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Post Info TOPIC: The Uists and Barra, Hebrides

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RE: The Uists and Barra, Hebrides

Originally posted today by Rachael Hill:

Think we picked the perfect holiday week to go to our favourite island- North Uist

Well the black billed cuckoo was in staying just around the corner from us and popped out of the rose bush right in front of us (sorry no photos). It later on flew over our garden being hounded by local birds poor thing. I must admit, though I don't get driving half-way across the country for one bird, it was a stunning bird and I'm really pleased I got to see it.

We also had corncrakes in our garden and saw a few in the evenings. We also saw many buzzards, short eared owls, hen harriers, golden eagle, white tailed eagle, otters and dolphin and porpoises from the ferries. Loved seeing redshank, arctic terns and oystercatchers from the garden Amazing weather too. Love these islands, back again in August.


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Another 10 days just completed on the Uists and Barra. Seems to get better every time.

83 species recorded with 2 lifers: Storm Petrel from the ferry in the Minch, and, improbably, 3 European Bee Eaters at Castlebay in Barra at the weekend. I suppose it was a "twitch" really, but there was one other birder there from South Uist and the four of us. Such is the Hebrides.

Other highlights of this trip:

Short Eared Owl and Hen Harriers every day on Uist - the best session being one morning on the "Committee Road" on North Uist where a Short Eared Owl was mobbing a female Hen Harrier - their nests very near each other, I think.
Black Throated Diver and young again on Benbecula
Red Throated Diver on N Uist
Breeding plumage Great Northern Divers (singles) off N Uist, S Uist and Barra.
Red Necked Phalarope - several breeding -pairs on Benbecula.
Great Skua, Fulmar, Puffin, Guillemot, Razorbill in profusion on uninhabited Mingulay (spectacular boat trip from Barra)
Common Gulls for once really common
Redshank standing on fence posts - a Hebridean habit of theirs
Dunlin in dunes and Wheatear on beaches
Little Tern on Berneray (though not as many as last year)
Breeding family of Whooper Swan South Uist
Golden and White Tailed Eagle seen several times in several locations including a juvenile White Tailed about 20m over our heads as we picnicked between sand dunes on Barra.

Excellent otter watching at Balranald Nature Reserve on N Uist.

Some of the above though by no means all was again courtesy of Steve Duffield of Western Isles Wildlife.

Weather was pretty awful some of the time - temps up to 10 or 11 only with significant wind chill - but the birds seemed to be getting on with breeding! Not too sure how well it will have suited the Bee Eaters.


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Thanks for your report brings back great memories.

Can also support your recommendation of Steve Duffield, he is very good. Had a similar experience to your SEOwl with an otter with Steve. Camera left in the van!




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Spent a soul-stirring 10 days in the Uists and Barra in early July - our second visit to this area, and loved it even more than first time round. The Uists and Benbecula are spectacular places scenically and equally spectacular for wildlife, given the low population density, the rich resources of the machair lands, and the variety of habitat from sandy to rocky coast, machair to acid peatlands, and rocky mountain fastnesses. To cap it all, it's usually too windy for the infamous Scottish midge to take to the wing!

Highlights -

A day out with Steve Duffield of Western Isles Wildlife (highly recommended - especially when it's a birthday pressie from your kids!!) who showed us summer-plumage
Black Throated Diver - a pair with 1 young (lifer!)
Red-necked Phalarope pair (lifer!)

Both of these were on Benbecula

Also White Tailed Eagle and plenty of Red Throated Divers at Loch Eynort on S Uist (together with plenty of common seals)

Otherwise in the rest of the week, we climbed the almost water-surrounded high point of N Uist, Eaval, and watched a Golden Eagle circling below us from the summit - spellbinding.
Visited Balranald RSPB where a Corn Bunting posed beautifully, and the shore was rich with Dunlin, Bar-Tailed Godwit, and views out to St Kilda. Plenty of Arctic Tern still defending their young on the headland.
Walked a circuit of glorious Berneray (N end of N Uist) and visited the small Little Tern colony there - great views, as well as watching Gannets diving in the caribbean-blue waters of the Sound of Harris.
Heard, but this year did not SEE, Corncrakes.
On the way back, had an arm's length encounter with a perched Short-Eared Owl on a post by a passing place: the camera was in the boot at the time!! Fantastic view though.
Also at various places driving around, saw both male and female Hen Harrier.

On Barra, a White Tailed Eagle, a Great Skua, some Fulmar, and some Twite (only the second time I've recognised them).

Orchids were resplendent everywhere, including Lesser Butterfly Orchid on S Uist.

On the CalMac Ferry in glorious weather each way, plenty of Manx Shearwater, Gannet, Fulmar, and also Bottle Nosed Dolphin following the wake of the ship, and jumping fully out of the water - way the best view we've ever had of these.

Awesome trip!

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