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Hebridean Imaging

Hebridean Imaging


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!

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.

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

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.

Mid May and the North wind continues!

Another busy week of early mornings spent nest finding and chick chasing. The weather is still a little chill – over 40 consecutive days with North in the wind!

Plenty of Lapwing chicks around this week but the Oystercatchers still seem to be sitting tight.

There have been plenty of Meadow Pipits along the machair – hundreds in fact! The ones we’ve caught and ringed have had a good amount of fat so we are presuming that they are passing through. On the Curracag Forum (Curracag is the Outer Hebrides Natural History Society) there was a report from one of the other ringers here in the Outer Hebrides, Chris who lives in Lewis, who has trapped and ringed 98 Meadow Pipits to date this year – many of which, he commented, were very fat.

Ever since i was a child i’ve always thought that one of the best sounds of spring is the Skylark, there are plenty of them all along the machair this week too.

Skylark - Hebridean Imaging bird and wildlife photography

Skylark out on the machair

There are reasonable numbers of Whimbrel this week, they are also passing through on their way to their breeding grounds in Iceland.

Whimbrel - Hebridean Imaging bird and wildlife photography


It’s been too windy for mist netting this week. Most days we’ve been to North Locheynort, it’s a great place for a walk around and especially in the wooded area where it is nice and sheltered. We were very happy to see a male Pied Flycatcher there on the 9th May and on the 11th we found 3 male Blackcaps on our early morning walk.

On the 10th May the normally mundane weekly shopping trip to the Co-op at Daliburgh was brightened up by the sight of a smart male Pied Flycatcher in Askernish and then Sand Martin was added to the year list with the sight of 7 flying low over Loch nan Clacha-mora (otherwise known as the loch behind the Co-op!).

Ian and Bill next door have been re-living their childhood days – they wandered off down the road on a sunny afternoon complete with jars and fishing net – after furtling around in the nearby stream they were very happy to have found 3-spined Stickleback (new for this 10km square!) and what i’m reliably informed is a Horny Orb Mussel – these mussels are apparantly very biosensitive and only thrive in nice clean water. They had already been recorded as appearing in this 10km square – it seems that Ian and Bill aren’t the only ones who like a bit of afternoon fishing 🙂

3-spined Stickleback

3-spined Stickleback

Horny Orb Mussel

Horny Orb Mussel

Rest assured all critters were returned unharmed to the stream after having had their mugshots taken 🙂

There are still a few Pale-bellied Brent’s around on the machair:-

Pale-bellied Brent Goose - Hebridean Imaging bird and wildlife photography

Pale-bellied Brents on the machair at Bornish

The wind direction looks like it should be changing so we are hoping that we may be able to get some skua passage.

Moths this week? – Sadly it’s been too cold and windy to put the trap out – surely things can only get better??

We’ve just finished inputting the House Sparrow sightings for April 2012 so here are the details of our ringing during April.

New Retraps TOTAL
Woodpigeon 1 1
Collared Dove 1 1
Meadow Pipit 16 1 17
Pied/White Wagtail 1 1 2
Wren 2 2 4
Blackbird 8 11 19
Song Thrush 4 1 5
Redwing 3 3
Chiffchaff 2 2
Willow Warbler 1 1 2
Starling 5 2 7
House Sparrow 4 249 253
Greenfinch 11 43 54
Goldfinch* 1 1
Twite 1 1
Lesser Redpoll* 5 5 10
Grand Total: 65 317 382
Total Species: 15 11 16

Interesting birds were Goldfinch and Lesser Redpoll controls which were captured on the 26th and 29th of the month respectively. Once we hear back from the BTO i will post the details of where they had come from. Also of interest during April were a Pied Wagtail which we had originally ringed on the 23rd September 2010 and a Willow Warbler which we first ringed on the 5th June 2011 – it never ceases to amaze me that birds turn up again in the exact same place! As usual the high number of House Sparrow retraps were sightings of our colour-ringed birds – including the one that has moved to Bayhead on North Uist.

Pied Wagtail first ringed by us in September 2010, recaptured April 2012