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Hebridean Imaging

Hebridean Imaging

seaweed

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.

Off to work….

15th April 2013 – A hard day in the office… First day in my new job, i have a three and a half month contract doing breeding wader surveys, working for RSPB/Machair Life+ It’s not exactly an onerous task – getting paid for what i love to do anyway.

This is my mobile bird hide (Vauxhall Combo Van) and office in one of my survey locations (RSPB reserve at Balranald, North Uist). I will be here once a week. I have four other locations that I will carry out vantage point surveys from so I will visit each one once a week. I also have transect surveys to do, these need to be done either early morning or later in the evening, my plan is to do them early mornings then move on to my vantage point surveys.

Mobile office

Mobile office

16th April 2013 – Took this shot on my way home from work, it’s the main road that goes through South Uist, the A865.

It’s been raining on and off all day and pretty breezy. I was amazed at how quickly the streams and ditches had filled with water – i know we needed the rain but now it looks like it’s not going to stop! We’ve had around 10mm in the last 24 hours. I felt a bit sorry for the cyclist in the photo – not a good day to be out and about on a bike in Uist!

But even in the gloom and rain it still looks rather beautiful.

A dull and rainy day in South Uist

A dull and rainy day in South Uist

A walk around the patch, Manx shearwater, Great Skua and Fulmar added.

17th April 2013 –  Still very wet and pretty breezy today. Work entailed spending some time at the RSPB reserve at Balranald, conditions were just too horrible to be able to get any bird photographs. Had to get filmed for the BBC Scotland programme Landward. God, I hope they don’t show my bit, how embarrasing will that be. I really can’t stand doing things like this. I can blether away happily to anyone but as soon as you point a camera at me my brain seizes up and I become a mumbling idiot. The team were great and very professional. I felt sorry for the cameraman who was outside filming the presenter, Dougie, and I who were inside the van. He said that his camera had already stopped working a few times earlier in the day when he was filming the ploughing. Perhaps i’ll get lucky and it’ll be no good for showing on the telly…

There were a few Corn Buntings and a flock of around 30 Twite active near the visitor centre and not much else about. Amazingly the Skylarks were singing despite the wind and rain. A male Shoveler was on a flooded area of field near the centre too.

Took this shot of a rather choppy Loch Bee, South Uist on my way back home – a brief sunny interval and break in the clouds.

Made a solemn vow never to do television stuff ever again even if i am begged or offered a million quid. I’m just not cut out for it. Too much of an introvert.

Loch Bee

Loch Bee

18th April 2013 –  Another day of squally showers. I worked in Berneray today, a wee island to the north of North Uist. Until 1999 Berneray was separated from Uist and the only way to get there was by boat. A causeway was built and opened in 1999.

Today’s photo is a boat I pass every time I go to Berneray, i’m unsure whether it’s even sea-worthy any more as it’s always hauled out. In nice weather I often see a man sitting drinking coffee on deck. I would like to stop and chat with him sometime, ask him the story of the boat. In the far distance, on the horizon, you can see Harris.

Berneray Boat

Berneray Boat

19th April 2013 – Stinky goodness! My job today took me to the machair at Iochar. As soon as I saw this rusting tractor, which had been hard at work spreading rotting seaweed onto some of the plots that I was surveying, I knew I would have to photograph it. The seaweed is collected in the winter and left to rot in piles and is then used by crofters as a natural fertiliser on the machair.

I will definitely be making a print of this one for my dad – he’s a tractor fanatic and has a lovingly restored Ferguson T20 – the first tractor he used as a young man in the late 1940s

Stinky goodness!

Stinky goodness!

21st April 2013 – I spent the morning working – not my everyday job but my self-employed stuff that I had to catch up with this weekend. This included a job I was dreading – a client’s web site which had been in situ since 2006, updated in 2010, now needs it’s SQL database relocating – the hosting company are doing away with the current version so everything had to be migrated to a new database. I was expecting problems. Amazingly enough everything went smoothly!

For my photography course homework photo I chose to use a metal sculpture which is located outside the nearby Kildonan Museum. The sculpture is by Malcolm Robertson and was commissioned to celebrate the re-opening of the museum in 1998. The sculpture is cut from sheet metal and embedded in a base of locally quarried stone. The words are from a Gaelic emigrant song.

Kildonan sculpture

Kildonan sculpture

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!