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Hebridean Imaging

Hebridean Imaging

chicks

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…

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

End of June update

Hi there, well it’s been a very busy month and i’m away to Lewis for the weekend (helping a friend celebrate her birthday!) so i thought i’d do a quick post to summarise what’s been happening over the last couple of weeks. The weather has continued very good – dry and mild mostly, so we’ve been able to do quite a bit more chick chasing. You know you are coming to the end of “chick season” though when you spot a young Lapwing or Oystercatcher, jump out of the van to chase it and it leads you a merry dance and just as you are about to catch it, gasping for breathe, the darn thing flies off!!

The machair is starting to look amazing now and it never ceases to amaze me the sheer variety of flowers that grow there.

hebridean orchid

Orchid growing by the roadside - i can never remember the names - i think it's northern marsh orchid

As i mentioned the Lapwing chicks are getting pretty big now:-

lapwing chick

Lapwing chick

It’s quite surprising (well, to me anyway) the length of the breeding season. As some birds are almost ready for fledging – a Lapwing has an incubation time of 24-29 days then another c.33 days for the nestling to become independent (Harrison & Castell, 2002, p.140) there are still birds on nests – we recently found this Ringed Plover nest.

ringed plover nest

Ringed Plover nest

We were able to ring some Common Gull chicks, and while searching for the chicks i almost stumbled upon an Eider sitting quietly on her nest – i must have only been two feet away and she just sat and looked at me, she didn’t budge one bit, so i apologised to her and crept away.

eider nest eider down

Eider sitting quietly on her nest

A walk down to the beach on a warm sunny day was very enjoyable – we found this grasshopper – we are told that there are only two species that occur here – Green and Mottled – so i’m presuming that this is Mottled?!

mottled grasshopper

Mottled Grasshopper (?)

As usual the beach was amazingly quiet!

south uist beach

Empty beach - South Uist

We found a Rock Dove nest but didn’t ring the youngster that was in there – it looked a bit big and we didn’t want to alarm it and cause it to leave the nest prematurely.

rock dove chick

Rock Dove chick in the nest

Found this ant near the garden, i sent the picture to Rhian and she replied to say that it was the same species as the ones we’d most commonly come across, Myrmica ruginodis. Ah well, you gotta keep trying!

myrmica ruginodis south uist ant

Myrmica ruginodis

Moths have again been pretty quiet! Probably our best night coincided, happily!, with one of the National Moth Night evenings. That evening we managed 36 moths of 16 species. Still well down on our numbers this time last year 🙁

magpie

Magpie Moth

While sitting in the office last week i heard a loud noise and glanced up to see the air ambulance helicopter flying really low across the croft at the back of the house. Wow! I thought. A couple of minutes later there was even more noise at the front of the house and i looked out to see the helicopter landing in the garden opposite. I was a little stunned to start with but managed to dash out and grab a photo. The jungle drums were working overtime and before the rotors had even stopped my neighbour phoned and gave me the low-down on what was going on 🙂 Happily nothing life-threatening and the lady it had come for walked to the chopper unaided. She had had an op the week before and had developed some pain and needed to be taken back to the hospital in Stornoway – the quickest, easiest and safest way for that to happen was by helicopter. Great service!

scottish health service air ambulance helicopter

Scottish Health Service air ambulance

Once i’m back in Uist early next week i’ll update the ringing summary for June.

Harrison C. & Castell P., 2002, Collins Field guide to Birds Nests, Eggs and Nestlings.

Never a dull moment…

The week started out with a trip up to North Uist last Saturday to Claddach Kirkibost. Bill next door and myself had volunteered to man the Curracag (Outer Hebrides Natural History Society) stand at the “Watch out for Wildlife in Uist” event. The other stands were occupied by representatives from the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society (WDCS), Fiona Crouch from The Shore Thing project run by the Marine Biological Association, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) and the Machair Life project.

Curracag Stand

The Curracag Stand at the Watch out for Wildlife in Uist event

On the Curracag stand we were not only chatting to people about the local natural history society and the newly set up Curracag Wildlife News Forum but also making people aware of the Outer Hebrides Biological Recording Project (OHBRP) which has been part-funded by Curracag and aims to encourage people to submit records of their sightings. The aims of the OHBRP are stated as: “the OHBRP was formed to collect and collate records of the distribution and numbers of animals and plants which are found in the Outer Hebrides and outlying islands. This information will be made freely available to promote interest in the wildlife of the islands, to maintain and enhance biodiversity and protect our natural environment. The objective is to ensure that accurate information on the flora and fauna of the area is available to local government, environmental agencies developers and land managers to inform decisions that may affect our natural environment.

I think that in the past people/bodies/institutions have been over to the islands studying various aspects of the natural world here and the findings and sightings have disappeared somewhere into the ether.

Ian turned up sometime late morning (well, OK i’d forgotten a couple of things and he brought them along for me), you know what he’s like, always one for chatting up the ladies so while he was there he got chatting to the WDCS Shorewatch team and told them “oh yes, sign us up”. Sign us up turned out to be “sign Yvonne up”…

When i got home we noticed a pair of Mute Swans in the field at the back. They had 7 cygnets with them which didn’t look more than a day or two old. One of the cygnets was hitching a ride on the female’s back.

Mute Swan carrying young cygnet

Mute Swan carrying cygnet on it's back

Bill next door also got an amazing photo of them – a sheep had approached the family and the male swan took on a threatening pose – wings up and hissing – Bill said that the sheep then walked forwards towards the male swan! Oops bad move! The photo Bill took can be seen on the Curracag Wildlife News forum at http://www.curracag-wildlifenews.org.uk/viewtopic.php?f=15&t=266 Click on the thumbnail there for the larger image.

Sunday looked like a nice day although the breeze was a little cool. As i was now having to travel up to Benbecula to do the Shorewatch training i thought that i may as well travel earlier and join in with Fiona’s Shore Thing which was held at Stinky Bay. Even when you’re over 50 (well, only just!) the lure of a morning splashing about in rock pools looking at all the interesting weeds and critters is just too much to resist.

We found a really interesting Breadcrumb Sponge and anenomes and starfish are always good to see.

Breadcrumb Sponge Halichondria panicea

Breadcrumb Sponge (Halichondria panicea)

Anenome

Anenome

Starfish

Starfish

One of the most fascinating sights of the day was when we had finished on the beach and headed back to the jetty. There were thousands upon thousands of maggots on the quayside – i have no idea what species these larvae were and i guess they had hatched sometime between the tides. Later on in the day the tide was very high, over the jetty so they would have all been washed off.

maggots - fly larvae

Larvae - species unknown

A picnic lunch and then off to the WDCS Shorewatch training. There were 3  new recruits and we spent the afternoon learning all about how to carry out the Shorewatches, learning about what we might see and how to identify them, the visual differences between dolphins, porpoises and whales. After the theory we all headed out to do a practice watch under the guidance of Kila our trainer and Anya a more experienced watcher.

We’ve had some amazing sunsets and sunrises this week – the skies here never cease to amaze me. This flat calm scene greeted us early one morning as we headed over to check on the Buzzard’s nest.

Summer sunrise South Uist

Summer sunrise, South Uist

At the Buzzard’s nest only one chick remains and it has grown quite a lot since we last saw it. It was big enough to ring now. Sadly the other chick was dead at the side of the nest, it had grown a bit since we had last seen it but was not as big as the one remaining. I don’t know how or why it had died, it had no obvious injuries and it hadn’t become a meal for the remaining chick. Hopefully the one that is left will continue to grown and eventually fledge.

Buzzard chick

Buzzard chick

Ian had posted on the Curracag Forum with a request for samples of ants from around the islands. Having received the first ones he’d sent them off to Rhian last week so that she could identify them. It didn’t take long and we soon had news that there had been two species found: Myrmica ruginodis and Leptothorax acervorum. Only a single Leptothorax acervorum was found all the rest were Myrmica ruginodis. The hunt continues…

I’ve plotted the ones identified so far on a Google map:-

Ant map - click to see a zoomable version

Ant map - click to see a zoomable version

Another flat calm and misty morning and another fab sunrise saw us up at first light to turn off the moth trap and open the nets.

Misty morning South Uist

Misty morning South Uist

Misty morning South Uist

Misty morning, looking south west

A few summer visitors around, we’ve regularly heard Corncrake and a Sedge Warbler was singing away from the garden next door. We’ve ringed both Willow Warbler and Blackcap this week as well.

Blackcap

Blackcap. Second year male.

We’re now up to 50 juvenile House Sparrows this season. Lots of other juveniles around as well with Robin, Song Thrush, Starling, Blackbird and Greenfinch juveniles all turning up for rings. On Monday a pair of adult Siskins appeared in the net, the female of which had a fully developed brood patch.There are still quite a lot of Collared Doves around, in this past week we’ve ringed 6. In their quest to hoover up all our bird seed they somehow manage to squeeze themselves into the ground traps.

We’ve been trying out our new portable moth trap – a Midi Robinson with a 15W actinic light

Robinson Midi 15W Actinic trap

Robinson Midi 15W actinic portable moth trap, nestled under the trees in next door's garden.

Some days we’ve had very little in the traps, other days it has been quite interesting. We’ve again had two species of Hawk-moth – Poplar and Elephant. First for the year this week have been Shark, Map-winged Swift, Small Square-spot and Large Yellow Underwing.

Here’s a selection from the week:-

Map-winged Swift

Map-winged Swift

Brimstone Moth

Brimstone Moth

Shears

Shears

Shark

Shark

Monopis weaverella

Micro moth Monopis weaverella

Pleurota bicostella

Micro moth Pleurota bicostella. I know i showed this one last week but the long palps with the spikes on the end really fascinated me

Silver-ground Carpet

Silver-ground Carpet

Amongst the other insects attracted to the light of the moth trap are Caddisflies. Ian has decided that they need further investigation and has been collecting and photographing them. He says that he will write something on here and post some of his photographs – i’ve told him i have quite enough to do with the birds and the moths (and the Shorewatch that he signed me up to!) without getting into Caddisflies as well 🙂

Late Thursday afternoon we lost our internet connection and by Friday morning it still wasn’t back on. What was going on? We eventually found out that thieves had tried to steal a large cable on the mainland which they thought was copper wire (the scrap value of copper is very high at the moment). It turned out that the cable was fibre-optic and it got damaged in the attempt. Thousands of homes were affected and we eventually got our internet connection back at around 8.30pm on Friday.

See this article: http://news.stv.tv/highlands-islands/105438-phone-lines-reconnected-after-attempted-cable-theft-left-thousands-cut-off/

I thought that i would end this weeks blog with a lovely sunset picture, taken last night, Friday 8th June 2012

Sunset South Uist

Sunset, South Uist - looking west

May 2012 – Uist ringing totals

Lapwing chicks were the most frequently ringed bird during May with 115 new pulli ringed!

We only had one control this month, a Greenfinch TR02363 which was a second year female with a brood patch. We know that it was originally ringed by Terry, the other ringer here in Uist. We also know, after chatting with Terry that a couple of days after we had controlled this Greenfinch it was further north in South Uist, at Terry’s house where it had been killed by a Sparrowhawk!

New Retraps TOTAL
Oystercatcher 6 6
Ringed Plover 3 3
Lapwing 115 14 129
Redshank 2 2
Collared Dove 8 8
Meadow Pipit 9 9
Robin 5 5
Wheatear 1 1
Blackbird 6 5 11
Song Thrush 1 2 3
Blackcap 1 1
Chiffchaff 2 2
Willow Warbler 5 1 6
Spotted Flycatcher 1 1
Starling 14 8 22
House Sparrow* 27 598 625
Chaffinch 1 1
Greenfinch 9 31 40
Siskin 1 1
Lesser Redpoll 3 3
Reed Bunting 1 1
Grand Total: 221 659 880
Total Species: 21 7 21

* Once again the incredible number of House sparrow retraps are re-sightings of our colour-ringed birds. Thanks as always go to our neighbour Bill who keeps a daily note of all our colour-ringed sparrows seen in his garden.

Chicks and Moths

Wow, what a busy couple of weeks! Everything seems to be happening here at an amazingly fast pace – everywhere has suddenly become very green, the trees are about as much in leaf as they are going to be and even the slopes of Ben Mhor, our highest hill, are looking green. The weather has been amazingly warm and we had 5 days in a row where the temperature was over 20’C. A bit different from last year when the highest temperature we recorded here at Askernish Weather Station was just 19.6’C and we missed that as we were out at the bird observatory in Gibraltar!

Butterwort, South Uist, Outer Hebrides

The Butterwort is out in the damp shady places.

We’ve still been having a ride along the machair every now and again and still finding Lapwing chicks, amazingly some Lapwings were even still on eggs only last week. We were very happy to find these Ringed Plover chicks, just tiny balls of fluff.

Ringed Plover

Ringed Plover chicks

We’ve been keeping our eye on a Buzzard nest, mainly from a long distance by telescope and early one morning (2nd May looking at the Nest Record Card)  Ian walked out to check it and found three eggs. Around the 18th May we though we could see small fluffy heads in the nest so on the 24th we walked over to do another check. We found two downy young, too small to ring yet. We don’t know what happened to the third egg, whether it hatched and the chick died (or was dinner for it’s siblings) we’ll probably never know.

Common Buzzard chicks

Buzzard chicks

It was an amazingly calm morning and walking back across the field towards home the sun was coming up making for a gorgeous early morning sunrise.

sunrise Askernish, Isle of South Uist

Sunrise - a rare calm day!

Later on in the day i was sitting on the bench at the front of the house enjoying a cuppa in the warm sunshine when i went to scratch my arm and felt something small and hard. Yuk! A tick. One of the hazards of living an active outdoor lifestyle i guess 🙁 I was able to remove it with a very fine pair of tweezers and put it under the microscope to make sure that i had completely removed the beastie. It was very tiny barely 1mm in length. Under the microscope it made a gruesome sight and the mouthparts were a bit like something out of a horror film – a row of double serrations. Did the makers of the film Alien get their inspiration from the insect world i wondered.

Tick, South Uist

Tick, extracted from my arm!

Tick mouthparts by Hebridean Imaging

Scary looking tick mouthparts!

25th May was forecast to be very calm so i packed up the van and headed out to the plantation at Druidibeg to put up some nets. As you can imagine, with the almost constant wind here, the opportunities to mist net are very few and far between – you have to grab every chance you get! We had previously considered joining the BTO’s Constant Effort Scheme (CES) with Druidibeg plantation as the site. However after the first season trialling CES there we felt that due to the weather there is no way we would be able to fulfil the required 12 visits between May and August.

The plantation was pretty quiet although there were quite a few Willow Warblers singing. A juvenile Robin was first out of the net followed shortly by a couple of the Willow Warblers. A nice surprise in the net a little later was a Willow Warbler with a ring on already – first of all i thought it was one of the ones from earlier in the day that had gone back in but on reading the ring number it was one of ours but not a recent bird. I took the bird back to the van and processed it and was able to look back in the book to find that we had first ringed it, at Druidibeg in June last year.

It never ceases to amaze me that such a tiny bird – it weighed in at less than 10g – has travelled all the way to Africa to overwinter then found it’s way all the way back to the same tiny plantation on the east side of Uist.

Juvenile Robin

Juvenile Robin

Willow Warbler, South Uist, Outer Hebrides

Willow Warbler. This bird was an adult when we first ringed it in June 2011. (Oops think i should've had a manicure!)

As there is never much about at Druidibeg (well, there had been a sighting of a Wryneck a couple of days previously) it’s not usually worth us both going so Ian had stayed at home. He texted to say he was catching reasonably well and had ringed both Siskin and Spotted Flycatcher.

Siskin, South Uist, Outer Hebrides

Siskin

Spotted Flycatcher, South Uist, Outer Hebrides

Spotted Flycatcher

House Sparrow, South Uist, Outer Hebrides

Juvenile House Sparrow - i'm sure he's not really as sad as he looks 🙂

Colour-ringed House Sparrow, South Uist, Outer Hebrides

All the juvvy House Sparrows are coming to get their colour rings

We’ve been noticing more and more Collared Doves around with up to 11 being seen on the electric wires at the back of the house and they’ve been increasingly visiting the garden to hoover up the seed we’ve been putting out for the sparrrows and finches. It was inevitable that we would catch a few.

Collared Dove, South Uist, Outer Hebrides

Collared Dove

A few days ago I was fascinated to watch two juvenile Blackbirds in the garden. They hung around for ages, they had obviously not been out of the nest very long and were just standing around looking a bit like they didn’t really know what they were supposed to be doing. Every now and again the adult male Blackbird would come along and feed them and they eventually followed him into the field behind. I’m sure they’ll get the hang of it soon!

Blackbird, South Uist, Outer Hebrides

Juvenile Blackbird

There are so many young around at the moment! On a trip to Balivanich we had our customary stop-off at Stinky Bay and were happy to see a pair of Shelduck with their brood of 7, i don’t know what the official term is, i called them Shelducklings? I usually say “oh no don’t count them” because such is nature that every time you see them there are less and less! – Ian managed a fab photo.

Shelduck, Benbecula, Outer Hebrides

And finally the moth catching has at last been getting better. Our best catch of the season so far was on the 26th May when we had 42 moth of 21 species. Needless to say we had had the traps out in our neighbours garden – he’s been here at least 30 years and has the most enviable trees and vegetation! A small selection from our moth catch below.

Pleurota bicostella

Pleurota bicostella, a micro moth, it's long hairy palps with spikes on are very distinctive.

Fox Moth, South Uist, Outer Hebrides

Fox Moth. We've been getting a fair few of these the last couple of weeks.

Poplar Hawk-moth

Poplar Hawk-moth, always impressive to see 🙂

Elephant Hawk-moth, South Uist, Outer Hebrides

Elephant Hawk-moth - the other hawk-moth species in the trap these last couple of weeks.

White Ermine

White Ermine

Buff Ermine

Buff Ermine

Campion

Always good to find in the trap, the very beautiful Campion

Knot Grass

Knot Grass - one of the most abundant moths this last couple of weeks.

Belted Beauty, South Uist, Outer Hebrides

A bit of a surprise in the trap was this male Belted Beauty, i've only seen them out on the machair before.

Well, that’s it for now. June looks like it is also going to be very busy and i think it might be easier to update the blog more frequently rather than one long once or twice weekly tome!

 

 

 

 

 

Snow and Corncrakes

Wild and windy last weekend which at last produced some skua passage – Arctic, Great, Long-tailed and Pomarine were seen from Ardvule.

A very busy week with a pretty diverse range of activities – chick chasing and nest recording, breeding bird survey, birding and late in the week joining in with a seaweed hunt.

Common Sandpiper, Loch Druidibeg, South Uist

Ian was let loose with the camera and got this lovely shot of a Common Sandpiper.

I woke early on the 16th to turn off the moth trap – it was 4.30am and just starting to get light, the Blackbird was already on the lawn looking for worms. It felt very chill outside (especially as I was in me pyjamas!) and there was a dusting of snow on Ben Mhor, the overnight temperature had dropped to just 2.7’C and there were only two moths in the trap. So, a mixture of winter and summer as I could also hear a Corncrake crexing away not far in the distance. A single Hebrew Character (Orthosia gothica) in the trap 🙁

Corncrake - South Uist

Corncrake

In just two days “chick chasing” produced 25 birds – all Lapwings.

Lapwing chick, hiding

Lapwing chick trying to hide from us - they are amazingly well camouflaged!

Lapwing chick - freshly ringed

Newly ringed Lapwing chick

The Oystercatchers are still sitting tight this week – surely they will hatch soon?

Oystercatcher nest

Oystercatcher nest

Lapwing nest

Lapwing nest

Friday 18th seemed like a good day to go and do the first visit on my Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) square – I can’t keep putting it off, the weather isn’t going to warm up! The 1km square is NF7841 and is fairly near to Loch Bee. A long fence line seemed like a good marker to follow over the boggy terrain – it was very soggy in places and I was really glad I had worn me wellies. Managed to see 25 species which quite surprised me.

moors near Loch Bee South Uist

A bit wet out there - glad i had my wellies on!

moorland

A great view of the hills from out there - and silence apart from the birds

Loch Bee

This was just past the end of my BBS square - good job really because i wouldn't have been able to get across anyway 🙂

Looking the opposite way towards the hills

At one point I was just about to climb a barbed wire fence when I spotted this spider on the wire. Now, I’m not much of a spider fan but our next door neighbour is, and even to my arachnophobe mind it did look quite interesting so I stopped and took a few photos. I believe it to be a Furrow Spider (Larinioides cornutus) which is an orb-weaver spider and looking at the NBN Gateway map has been recorded here in South Uist previously. They usually live near water and spend the day time in the “nest” that it makes.

Furrow Spider (Larinioides cornutus)

I believe this to be Furrow Spider (Larinioides cornutus)

Furrow Spider - Larinioides cornutus

Heading back into it's wee nest - i disturbed it as i was just about to get over the fence here!

I think I overdressed for doing the survey – I had a long-sleeved t-shirt, two fleeces and a waterproof coat on, trousers, waterproof leggings, thick socks and wellies – oh and my daft hat. I arrived back at the van absolutely sweltering! Maybe I’m just unfit?!

After the survey we headed off up to Berneray. We trawled across the machair to see if there were any chicks to ring, we only found 3 Lapwing chicks.  There were quite a lot of waders on the machair – Sanderling (seemed weird to see Sanderling on a ploughed area!), a handful of Black-tailed Godwits, Then we headed up to one of our favourite spots right up in the north of Berneray where you can sit on the top of the dunes and look out across the Sound of Harris – on a nice day we sit out on the picnic chairs – today wasn’t one of those days! Great view though and there was still snow on the Harris hills 🙂

Berneray, Outer Hebrides

Berneray - not a bad spot for a picnic!

The first juvenile House sparrows were seen in the garden on the 19th May

We always like to learn about something new so when Curracag (the local Natural History Society) advertised an event to be run during Scottish Biodiversity Week we thought we would go along. It was called The Big Seaweed Hunt and took place at Carinish, North Uist.

Even for someone who is supposed to be grown up there’s nothing quite like splashing around in the rock pools in your wellies is there!? The event was well attended and there were a good range of ages – right from toddlers to oldies – well Ian does have his bus pass now 😉

The Great Seaweed Hunt - Uist

Tracey, Peter and Ian looking at their seaweed finds

All this fun had a serious side to it – we learned that seaweeds are “simple plant-like organisms called algae” and that many animals rely on them for food and shelter. We also learned that, rather worryingly, and in common with many other plants and animals, seaweeds are responding to climate change and rising sea levels. There is an invasive species called Wireweed – it was first recorded in 1973 in the Isle of wight and has been gradually spreading north.

Before going along to this event I knew absolutely nothing about seaweed and didn’t realise the diversity that you could find in just one very small inlet. We found at least 6 different species plus a few more unidentified species which Tracey (who led the meeting) took home to identify. The 3 most common seaweeds there were Egg Wrack, Bladder Wrack and Channelled Wrack.

Bladder Wrack - Fucus vesiculosus

Bladder Wrack - Fucus vesiculosus

Egg Wrack - Ascophyllum nodosum

Egg Wrack - Ascophyllum nodosum

unidentified seaweed

Not sure of this one - still trying to find an identification...

Seaweed - Ulva species

One of the green seaweeds, Ulva species i think

unidentified seaweed

Found in a rock pool, I haven't identified this one yet

Channelled Wrack - Pelvetia canaliculata

Channelled Wrack - Pelvetia canaliculata

We left the meeting fairly well enabled to be able to survey our own chosen patch of beach so that we can now take part in our own Big Seaweed Search – the results of which we will be able to enter on their website at: www.nhm.ac.uk/seaweeds  Take a look at the web site it has loads of information both about the survey and seaweeds in general. I also found quite a handy (if a little technical) key in the Field Guide to British Seaweeds found on The National Marine Biological Analytical Quality Control Scheme website.

Moth trapping has still been very dire – the cold northerly wind continues and the only night it turned south-easterly we caught just 2 moths – a single Red Chestnut and a lovely Pebble Prominent (almost four weeks earlier than our first one last year).

Pebble Prominent - Notodonta ziczac

Pebble Prominent - Notodonta ziczac

On the 20th we caught and ringed our first Oystercatcher chicks of the year – I tell you what, for something so small they can’t half run fast!

Oystercatcher chicks

First 2 Oystercatcher chicks of 2012

And we have now ringed 100 Lapwing chicks this year – this morning (20th May) we found two broods of four, including these that were still in the nest, they looked like they had not long hatched (you can just about make out the egg tooth on one of the chicks bills)

Lapwing chicks still in nest

Four tiny Lapwing chicks, still in the nest - an unusual find!

 

Machair waders

A busy week – the nights are definitely getting shorter! The weather has been excellent, very little wind early in the day, a little cold though with temperatures down to just -0.2’C. Our routine for the last week has been to get up at around 5am to turn off the moth trap, have a quick bite of breakfast then head out to the machair to nest find and to see if we can find any chicks to ring.

We’ve had more success with the chick chasing than this time last year – the weather was so awful last May very very wet – then it rained every single day apart from the first three. We made a conscious descision then not to chase any chicks in those conditions, the poor things were having a hard enough time as it was.

Amongst the very few moths in the trap we were happy to find our first Puss Moth of the year.

Puss Moth Hebridean Imaging Photography Outer Hebrides Western Isles

Puss Moth

The first few days of the week we were  also checking in at Rubha Ardvule to see if we could relocate the King Eider – no luck! Sadly it looks as though this will be a species that Ian has on his Western Isles list that I don’t. Never mind, I’m still a good bit ahead of him and I don’t think he’s likely to catch up unless (a) another Purple Martin turns up and (b) he actually gets to see it! 😀

Nowt but ordinary Eiders at Ardvule

Eider Hebridean Imaging Photography Outer Hebrides Western Isles

Common Eider at Rubha Ardvule, South Uist

After finishing on the machair we have been calling in to North Locheynort – a small wooded oasis on the east side of South Uist.

The smaller birds there are also busy nesting – this Robin must have young, we saw it carrying food.

Robin Hebridean Imaging Photography Outer Hebrides Western Isles

Robin carrying food

Once back at home, time for a quick cuppa then if it’s not too windy get the nets open and the ground traps out – if the wind has increased too much we just run the ground traps.

“Our” Lesser Redpoll has been a frequent visitor – we first ringed him (with ring number V548458) in August 2010 and he returned in Spring 2011, staying for a few months and seen then in the company of a Common Redpoll – we were unable to confirm breeding. We are very very happy to see V548458 back this spring – within a few hours he was in the trap and we were able to positively confirm his identity.

Lesser Redpoll Hebridean Imaging Photography Outer Hebrides Western Isles

Lesser Redpoll

A trip south down the machair on Sunday 6th May took us past Loch Hallan which we scanned for birds – we found a single male Pochard – an Outer Hebrides tick for me. I know they are pretty infrequent here, the county recorder, Brian says “Pochard a really good bird here now – in the three years 2008-2010 I think there was only a single record (a female on Loch Skealtar). The theory that the small Icelandic population pass through Scotland after the breeding season seems to have been confirmed by the sighting of eight flying south with Pink-feet over Barra in October 2006. Perhaps the bird today was returning to Iceland.

Hebridean Imaging Photography Outer Hebrides Western Isles

Pochard at Loch Hallan

Between Askernish and Kilpheder we counted 40+ Whimbrel, 13 Black-tailed Godwits, 60+ Golden Plover and 2 Whooper Swans were in the fields. There must have been at least a couple of hundred Meadow Pipits around – and judging by the ones we’ve been catching which have lots of fat, I would say that they are migrating through. Lots more Wheatears around now – the odd one of which I could almost string as a Greenland Wheatear 😉

Monday 7th May, we continued the early morning start – it was cold – having dropped below zero overnight – the car was well frozen! When we went to get the moth trap in there was a Large Red Damselfly on the wall nearby – perhaps it had been attracted by the warmth of the bulb! There were no moths in the trap.

Hebridean Imaging Photography Outer Hebrides Western Isles

Large Red Damselfly

We had a leisurely breakfast as we didn’t want to be disturbing the birds too much on such a cold morning. At the beach at Kilpheder there were quite good numbers of waders, including 4 Knot which were beginning to come into summer plumage. There was also a single Grey Plover and 26 Bar-tailed Godwits plus many Dunlin and Sanderling.

Knot Hebridean Imaging Photography Outer Hebrides Western Isles

Knot on the beach, amongst the Turnstones and Dunlin

A little further along the machair we were pleased to hear a couple of singing male Corn Buntings – i never seem to be able to get photos of these guys sitting on something more photogenic than barbed wire!

Corn Bunting Hebridean Imaging Photography Outer Hebrides Western Isles

Corn Bunting

A minute or two later another first of the year – a calling Corncrake! They’re skulky little devils at the best of times but around now when the ground vegetation is still really sparse is about the best time to see them. Managed to get a photo anyway – it’s a bit fuzzy as it is heavily cropped, the bird was quite far away even for the 400mm lens.

Corncrake Hebridean Imaging Photography Outer Hebrides Western Isles

Corncrake, skulking about in the sparse vegetation

Corncrake Hebridean Imaging Photography Outer Hebrides Western Isles

You can almost see right down his throat - there was another male calling fairly nearby so he was really giving it his best 🙂

Much of the same planned for the coming week – chick chasing and nest monitoring and hopefully the weather will begin to warm up so that we can catch some moths at last!

Sweet Gale Moth

Things have been pretty slow recently with regards to moth-trapping – for almost all of the last month there has been some north in the wind making it pretty cold.

Just 7 Hebrew Characters and 3 Red Chestnuts plus we were very happy to find the nationally scarce Sweet Gale Moth in the trap – a moth we haven’t seen before. The County Moth Recorder tells us that it is only the second location here in the hebrides that the moth has been recorded at.

Wild Places blog moths outer hebrides

Sweet Gale Moth

Our first Lapwing chicks of the year seen at Stoneybridge this morning :) and we managed to catch and ring them. There were also 22 Whimbrel between Stoneybridge and Howbeg. The King Eider was not at Rubha Ardvule first thing this morning but there were still 23 pale-bellied Brents still on the beach plus our first Arctic Tern of the summer.

A quick walk around at North Locheynort and we found an ant that we hope our friend Rhian can identify. Rhian is currently doing her PhD on ants see this article about her work with ants and their connection with the endangered Large Blue Butterfly: http://planetearth.nerc.ac.uk/news/story.aspx?id=1176&cookieConsent=A also more on this fascinating subject at http://www.butterfly-conservation.org/text.asp?PageId=363

ant outer hebrides

Unidentified ant (Myrmica spp.)

The Herons are busy nesting in the area as well, this youngster was seen skulking around in the vegetation – it seems to be old enough to go walkabout but not yet big enough to be able to fly.

grey heron outer hebrides

Young Grey Heron

grey heron outer hebrides

Adult Grey Heron

There was also a small flock of 8 Siskins, quite a few Willow Warblers and a Chiffchaff around the wooded area.

We counted quite a few Green-veined White butterflies that were in the warmer, more sheltered areas.

butterfly outer hebrides

Green-veined White butterfly