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Hebridean Imaging

Hebridean Imaging

weather

Dreary weather. Then sunshine and a cleg invasion…

15th July 2013 – At long last i’m catching up with my photography course and have spent most of the day trying to be creative, preparing my assignment for submission. Apart from the frantic creativity i was up to much more mundane things like going backwards and forwards to Benbecula to take the car for MOT and service.

Dull and dreary yet again.  I guess the rest of the UK has been basking in sunshine yet again. Doesn’t seem like we have seen the sun in days here! Ah well two weeks tomorrow and i’m heading for the warmth and sunshine – it’s going to come as bit of a shock to the system!

17th July 2013 – The rest of the UK is still scorching, they are announcing Heatwave Health Alerts in some places. We should be so lucky here – i’m beginning to lose track of how many days it is since we’ve seen the sun – i think it might have been last Friday, today is Wednesday.

There was no mail into the island yesterday or today – the plane couldn’t land. This loch is at the end of the road and usually has a variety of birds on it, the species depends on the time of year. There is a pair of Mute Swans with young at the moment but they were hiding today.

Misty day

Misty day

19th July 2013 – A weekend trip to Lewis and chance to catch up with friends, get my hair cut and visit the photographic exhibitions that are on at An Lanntair in Stornoway. Sunday was a beautiful day and I would have liked to say that I’d enjoyed a walk around the sea loch at Carloway, I went as far as the pier. Trouble is the warmth and sunshine had brought all the clegs out and I got bitten three times on my arm 🙁 Luckily I had some anti-histamine tablets with me!

I always enjoy a walk around the loch

I always enjoy a walk around the loch, but mostly when it isn’t infested with clegs…

The sea loch at Carloway

The sea loch at Carloway

Carloway (my old house in the distance)

View up the crofts from the sea loch

 

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!

Spring, arriving slowly. A little bit of winter still around…

30th April 2013 – 300 Barnacle Geese flew north over the house early this morning, new for the 2013 patch. A day spent working out on Bornish machair doing bird surveys. Today started very calm and sunny which was lovely but it gradually got windier as the day went on. This very bold Goldfinch ( Carduelis carduelis) was in the garden this afternoon when i got home.

Goldfinch

Goldfinch

At the end of April my 2013 patch list stands at 88 species.

1st May 2013 –  :-O I’m *ot able to write much today, i spilt coffee o* my keyboard & a letter *ot work *ow 🙁 Hope it dries out by tomorrow!

This Skylark kept sitti*g o* this large pile of cow du*g but every time i poi*ted the camera at it it flew off. Patie*ce was rewarded eve*tually!

Skylark

Skylark

2nd May 2013 –  Where’s summer?! These two wet male Wheatear’s shelter from the weather, they must be thinking  what the hell have they come to the Hebrides for! It was very cold sitting in the van for hours on end doing my vantage point surveys, just 4’C and that horrible damp feeling cold. I was at Iochar today and after the first three hours I took a break and popped along to the cafe at Hebridean Jewellery and warmed up with a hot chocolate. Just the job!

Two bedraggled male Wheatears

Two bedraggled male Wheatears

3rd May 2013 – Little Tern Sterna albifrons. Happy to see these summer visitors today!

Little Tern

Little Tern

4th May 2013 – Computer keyboard is 6 keys down still. The coffee spill turned out to be fatal, awaiting delivery of new keyboard. Using iPad to write diary. Anyway, it’s been a wet and windy day yet again but at least i didn’t have to work today – much as i love my job it was nice not to have to get up at just gone 6am! I spent the day catching up on the papers and some magazines and will also get on and do some course work.

Rainy day reading matter

Rainy day reading matter

5th May 2013 – Found wandering around in the garden this morning 🙂 Common sandpiper (Actitis hypoleucos). In summer it breeds here by lochs and streams. Sunday, so had a walk around the patch. Apart from the Common Sandpiper I added Brent Goose to the patch list taking me up to a nice round 90 species for the year.

Common Sandpiper

Common Sandpiper

Brent Goose, 90th species for my 2013 patch list

Brent Goose, 90th species for my 2013 patch list

Twite

Twite

6th May 2013 – Well the male Wheatear’s are looking much more cheerful now – the females have turned up! I watched a pair while I was working this morning, they were checking out suitable nesting holes.

Wheatear, female

Wheatear, female

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

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