arrived, 183 beds in 3 dormitories. Not as bad as it sounds, the beds are partitioned off in groups of four and it’s new with all modern facilities. Sadly without any food that I could eat – from the 6 vending machines I found a solitary tin of pâté was OK for me to eat. I calculated 3000 calories expended, 700 eaten. I think i might lose weight 🙁

Sarah and I went to church, to the evening mass. Shock horror! Oddly enough I didn’t get struck down at the door… Afterwards we went to the communal pilgrims meal. I couldn’t partake of the soup but the fish for the main course was very good, and cooked plainly. An early night. We turned in at 9pm

Sunrise over the Pyrenees.

Sunrise over the Pyrenees.

Day 2 more uphill...

Day 2 more uphill…

The Spanish border!

The Spanish border!

Our highest point over the Pyrenees

Our highest point over the Pyrenees

The church at Roncesvalles

The church at Roncesvalles

The hostel at Roncesvalles

The hostel at Roncesvalles

15th September 2013 –  Camino de Santiago, Day 3 The lights in the dorm came on at 6am so we dragged ourselves up – we’d actually slept quite well – there was remarkably little snoring considering there were nearly 50 other people in our dorm. It was still dark when we set off, not really something that we’d anticipated doing. Sarah does have her head torch though and i have my own wee torch. There had been heavy rain overnight and the clouds still looked threatening.

It soon got light and we walked through some lovely picturesque villages – Burgete, Espinal and Viskarret. Added Black Redstart to the list.We stopped at Bar Juan for coffee along with many other pilgrims – it was lovely to see some of the people we’d seen on our first night at Orisson. Our plan for today was to head to Zubiri but were a bit worried that with our leisurely pace we would be too late for a bed – there were over 200 people at Roncesvalles last night, they’d had to open up the overspill dorm. However, we were determined not to become embroiled in the “race for a bed”.

We are here to enjoy the walk and that is what we’ll do. If Zubiri is full we’ll see what happens. Much of the days walk was through Beech woods and like yesterday I spent lots of time walking on my own which I really enjoyed. Time and space to relax and chill out and enjoy the moment. The scenery was fabulous. The walking was fairly challenging. By that I mean that there was more uphill than I expected but the downhill sections were harder on my feet and legs, especially as the terrain was either concreted or crazy paved (?!), or loose and stony.

After about 15km I changed into my sandals to give my feet a change. We arrived at Zubiri, the first (private) hostel was completo (full), as was the second but we were able to get a bed at the municipal for €8, if we’d arrived 10 minutes later we would have only paid €4 but it would have been a mattress on the floor. There are 7 bunk beds in the room which is mixed sex – i’m sleeping next to some American guy. Hope he doesn’t snore. I bet he will! He doesn’t seem too dodgy. Unpacked and found a bar. Wine is only 50c a glass – cheaper than water :O Wow!

Early morning start from Roncesvalles

Early morning start from Roncesvalles

Rolling Spanish countryside

Rolling Spanish countryside

Coffee stop :)

Coffee stop 🙂

Zubiri

Zubiri

The municipal albergue at Zubiri

The municipal albergue at Zubiri

Down South…

25th July 2013 – Left the islands yesterday, ferry to Oban and then an eight hour drive down to Shropshire. Lovely to see all the family again!! But so many people and cars. I have my usual shell-shocked feeling going into the huge supermarkets – wandering around in a daze thinking “wow, it’s so big, there is so much stuff and so much choice!

Civilization (?)

Civilization (?)

27th July 2013 – The Sitting Tree. At least 4 generations of us have enjoyed a sit down underneath this impressive tree which is in the village where I was brought up. We had a wander down the quiet country lanes with dad – the hedgerows were butterfly central – we saw 10 different species!

The Sitting Tree

The Sitting Tree

Nan and my cousin Tracey sitting under The Sitting Tree (mid 1960s at a guess)

My grandmother and my cousin Tracey on The Sitting Tree (mid 1960s at a guess)

28th July 2013 – Had a walk around the village this evening and sneaked into the churchyard to look over the wall to see what was happening with the “big house”. It was for sale earlier this year but sadly no lottery win was forthcoming and I was unable to afford the million quid it would have cost to buy it 🙂 Mind you everything about it screamed “money pit” and right enough there are now major renovations going on with a new roof currently being done.

A bit of history:-

The Hall stands on the site of the original manor house, which dated back to 1066 and is described in the Doomsday book as belonging to the Earls of Shrewsbury who retained it until it was confiscated by the Crown from the outlawed Earl Robert Montgomery. At this point King Henry I gave the hall to his wife, Queen Adeliza. Rebuilt in 1628 (as marked on the chimney stack) by the Earls of Shrewsbury, refaced and extended in 1750 to include a seven bay Georgian front. From the early eighteen hundreds the hall was owned by the Cludde family and the Earls of Powis.

More recently the Hall has been in the hands of the Military. Leased by the War department from Colonel Henry Herbert in 1948 and subsequently bought in 1958 and has been the home of many Generals and other high ranking Army officers ever since.

Ever since I can remember, the village fete was held in the grounds of the house – that was the only time you were allowed in. I was always fascinated with the giant leaves of a plant in there – i’ve recently realised that this was giant rhubarb (Gunnera manicata) an invasive non-native species!

The Big House

The Big House

29th July 2013 – Had a very exciting day with my daughter today, she was shopping for a wedding dress and wanted me and her future mother-in-law, Jean, to go along with her. We found The Dress and it looked fabulous! There’s still over twelve months to wait until the wedding though…

We ended up in Shrewsbury, i love this town, it’s tiny winding backstreets fascinate me. This one is called Barrack’s Passage, and is located off the Wyle Cop.

Barracks Passage, Shrewsbury

Barracks Passage, Shrewsbury

Off to Gibraltar tomorrow, better do my last minute packing…

Dreary weather. Then sunshine and a cleg invasion…

15th July 2013 – At long last i’m catching up with my photography course and have spent most of the day trying to be creative, preparing my assignment for submission. Apart from the frantic creativity i was up to much more mundane things like going backwards and forwards to Benbecula to take the car for MOT and service.

Dull and dreary yet again.  I guess the rest of the UK has been basking in sunshine yet again. Doesn’t seem like we have seen the sun in days here! Ah well two weeks tomorrow and i’m heading for the warmth and sunshine – it’s going to come as bit of a shock to the system!

17th July 2013 – The rest of the UK is still scorching, they are announcing Heatwave Health Alerts in some places. We should be so lucky here – i’m beginning to lose track of how many days it is since we’ve seen the sun – i think it might have been last Friday, today is Wednesday.

There was no mail into the island yesterday or today – the plane couldn’t land. This loch is at the end of the road and usually has a variety of birds on it, the species depends on the time of year. There is a pair of Mute Swans with young at the moment but they were hiding today.

Misty day

Misty day

19th July 2013 – A weekend trip to Lewis and chance to catch up with friends, get my hair cut and visit the photographic exhibitions that are on at An Lanntair in Stornoway. Sunday was a beautiful day and I would have liked to say that I’d enjoyed a walk around the sea loch at Carloway, I went as far as the pier. Trouble is the warmth and sunshine had brought all the clegs out and I got bitten three times on my arm 🙁 Luckily I had some anti-histamine tablets with me!

I always enjoy a walk around the loch

I always enjoy a walk around the loch, but mostly when it isn’t infested with clegs…

The sea loch at Carloway

The sea loch at Carloway

Carloway (my old house in the distance)

View up the crofts from the sea loch

 

It’s that moth and flower time of year…

9th July 2013 – This lovely micro moth was in the trap this morning, it’s a Map-winged Swift (Hepialus fusconebulosa).

The afternoon was sunny but the day started off very misty and now, as I write my diary (at nearly 10pm), the low mist has come rolling in again off the sea.

Had dinner with a lovely friend who is visiting from Lewis, so nice to catch up 🙂

Note to self: Must take some photos of the wildflowers they are looking spectacular now – will try and get out tomorrow and get some shots – it will be a good excuse to escape from my end of contract report writing!

Map-winged Swift

Map-winged Swift

10th July 2013 – The Drinker. …No, she hasn’t been on the whisky 🙂 This is the somewhat unusual looking moth called The Drinker (Euthrix potatoria) – I have no idea why it has been named that. Anyway, I think she’s kind of cute looking and I don’t see them very often. I’ve never caught one in the trap, this one was found out in the garden during the daytime.

The Drinker

The Drinker

11th July 2013 – Wandered into the nearby meadow with my iPad, it’s looking so stunningly beautiful at the moment, the sheer variety of plants and flowers there is just amazing. We even have three orchids coming up in our lawn – when Ian mowed the grass the other day he mowed around the orchids 🙂

Nearby meadow

Nearby meadow

12th July 2013 – It’s been mostly overcast today, but warm (well it hit 16.8’C anyway!). Around lunchtime I noticed these bizarre clouds gathering along the east side of the island – I don’t know what type of cloud they would be classified as but they looked very unusual.

Weird clouds

Weird clouds

13th July 2013 –  Girl’s day out. A great day out with my lovely friend Jane, we were birding, exploring, hitting Art on the Map, supping tea and eating cake, braving Hut of the Shadow and our highlight of the day – Otter watching 🙂 Jane sketched in her pad each time we stopped and I took photographs. The weather was dreary and grey but we had sunshine in our hearts.

Day out to North Uist

Day out to North Uist

North Uist, machair looking beautiful!

North Uist, machair looking beautiful!

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.

 

Don’t speak too loud but i think summer might almost be here…

3rd June 2013 – Almost a summers evening! It was a pretty balmy evening and we had the most magnificent sunset – of course, i’d gone for a walk down the road and didn’t have my camera! The moth trap was on and the sun was setting, no midgies, what more could one ask for?!

Lovely sunset tonight!

Lovely sunset tonight!

4th June 2013 – Well there wasn’t too much in the moth trap overnight – Knot Grass, Glaucous Shears, Flame Carpet, Garden Carpet and Pebble Prominent plus this, our first hawk-moth of the year. The Poplar hawk-moth is probably the most common hawk-moth species in the UK and the larvae feed on poplar, aspen and sallow.

Poplar Hawk-moth

Poplar Hawk-moth

5th June 2013 – This wasn’t the technically best photo that I took today but it was the one I liked the best. A parent Oystercatcher finding grubs for it’s chick. I was able to watch them for an hour as they were on the plot I was surveying, i just sat quietly in my vehicle and they stayed there for the whole hour only about 20 feet away.

Oystercatcher feeding it's chick

Oystercatcher feeding it’s chick

The beach at Kilaulay

The beach at Kilaulay

6th June 2013 – This brown Silver-line (Petrophora chlorosata) was the only moth in the trap this morning!

Brown silver-line

Brown silver-line

7th June 2013 – My day for working in Berneray and it was the most fabulous day – sadly my picture comes nowhere near capturing how amazing it looked in real life. Only downside – I saw my first cleg of the year but thankfully it didn’t get me 🙂

Berneray

Berneray

Berneray

Berneray

8th June 2013 –  OK so I have to admit, I didn’t take this great photo. Ian was up and about really early as he went out to go and see if he could find any wader chicks to ring. What a great sight, these Redshanks standing on the fenceposts! He said that there was another one but the noisy Oystercatcher came along and took it’s place on the post

Redshanks and a single Oystercatcher

Redshanks and a single Oystercatcher

9th June 2013 – It was my day for a long walk today so Ian dropped me off in Eriskay at the ferry terminal (the wee ferry that goes to Barra). The weather was absolutely stonking, warm and sunny and the view was outstanding!

The walk went well, 10 miles although it is a bit daunting to think that when I go to do my long walk in September I will have to walk at least this every day, and probably more, every day for 5 to 6 weeks!

Fantastic Eriskay!

Fantastic Eriskay!

I was almost home when my mobile rang, i fished it out of my pocket. Sara, my daughter. I was rather worried as she never phones me on my mobile. I answered the call with some trepidation. Happily she was really excited – “mum, mum, a Hen Harrier just flew over the house!” (She lives in Shropshire, on the outskirts of Ironbridge).

Just me and the empty beach...

Just me and the empty beach…

More walking, working and birds…

27th May 2013 – Early yesterday morning, our neighbour received a phone call about a stranded Pilot Whale in Lochboisdale. The single animal, believed to be a male, had made its way into a particularly shallow loch with many channels and rocky outcrops. Apparently, it had been seen late Friday stranded on the rocks but was freed by the rising tide.

Since then we’ve been assisting with monitoring the animal and passing all relevant information to the British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR) in Stornoway. The BDMLR have now arrived on site and have set up their incident centre overlooking the loch with a view to guiding the whale back to the open sea. They are currently assessing the situation and calling upon as much local knowledge of the area as is possible as the shallow water and complex channel network means that the RIBs that are normally deployed in such circumstances cannot be used. A shallow draught or inflatable boat is their priority.

It is hoped that a rescue attempt can be made as quickly as possible to take advantage of the high tides, but it may be as late as Wednesday. I really don’t know whether the outcome will be good or bad…

Pilot Whale

Pilot Whale

28th May 2013 – A calm, balmy evening. The good news of the day is that the Pilot Whale was ushered gently out of the estuary on the high tide early this morning and was last seen swimming out to the open sea!

Evening light

Evening light

29th May 2013 – Lots of Dunlin around again today, mostly resting with their heads tucked under their wings but a few were feeding. They must still be heading north and the flock of a couple of hundred or so birds also included many Ringed Plovers and a few Sanderling. Added Gadwall to the patch list in the evening.

Dunlin

Dunlin

30th May 2013 – Worked in North Uist all day today, a lovely sunny day with a gentle breeze. As i was driving back from the machair I could see the mist forming over the estuary, it looked quite ethereal and wasn’t quite sure I would be able to capture how lovely it really looked…

Mist on the estuary

Mist on the estuary

31st May 2013 – Just can’t resist photographing the Lapwings on the machair, this one had a couple of chicks in tow but the only decent chick photo I got was one standing by a large sheep turd 🙂 I just love the colours on the adult birds.

Lapwing

Lapwing

At the end of May my patch list stands at 103 species, i don’t think that’s bad at all for an area of just 3km square!

1st June 2013 – Yeuk, gruesome alert!! Good job this isn’t smellyvision, the pong coming off this poor dead creature was pretty rank – I could still smell it for at least an hour afterwards! It’s washed up on Howmore beach, and is about 9 feet long. I’m not sure how long it’s been there, since earlier in the week i think and by the state of decay it was dead for a wee while before that.

It’s a Risso’s Dolphin and we were asked to remove a section of skin/blubber and also a couple of teeth. From this the scientists hope to be able to tell how the dolphin died and how old it was.

Dead Risso's :-(

Dead Risso’s 🙁

2nd June 2013 – The Machair Way. A ten mile walk was on the cards today, further training for my long walk later in the year. I decided on an early start and Ian dropped me off at the Polachar Inn, South Uist at 5.40am. I walked north until I reached home, fabulous scenery and I didn’t see a soul! No blisters this week so that was a relief!

Machair Way

Machair Way

Mothing, birding, working, walking…

20th May 2013 – Very warm and mild overnight and it was very misty until about 11 am this morning. Just a half day outdoors working today and then I spent the afternoon planning a trip i’m doing later in the year – trying to work out the complexities of getting from one place to another with all the connections in-between, all at the minimum possible cost.

This lovely moth is a Pebble Prominent – Notodonta ziczac and is a common moth here at this time of year, the caterpillar feeds on sallow of which there is quite a bit here.

Pebble Prominent

Pebble Prominent

21st May 2013 – We don’t get too many Common Terns here, they are mostly Arctic with a few Little Terns. It was very lively and sadly didn’t manage to get a perfectly sharp shot.

Common Tern

Common Tern

22nd May 2013 – Another busy day out in the field. This photo is the South Ford, if you know South Uist it’s looking from Hebridean Jewellery across the sand, it is the same location that i photographed the Grey Plover the other week but today was a much better day weatherwise!

South Ford

South Ford

23rd May 2013 – Well, the only photo I took today was of the Ruff again. I had gone looking for a Little Gull that Ian had found earlier in the day – on our local patch – but by the time I got home from work at 5pm, grabbed my camera and went to look, it had gone 🙁

However, the Ruff was still hanging around on the machair and as I had my big lens I thought I would take some shots from the car. I was happy with the shots, they were much better than the ones the other day.

So, so cold today, that wind was biting if you were out in it for more than a few minutes – I heard on the radio that they had snow on the mainland in the north of Scotland – at least it wasn’t that bad here!

That stonking Ruff again

That stonking Ruff again

24th May 2013 – Working in Berneray all day today, I couldn’t resist taking some shots of this Ringed Plover Charadrius hiaticula as it came really close to my vehicle. It was feeding happily and found a big fat earth worm which it proceeded to eat – luckily while I was snapping away! I couldn’t resist putting the shots together.

Ringed Plover feeding

Ringed Plover feeding

26th May 2013 – You know after you’ve had a few cocktails in the company of friends you get these ideas that seem great at the time. Well when I was in Churchill last year my friends, Lizzie and Sarah and I decided that we would have a reunion after 12 months. But we would meet up somewhere else, on a different continent and not be cooped up inside. We decided that we would walk the Camino de Santiago. Hey, it’s only 500 miles. Hmm, perhaps i should get started on a bit of training…

Well, 10 miles should be a good start. Better pack a rucksack, to be “proper” training.  It weighed in at 8 pounds. Not bad for starters. I can increase that  over the next few weeks.

I walked from Askernish to Howmore, where Ian then came to pick me up. I felt fine physically apart from a small blister on the sole of my right foot 🙁

This beautiful piece of wood was my resting place on Bornish machair during the walk, however long it has been there i don’t know, it has all sorts of interesting nooks and crannies.

Interesting washed up log

Interesting washed up log

May, spring is finally arriving!

14th May 2013 – I always find there is something really fascinating about watching a field being ploughed, the way the plough cuts through the earth and turns it over. The daisies below hadn’t quite been turned in.

You can see from the picture how sandy the soil on the machair is here. One of the reasons that there is always such an amazing variety of wildflowers on both the cropped and the fallow plots is because the ploughing is only shallow here, meaning that the wildflower seed doesn’t get buried, giving it chance to germinate. If you haven’t seen the machair in full bloom in July you haven’t lived, really, it’s amazing!

Ploughed machair

Ploughed machair

15th May 2013 – There were hundreds and hundreds of Dunlin around on the range today, one of my very favourite waders. In amongst the Dunlin there were also small numbers of Turnstone and Ringed Plover. No doubt they are all on their way north, further north than here, to breed.

A very mixed day weatherwise – a bit of everything i think – sunshine, strong winds, heavy showers, the odd rainbow. Lovely sunset tonight.

Dunlin

Dunlin

16th May 2013 – Working at Berneray all day today. This is a really crud photograph but i spotted these tiny Lapwing chicks and they were pretty far away, right on the limit of getting any sort of photograph really. Hope they survive, the weather has been very cold and wet and then there is the constant threat from the gulls and skuas that patrol the area. Nature is harsh.

Stonechat new for the patch today.

Lapwing chicks

Lapwing chicks

17th May 2013 – I’ve been meaning to stop for ages and re-photograph this old, derelict blackhouse. I originally photographed it eight years ago and wanted to compare the photographs to see how much it had deteriorated during that time. To my surprise and given the harsh conditions here it hadn’t got much worse, apart from the last section of roof caving in.

Much to my amusement there is a Starling on the left hand chimney and in the eight year old version there is also a Starling – i guess they are nesting down the chimney. I also noticed that the old belfast sink is still outside on both photographs.

When i got home i found a very excited Ian who was saying “you have to have a look at the photo i took!” He’d got a stonking shot of an otter running across the beach in front of him!

2013

17th May 2013

13th May 2005

13th May 2005

Otter!

Otter!

18th May 2013 – I must say I was very disinclined to even set foot outside of the house today, the cold northerly wind was gusting up to 41mph, although it has been bright and sunny so not all bad. After a week of early mornings I allowed myself the luxury of a lie in – even though I did wake up before 7am!

The photo today shows the view from the front window across the loch, looking towards the cemetery. I was quite impressed with how the waves on the loch were breaking over the edges of the far bank – nigh on impossible to capture and convey the strength of the wind in a photograph.

Breezy day on the loch

Breezy day on the loch

19th May 2013 –  We had a whole day birding our patch today, leaving the house, on foot at 5.40am. The weather started out pretty cold and windy but by mid morning it was a balmy 16’C

We were amazed to find this male Ruff (Philomachus pugnax), almost in full summer plumage. There are very few spring records for Ruff here in the Outer Hebrides, they are mostly seen in the autumn when they are migrating back south. The only other place i’ve seen Ruff looking as magnificent as this is Sweden where i saw them on their breeding grounds.

Our total number of species for the day was 67 – not too bad for a 3 square kilometer patch 🙂

Stonking Ruff!

Stonking Ruff!

Winter birds, summer birds…

7th May 2013 – It’s been a long day, i was out at 6.45am doing a bird survey, it was very enjoyable though, there were plenty of birds out on the machair – Lapwings, Oystercatchers, Redshank and one of my most favourite Snipe.

I was finished work by early afternoon, apart from the paperwork, so once that was done I had a wee walk with Ian to the beach. He had found some interesting fungi growing out of some cow dung earlier in the day. Ian had a look through the books and posted the photos he’d taken on the local Wildlife sightings forum. Very soon the local fungi expert, Chris had replied confirming Ian’s tentative id of Snowy Inkcap (Coprinopsis nivea). Chris also told us that spring records here are uncommon.

Snowy Inkcap (Coprinopsis nivea)

Snowy Inkcap (Coprinopsis nivea)

On returning from an after-dinner walk we spotted an unseasonably late Waxwing in next-door’s tree, very unexpected! On the walk we’d added Sand Martin and Sedge Warbler to the patch list. It wasn’t the best of light but i was pleased to see it nevertheless 🙂

Waxwing

Waxwing

8th May 2013 – Another early start for bird surveys, first I had transects to walk (wish i’d worn my wellies, it was mightily boggy out on the machair today). Then later I had a series of 1 hour vantage point surveys where I sit in my vehicle and record what birds are using specific plots and how they are using it.

While doing my third vantage point of the day, I saw, out of the corner of my eye, something moving. After staring at the empty spot for 30 seconds or so the bird showed itself again briefly and I grabbed my camera. A skulky Corncrake! My first for the year. There wasn’t much cover and it had been hiding behind a rusty metal object that had been discarded.

An evening walk turned up a Corncrake calling on the patch 🙂

Skulky Corncrake

Skulky Corncrake

9th May 2013 – Heard my first Cuckoo of the year when i left home early this morning. Had a brief stop-off at Stinky Bay, Benbecula – it wasn’t particularly Stinky on this occasion though 🙂

Stinky Bay

Stinky Bay

10th May 2013 –  Moth trap out last night. Found this Puss Moth (Cerura vinula) low down on the outside of the house first thing this morning, they are fairly common here at this time of the year. This one is a male (you can tell by the feathered antennae).

Puss Moth

Puss Moth

11th May 2013 – Saturday but still a busy day, catching up on paperwork for my other job, but i did manage a brief trip out down to the beach, stopping off at “Pochard Point” on the way. It’s called that because last year a Pochard turned up on Loch Hallan and that is where we saw it from. Today, once again there was a Pochard! The Sanderling are starting to look very smart, almost in full summer plumage. There were at least 200 on the beach plus Dunlin and Purple Sandpipers – all heading north, on migration.

Sanderling fascinate me – they run around on the water’s edge, in and out of the water and remind me of wind up toys 🙂

Sanderling

Sanderling

12th May 2013 – No work today so you’d think i would like a rest from birds but no we headed out to do our monthly Wetland Bird Survey. We have two sites to cover, both in South Uist: Loch Bee and the South Ford.  The weather was really grim, very misty and drizzling most of the time, this afternoon it came out sunny but was still rather breezy.

There were thirty odd Grey Plover on the South Ford, no doubt on their way north to the tundra to breed. They were feeding almost continually and looked like they were finding small worms of some sort to eat.

A quick trip to the beach in the van  before going back home, added Arctic Skua to the patch list.

Grey Plover

Grey Plover

13th May 2013 –  A busy day but feet up in the evening and watched The BBC’s Hebrides: Islands on the Edge. Some stunning footage, although to my mind the script/narration leaves a bit to be desired, i think it’s a bit romanticised and notice there’s a fair bit of artistic license in there!