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Hebridean Imaging

Hebridean Imaging

Harlequin Duck

Spring finally on the way!

We had a couple of weeks down on the mainland, the main reason, of course, for going was Ian’s mum’s funeral. Everything went as well as a funeral can go, it was a lovely celebration of mum-in-law’s life and there were lots of people there as could be expected really, she was such a lovely soul who never had a bad word to say about anyone.

While in close proximity to London we were able to catch up with friends. One of which, Gill suggested visiting the Ansel Adams exhibition that was showing at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich. It wasn’t really Ian’s thing so i headed off on my own into London – feeling very country girl hick! Managed not to get lost.

Ansel Adams - always loved his amazing landscape photography

Ansel Adams – always loved his amazing landscape photography

Anyway i enjoyed the exhibition immensely and then became even more adventurous by heading off into central London to go to the National Portrait Gallery where i had pre-booked tickets to the Man Ray exhibhition. I arrived a little early – before my allotted time so sat on the wall in Trafalgar Square taking in the sights!

Trafalgar Square - snapped with my mobile!

Trafalgar Square – snapped with my mobile! I was having a black and white moment after the Ansel Adams exhibition 😉

Once finished in Essex we headed up to Shropshire to spend some time with my own family. It was my daughter, Sara’s, birthday on the same day as mine and our day out of choice was birding 🙂 Well, Sara’s first word was bird so no surprise there then. First we headed off to Venus Pool, the Shropshire Ornithological Society site outside of Shrewsbury where all the usual suspects were gathered! Nothing out of the ordinary but a pair of Bullfinch was nice – not something you see in the Hebrides very often (i last saw them in Lewis in the Northern Bullfinch invasion of Autumn 2004). We had a lovely hide picnic, spreading ourselves and our food and goodies out along the shelf 😉

Mallard, bird photography by Hebridean Imaging

Common but rather lovely. Mallard at Venus Pool

In the afternoon we headed down to Wall Farm at Kynnersley – wow, that hide hadn’t changed in years – it must have been 12 years since Sara and i had visited. The posters that we had put up in 1998 advertising the YOC were still up on the wall. Yes, good old YOC, remember them? None of that Wildlife Explorers stuff back then! We half expected to see our own ancient notes in the hide log book but that at least had been updated recently. We thought we might see some hares out across the field but no luck.

Robin, bird photography by Hebridean Imaging

Robin in mum and dad’s garden

Ian hadn’t explored shropshire very much so we did a little bit of touristy stuff. Visited Ironbridge, bought pork pies from Eley’s.

The Ironbridge, Shropshire

The famous Ironbridge across the River Severn.

Another day we went out to Church Stretton and up over the Long Mynd – couldn’t see a darn thing for the thick fog! Ah well next time. Stopped off at Wentnor (home of my ancestors) and had a look around the church there. A lovely spot.

Wentnor

Wentnor church, Shropshire

Mum and dad’s garden had a constant stream of bird visitors and i kept a list every day i was there. Good to see was Nuthatch – too quick for me to get a photo though. Siskins and Reed Bunting were also regulars and of course all this activity attracted the attention of a Sparrowhawk which had the occasional flyby. Needless to say we had no ringing equipment with us!

An uneventful journey back north but we seemed to have got out of the south just in time – we left Shropshire on Thursday 21st March at 4am and a few hours later it started to snow, and didn’t stop for three days! At the time of writing (8th April, mum says there is still snow lying under the hedges in places).

Plenty of snow down south!

Plenty of snow down south!

The icicle off the back of the shed...

Dad with the icicle off the back of the shed…

No such trouble with the weather here in the Hebrides! We’ve had a very cold easterly wind but it’s been wall to wall sunshine for more than two weeks now and not a drop of rain.

Meanwhile, here in the Hebrides... Fab day for a walk on the beach!

Meanwhile, here in the Hebrides… Fab day for a walk on the beach!

 

Snow, what snow? None here!

Snow, what snow? None here!

Cold, frosty mornings but cloudless sunny days.

Cold, frosty mornings but cloudless sunny days.

Straight back into patchbirding as soon as we got back and a few additions have been Black-headed Gull, Sparrowhawk, Linnet, Shoveler and Goldfinch plus the Pied Wagtails have arrived 🙂 We had a trip down to North Uist to have another look at the Harlequin Duck – no good shots, it remained distant all the time we were there. Nice view of a Merlin on the way back to the car though – it was carrying it’s supper of Turnstone.

Merlin, bird photography by Hebridean Imaging

Merlin with prey item (Turnstone), RSPB Balranald

Bar-tailed Godwits

Bar-tailed Godwits

The funniest thing that happened was that Ian had spent weeks being cheesed off because i saw Rock Pipit on the patch while he was away – we’d not recorded it on our patch before so he was holding out little hope of seeing one. The morning after we arrived back from England he found a dead one outside on the decking. He so wanted to tick that bird, but nope, sorry, dead don’t count!

Had some great sunsets over the last couple of weeks too.

Had some great sunsets over the last couple of weeks too.

Oh go on then, just one more black and white shot…

The three hills of South Uist, taken from Stilligarry. From left to right: Hecla, Ben Corrodale and ben Mhor

The three hills of South Uist, taken from Stilligarry. From left to right: Hecla, Ben Corrodale and ben Mhor

Migration seems to be in full swing now – there were hundreds of Golden Plover and Redwings on the machair this afternoon, they were all feeding, fuelling up no doubt for their journey north. I spent at least a couple of hours there watching this amazing sight, all to the background soundtrack of singing Skylark’s and displaying Lapwings. I love the machair!

Golden Plover, bird photography by Hebridean Imaging

Golden Plover

 

 

Harlequin etc…

I guess it’s the only survey where i’m really happy if i find nothing at all – the annual National Beached Bird Survey organised by the RSPB. It’s the third year running that i’ve done this survey and out of the three years have only found corpses last year. Once again i covered the Orasay to Askernish stretch and Bill next door very kindly gave me a lift to my start point at Orasay where i saw my first Goldfinches of the year – a nice little posse of 8 on the wires there. It was an absolutely stonking day for a walk along the high tide line – blue sky, sunshine and hardly a breathe of wind – Hebridean winter days don’t come much better than this!

Orasay, South Uist

Orasay, my starting point

South Uist

How tropical does this look! But no, it really is South Uist…

Well i apologise in advance but i’m going to bore you with a few more sunny beach shots. Will sorry be alright? If not, tough, deal with it!

Bird tracks - not sure what species though - any suggestions welcome :-)

Bird tracks – not sure what species though – any suggestions welcome 🙂

Turnstones

The Turnstones were being very confiding, i took this with my wee compact camera from about 8 feet away.

I had to take this one, it shows the beginning of Our Patch, the mast at Hallan is just off the right hand side of the picture.

I had to take this one, it shows the beginning of Our Patch, the mast at Hallan is just off the right hand side of the picture.

Just me on the beach :-)

Just me on the beach 🙂

Found a few random yellow objects along the way but no dead birds fortunately

Found a few random yellow objects along the way but no dead birds fortunately

Another random yellow object... I was tempted to bring this home but there are only so many colourful floats you can use as a decorative feature at the front of your house and Ian thinks i have too many already. Dunno why but i have this weird kind of compulsion to collect them...

Another random yellow object… I was tempted to bring this home but there are only so many colourful floats you can use as a decorative feature at the front of your house and Ian thinks i have too many already. Dunno why but i have this weird kind of compulsion to collect them…

The only other person i saw on the beach was Bill who had surveyed the Frobost to Askernish section and we met up at Askernish when we’d both just finished. Happily Bill had found no dead bodies either. He was holding a small bag so i asked him if he’d found anything interesting. He said “no, just a bit of rubbish i’ve picked up from along the beach“. It made me think about a documentary i’d watched a few days previously, to cut a long story short, it was about three guys who wanted to run across the Sahara dessert. They started in Senegal, at the Atlantic and there were shots of them on the beach – they wanted to start with their feet in the Atlantic Ocean. What really made me sit up and take notice was the sheer amount of crap, debris and rubbish on the beach there, it was undescribable. It made me pretty depressed really, i suppose if i dwell on the subject, which i try not too, it just confirms the fact that as long as there are people around, the world is f.cked. I suppose there’s no point me giving up, i don’t think i could, and i’ve just got to carry on doing my own little bit, much like Bill picking up the rubbish off Askernish beach and hope for the best that it will rub off on other people…

It must be that time of year when the land users get the urge to burn off the moors. On returning from the Beached Bird Survey there was a lot of smoke appearing over the hills in the south of uist and a few days later Barra (or Mordor as we fondly call it – due to it’s very often gloomy, cloud-laden appearance) looked like it was on fire.

Mordor, sorry Barra, in the distance, looking like it's on fire

Mordor, sorry Barra, in the distance, looking like it’s on fire

As far as the Patchwork Challenge goes I ended February with 62 species for the patch. Can’t complain at that. I didn’t quite see as many species during February as during January. I extracted a graph from BirdTrack

My species per month on the patch, from BirdTrack

My species per month on the patch, from BirdTrack

Ian arrived home on the 24th February, seemed like he’d been away for ever but at least he got to spend some time with his lovely mum during her final days.

A few foggy days followed Ian’s arrival back home but we were still able to get out birding.

Geese in the mist

Geese in the mist

A few new birds were added to the list, including Glaucous Gull – white wings have been pretty few and far between this winter so it was good to find one just down on the beach at Askernish, on patch 🙂 Also on the beach was a Raven with a ring, we wondered if it was one of the one’s that Terry had ringed in the nest.

Glaucous Gull, Askernish beach.

Glaucous Gull, Askernish beach.

A few more scarce (for here) species turned up on the patch as well, a couple of Pink-feet in with the White-fronts, plus Scaup and Pintail on Loch Hallan.

Two Pink-feet in amongst the White-fronts

Two Pink-feet in amongst the White-fronts

The Pintail had turned up as a pair.

Lovely male Pintail at Loch Hallan.

Lovely male Pintail at Loch Hallan.

Spot the Scaup in amongst the Tufties...

Spot the Scaup in amongst the Tufties…

The Whooper Swan numbers are starting to build up on nearby Loch Hallan. They gather there every year and leave, to fly north, en masse. It’s fabulous to go outside at most times of the day and be able to hear their trumpety calls in the distance.

Whooper Swans gathering up on Loch Hallan.

Whooper Swans gathering up on Loch Hallan.

Once Ian had caught up with all his jobs around the house, including planting another 100 trees (making a total of 800 since 2010), we decided to have a trip up to North Uist to have a look at the drake Harlequin Duck that had turned up there. I’ve seen Harlequin here before, when i lived in Lewis i went to see the long staying female that had turned up there in 2004.

The drake Harlequin was fairly distant and photographing it was fun – 100 shots of the sea and 12 of the duck 😉

Harlequin Duck, North Uist, Outer Hebrides photo by Yvonne Benting, Hebridean Imaging

Drake Harlequin at Traigh an Iar, North Uist

Harlequin Duck, North Uist, Outer Hebrides, photo by Yvonne Benting, Hebridean Imaging

In flight shot of the Harlequin Duck

We also added the Loch Sandary Pochard to our 2013 Western Isles list and my 100th species for the year was the Snow Geese that are on the fields near Loch Sandary.

Snow Geese. Yes, i put them on my list, well it is MY list so :-p

Snow Geese. Yes, i put them on my list, well it is MY list so :-p

Well, that’s me done with rattling on for now. We are leaving on the overnight ferry tomorrow night to head down to the mainland for Ian’s mum funeral 🙁 On a brighter note we’ll be able to at least catch up with friends and my family while we’re away. It will be both mine and my daughter’s birthday on the 19th and we already have a birding trip planned for that day 🙂

Finally here is a picture from a few years ago of Ian being silly as usual – he’s dressed up in the clothes that he had given to him by his Moroccan friends – or is he the genie that just popped out of the lamp (watering can) that his mum has just rubbed…

"Your wish is my command"

“Your wish is my command”