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Hebridean Imaging

Hebridean Imaging


Stormy week!

Had a very stormy start to the week with high winds Monday and Tuesday. Monday was particularly abysmal with winds gusting to 60-odd miles an hour and horizontal snow.

This is what the swell chart looked like for Monday – you can’t fail to be impressed with this eh?!

Swell chart for Monday 4th Feb 2013

Swell chart for Monday 4th Feb 2013

Some video of the massive waves “up the Butt” from the Eoropie Tearoom Facebook page.

Shetland and Orkney have also been suffering, take a look at this footage of the lighthouse on Fair Isle from this blog post:

And a blog post from Fair Isle from the day after, with lots of pictures:

Since Wednesday it’s just been grey and drizzly but at least i’ve been able to get out every day for a walk around the patch. I was hoping something had been blown in but it was pretty quiet all along the beach.

I was very happy to add a couple more species to my 2013 patch list: a Moorhen was heard calling from the reeds by Loch Hallan and then two days later one was on the loch at the front of the house. Friday i added the 60th species – Dunlin when three were on the beach with the other waders (Barwits, Oycs, Sanderling, Ringed Plover, Turnstones). Nice flock of 24 Long-tailed Duck not far offshore.

Met RSPB Stuart on my walk back across the machair and had a chat with him, hoped he might be able to point me in the direction of some on-patch Corn Buntings no luck but we had a nice chat in the pouring rain, swapping tales of what we hadn’t seen, bemoaning the lack of Glaucs and Iceland Gulls here this winter.

Ian is still away down in Essex and getting ever more twitchy to get back to the island. I sent him a phone photo from the beach – it was completely empty, not a person in sight in any direction, no sounds apart from the birds and the sea. He sent a very grumpy text back saying he was in Ikea surrounded by hundreds of other shoppers. Shame 😉

It’s been nice for the last few weeks, my friend Jane has been visiting here from Lewis and we’ve had plenty of time for long chats and girly nights with lots of glasses of wine. 🙂 Jane’s been working down here but in her spare time has been sketching and painting. Up in Lewis she runs the Blue Pig studio in Carloway. You can click on the two following photos to visit Jane’s facebook page.

One of Jane's Uist sketches

One of Jane’s Uist sketches

Jane's favourite birds are waders

Jane’s favourite birds are waders

Is spring on it’s way? There were quite a few Redwings around on Friday, are they beginning to make a move back north?

Well Saturday dispelled that Spring theory as i went to do the monthly Winter Thrushes Survey and didn’t find a single Redwing or Fieldfare! A smattering of Blackbirds and Song Thrushes only. Mind you as i walked through the woods at North Locheynort it was noticeably noisier – plenty of Robins and Wrens singing.

Winter Thrushes Survey, Locheynort. Beinn Mhor had it's head in the mist.

Winter Thrushes Survey, Locheynort. Beinn Mhor had it’s head in the mist.

Saturday afternoon had a phone call which said “would you like a Heron?” Well, yes, why not? My friend Louise turned up with a Grey Heron that she’d found dead in her garden after the storm the other day. Poor thing. I’m always up for a learning experience though and i haven’t handled any fully grown herons so i had a good look at it, got Baker* out to see about the ageing. I came to the conclusion that it was a bird hatched last year: grey crown with just a little dark streaking. Short dark grey ornamental feathers. The bird had died in pretty poor condition, there was virtually no muscle on the breast.

Grey Heron

Grey Heron

Grey Heron, wing

Grey Heron, wing

Sunday’s weather was pretty poor (pouring rain and breezy) and i didn’t venture out but still managed to have a quick scan around the patch using the ‘scope out of the front window – the best sight was an otter running from Loch Hallan, across the golf course and machair and into the dunes.

*Identification Guide to European Non-Passerines (BTO Guide 24), Kevin Baker, 1993

Saved from winter camping

I had this idea to head off to Barra, on foot, with my tent and equipment to carry out Winter Thrush Surveys on two of the BTO’s randomly allocated squares over there. I had this image in my head of cold, crisp but sunny weather and lying snug in my sleeping bag. It’s so expensive to take the car over from Uist to Barra that i couldn’t even contemplate that.

After mentioning my intentions to a friend she said that she was doing some locum work over there in early January (she’s a GP) and said that i would be more than welcome to stay with her for a couple of nights in the 2-bedroomed apartment that she was renting for her stay. Not being that much of a masochist “oh, OK, thanks!” was my reply. So i had a couple of nights comfy, warm accommodation and a couple of evenings in the pub. Although there was some sense of having wimped out, this turned out to be a good move as the weather was bloody awful! Wet and pretty breezy for the whole two days!

Great view from the accommodation in Castlebay

The first thrush square was just north of Barra’s main town, Castlebay, which entailed walking out into a wet, soggy valley.  Not a single thrush to be found!

A walk up the soggy valley hunting for thrushes…

The next day i ventured up to the north-west of Barra, just west of Northbay, luckily this 1 km square had a road, the A888, running straight through the middle of it so although it was wet the going was easy and straightforward. Again, not a single thrush, although i find it very hard to believe that the few vegetated gardens i passed didn’t even hold a Blackbird. Obviously the Blackbird’s have more sense than me and had found a dry place to shelter.

Barra, still beautiful even in the mist and rain 🙂

I skulked around Castlebay for a little while on my return to town and was rewarded with the sight of a Sparrowhawk – species number 80 on the 2013 list 🙂

Ah well, it was a good trip, a nice couple of days blethering with Louise and getting half licked to death by her dog (a nutty black lab called Maowi).

For more details about participating in the BTO’s Winter Thrushes Survey please see: