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Hebridean Imaging

Hebridean Imaging

machair

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!

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!

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