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Hebridean Imaging

Hebridean Imaging

moth

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!

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!

 

Work continues, as does the wind…

22nd April 2013 – Black-tailed Godwit added to the patch list. And the first Willow Warbler heard on the patch this year 🙂

23rd April 2013 – Wind blown. Another breezy day here today. I spent the day on the machair at Bornish, South Uist. Things were pretty quiet there birdwise although I did take some photos of some Whimbrel – they are passing through on migration at the moment. For my blip today I decided on this photo of the dunes – the sand is constantly blowing over from the beach and is gradually burying the fence line. I thought that in black and white the sand looks almost like a wave of water washing in.

Whimbrel, Bornish

Whimbrel, Bornish

Dunes at Bornish

Dunes at Bornish

Wheatear and Lesser Black-backed Gull added to the patch list.

24th April 2013 – A catching up on paperwork day. Lovely and sunny outside though and kept getting tempted out with the camera. Ian headed off for a walk this afternoon but I declined the invitation to join him. After an hour or so I got restless indoors and headed down to the beach to find him on his way home. After all the winds we’ve had there is so much seaweed on the beach, mountains of it when the tide is out. Added Razorbill and Whimbrel to the 2013 patch list.

Patch walk...

Patch walk…

25th April 2013 – Spent the day in North Uist working in and around the RSPB reserve at Balranald. A day of very mixed weather, started off with hail and 2.5’C and ended up with 9’C and sunshine! Eider are one of my favourite ducks, that green on the male’s head always seems such an unreal colour to me 🙂

Eider

Eider

26th April 2013 – Birds are my prime passion in life but are closely followed by an avid interest in moths. Knowing this our neighbour popped around earlier with this guy to be identified.

It’s a Brown House Moth – Hofmannophila pseudospretella a very common moth in the UK which apparently is an Asian species introduced into Europe in the 1840s. The wonderful habits of the larvae (caterpillar) include feeding on all the detritus that accumulates indoors behind skirting boards and other hidden places around the home.

Brown House Moth

Brown House Moth

27th April 2013 – Berneray all day today. Quite a few Ringed Plover around on the freshly ploughed machair. I haven’t found any nesting yet but i don’t suppose it will be long…

Ringed Plover

Ringed Plover

28th April 2013 – The following shot could have been great but sadly it’s not sharp enough! There were lots of Sand Martins (Riparia riparia – and know as Bank Swallow in North America) whizzing around the loch at the back of the C0-op this morning. The conditions were pretty horrible, strong winds (gusting to 47mph) but these amazing birds were still managing to find food – picking insects off the surface of the water.

I didn’t have my tripod with me and struggled with the mega beast (my 600mm lens) balanced on a fence post trying to take bird in flight photos. It was certainly a learning experience:-

* Take tripod
* Use a faster shutter speed! (This was taken at 1/640 sec but not quite fast enough)
* Practice should make perfect
* Feel grateful that i don’t have to struggle to survive by finding flies to eat in strong, cold winds

Sand Martin

Sand Martin

Arctic Tern added to the 2013 patch list.

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

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!

 

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