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Bird Sightings : Hebrides : August 2008

 

 

 

 

This table is Hebrides Bird Sightings period August, 2008


Stonechat photo by Debbie Bozkurt to give us a smile

Could it be...?

Exercising
A cheerleader
Doing Semphore
Airing hot armpits
Showing off muscles
Tightrope walking
Indicating food is over here...
Conducting the dawn chorus
Tic tac - (bookie's betting language)
Catching midges
Don't go without me!

Looks like landing directions to me (John M)
A wingless wonder (Liz)
Thank-you fans (EP)

The Secret Language of Birds

"Last Thursday evening I was out in the fields looking for Ragwort, when I became aware of the movement of a bird out of the corner of my eye. I looked round and watched alargeish bird flying about 10/15 feet above the ground and at one point it seemed to go int the grass and have askirmish with something. Its flight was quite erratic/jerky kind of going down to the ground and back up to 10/15 feet. It hovered at one stage.

It did this for about a minute and then settled on apost about 15 feet from me, and seemed to be looking in my direction. I stood stock still. It then took of and flew towards me, and passed straight overhead - about 5/6 feet - and as it did so, gave a small cheep/squeak. For asecond I thought it was about to have a go for the bobble on my bobble hat, but it continued on and flew in awide circle around the field overlapping the previous flight plan but a bit further to my left - I was looking towards the sea so it would have been moving Lionel direction.

It was a light / medium brown bird with some white feathers. I could see it quite clearly especially when it turned to look at me when on the fence post. I've looked at Wikepedia pictures so I think it was probably a barn owl tho' didn't seem to have such awhite underside as shown.

Later...

hello again - maybe it was a Tawny Owl - I've just had alook at the Wikepedia and it seems more like it - less of a white underside.
Martin A
Port of Ness
Isle of Lewis

 

Tawny owls have been found in Ness but not for about 40 years (by my reference book), very rare here
Barn owls - about 5 records ever.
Another short-eared owl maybe? (Resident breeder in Uists & passage migrant, there was one in Point, Isle of Lewis a couple of weeks ago)
If you see it again please let us know ASP as several folk want to try for a photo...

"Maybe it was a short eared - my knowledge is very limited - the hovering aspect seemed to fit OK - the colouring yes - and the 'erratic' flightbut I did not get the yellow eyes and it went over my head by about 5/6 feet - tho' it was dusk say 20.45 hours. I'll get out there again one evening about the same time and check to see if its on a regular haunt.Martin"

Steve Round has some super pics of a short-eared owl on his web site that might help with ID

Sunday 31st August, 2008 Sabine's Gulls

Lochmaddy Offshore - South

  • Passage visitor
  • 140 annual UK records
  • Breeds: Arctic (forms colonies)
  • Winters: Pacific and Atlantic Ocean
  • Habitat: Coastal wet heath during breding season, mostly at sea otherwise
  • Diet: Fish and small invertebrates
  • Smaller than a black-headed gull
  • Juvenile sounds like a young tern
  • BTO records
 
Sunday 31st August, 2008 Storm Petrel Lochmaddy Offshore - South
  • European Storm-petrel
  • AKA: Little Peter, Storm Petrel
  • Hydrobates pelagicus
  • Migrant Breeder
  • AMBER LIST, 27,000 pairs UK (Summer) BTO
  • See from Westerly seawatching places when a gale blows to shore
  • Breeds: Islands: UK (Western & Northern Isles) & North & West of Europe. Forms colonies. (UK May - September). (Nests: crevices & burrows, holes in stone walls. Visits the nest at night)
  • Winters: Leaves September - October to seas off South Africa
  • Feeds in flocks: planktonic crustaceans & small fish (picked from surface - hovering: wings up in V shape, flutttering & bat-like) Follows ships (comes ashore only to feed at NIGHT)
  • Smallest seabird. (sparrow-sized) . All black, white rump, tail square-tipped or rounded, NOT forked, white rump patch reaches far down the side (Leach's only part-way down) , broad white band on underwing (Leachs' none)
  • Listen storm petrel RSPB site ( trills & purrs)
  • Similar birds: leach's storm petrel, house martin (forked tails)
 
Sunday 31st August, 2008 Canada Geese Breasclete - Isle of Lewis

"Pair of large Canada Geese near to the greylags settling down for the evening on fields twix road and loch...

Then on a post near them I saw a what's that?!!! - I got a very out of focus pic at from a distance ... saw a rabbit run within 6 feet of it and the bird did not move...

Then en route travelling just a few miles saw a 2 merlins, 3 buzzards, and a sparrowhawk all sitting on posts...what amazing evening.. BLISS!! "

Bird Sightings

Got this slighty better picture on Tuesday 2nd Sept..in the same spot....as you can see it's quite a large bird (this is a corner strainer post which is about 7 inches across the top)

Any ideas anyone?

 

"i think the bird is a Common Buzzard (finer featured and too white on the breast for any of the Eagles), and a youngster going by the colour of its head. I would know for sure if i could get a better look at the tail.

...I cant see the eyes clearly in the photo but if it is a youngster it should show a pale iris.
Also, if the bird was perched close to human habitation, it is more likely to be a Buzzard.
This is not a reliable way to differentiate between Eagle and Buzzard, one daft Eagle usually turns up in someones garden , normally just after i utter these words, but generally, Golden eagles in particular will avoid contact with people at all costs."
Frank

SK
Sunday 31st August, 2008 Snowy Owl

Balranald - North Uist

   
Sunday 31st August, 2008 Lapand Bunting Butt of Lewis
  • Scarce breeder, passage - winter visitor
  • 350 birds in UK (winter)
  • Breeds: Arctic Europe, Asia, Canada, North America. Birch, willow, bare mountains areas
  • Winters: South to Central Europe, Central Asia, South America, cultivated land or coasts, wet meadows
  • Arrives September - October, leaves by May
  • Chunky yellow seed-eater bill. Mixed species flocks
  • Winter males: very noticeable black crown, face & throat. White eyestripe. Chestnut nape. White below. Heavily streaked black-grey back
  • Diet: seeds (summer invertebrates)
  • BTO records
  • Listen to a lapland bunting - RSPB site
 
Sunday 31st August, 2008 Sooty Shearwater Butt of Lewis    
Friday 29th August, 2008 Sooty Shearwaters Butt of Lewis Less than 20 sooties reported today  
Friday 29th August, 2008 Iceland Gull Loch Stiapabhat - Ness - Isle of Lewis

2nd winter bird

  • Iceland Gull
  • Larus glaucoides
  • Uncommon winter and passage visitor , scarce in summer
  • 70 - 80 birds (usually singular) winter in UK RSPB
  • Usually smaller than herring gull. All plumages very pale, no black in wings or tail. Immatures pale-creamy brown with fine barring. Rounded head, large dark eyes. Flight: "short-necked", very pale wings - white tips
  • Breeds: Arctic Canada, Greenland (not Iceland)
  • Winters: North Atlantic, South to North Europe - UK, East coast USA
  • Habitat: Seacoasts, lakes
  • Diet: It's an omnivore: Mostly fish, some carrion, eggs & young of other birds
  • Similar birds: Glaucous gull (they're usually larger & more frequent

In the Western Isles we usually get about twenty Iceland Gull records in winter, and just one or two in summer.

The BTO migration Atlas estimates 100 - 200 birds wintering in the UK.

 
Friday 29th August, 2008 Meadow Pipits Croir - Gt Bernera "200+ came in from sea at NE tip of Gt Bernera then headed W along coast - lovely autumn fresh colour - lots of stragglers. The most I've seen in the village " SK
Thursday 28th August, 2008 Sooty Shearwaters

Howmore - South Uist

+ Scopaig - North Uist

Less than 15 sooties reported today  
Thursday 28th August, 2008 Snowy Owl

Balranald - North Uist

   
Thursday 28th August, 2008 Lapand Bunting Scolpaig - North Uist    
Thursday 28th August, 2008 Black-tailed Godwit Howmore - South Uist    
Thursday 28th August, 2008 Spotted Redshank Scopaig - North Uist
  • Spotted Redshank
  • Tringa erythropus
  • UK Passage/Winter Visitor. Southward migration July - August. Most birds go through UK in September. Wintering birds leave April - May
  • AMBER LIST (50%+ of UK wintering population found in just 10 sites). UK 420 passage records annually BTO , 80 - 400 wintering (RSPB).
  • Breeds: North Europe, North Asia, Northern Siberia
  • Winters: Europe - Mediterranean to South-East Asia, China, Africa
  • Habitat: Wetlands, marshy tundra. (Migration: coastal wet meadows & mudflats)
  • Diet: (Wades in deep water, swims, sometimes dabbling bottom-up like a duck). Insects- larvae, shrimps, worms.
  • Bit larger than redshank. Summer adults almost all black, wings have some white spotting. Back has white wedge shape - noticeably in flight. Tail barred. Winter: grey back, paler below, & more prominent eye stripe than redshank. NO white wing bars.
  • Listen to a spotted redshank (RSPB site)
  • Similar birds: redshank, greenshank
 
Thursday 28th August, 2008 Ruff Howmore - South Uist
  • Ruff (female also called Reeve)
  • Philomachus pugnax
  • Gaelic: Gibeagan
  • UK: Migrant Breeder, Passage/Winter Visitor. AMBER LIST. 700 birds winter BTO . Breeding 37 males RSPB
  • WI: Scarce (sometimes uncommon) passage visitor Mar - - Oct peak occurences Aug/Sept . Approx 50 a year. May have bred
  • Breeds: Bogs, marshes, wet meadows. Nests in short vegetation. Females raise the young. Northern Europe, Russia, Asia
  • Winters: South of breeding range to Africa, India, Australia
  • Habitat: Grassy tundra, croftland, farmland, machair, lakes (migration mudflats)
  • Diet: Forages wet grassland & mud, probing or by sight. Mainly insects, earthworms, some plant material, seeds (winter), larvae, frogs, small fish
  • Medium-sized wader (22-32cm length). Pot-bellied profile. Long neck, small head. Medium, slightly drooping bill. Yellowish-orange med-long legs.
    Breeding males spectacular black, chestnut or white neck ruffs & head tufts. Backs grey-brown. White below except for black breast. Flight: Faint wing-stripe & oval white patches either side of the tail. Gregarious - a wintering flock of 1 million occured (Senegal)
  • Max recorded age 9yrs
  • Similar bird: Redshank
  • Listen to a Ruff (RSPB site)

A few birds are present in the UK all year round. The ruff is usually present as a migrant, young birds from Scandinavia visiting the UK in late summer, then heading on to winter in Africa. The birds which winter in the UK are usually found near the coast.

 
Wednesday 27th August, 2008 Pale-bellied Brent Geese Griminish Pt - South Uist
  • Brent Goose (Pale-bellied brent goose, light-bellied brent goose, Atlantic Brant)
  • Branta bernicla
  • Gaelic: Gèadha-got
  • WI Passage migrant, April to Mid-May & Sept to Oct. Rare winter visitor
  • UK AMBER LIST, (101,000 birds winter) BTO
  • Breeds: North Russia, North America, Canada, Greenland, Spitsbergen
  • Winters: South of breeding range to USA, Africa, China,
  • Habitat: Tundra, (migration marshes, estuaries)
  • Diet: Grazing inter-tidal eelgrass and other vegetation
  • Smallest & darkest goose (mallard sized). Black head & neck. Grey-brown back. Grey-white lower breast & flanks 'pale-bellied'. Short, stubby bill. (Adults small white neck patch). Pure-white under-tail. Tail black & very short (shortest of any goose).
  • Flies in loose flocks (not skeins)
  • Max age 18yr 10mths
  • Listen to a brent goose (RSPB site)

The Western Isles birds are usually passage migrants, the 'pale-bellied' birds that breed in the Eastern Canadian Arctic and winter in Ireland. This species makes the longest migration of any goose (4735 miles). Some parts of it's journey are non-stop for up to 1800 miles.

Brent geese are very dependent upon inter-tidal eel-grass and in the 1950's this plant declined due to a parasitic disease and the UK wintering brent numbers dropped drastically. Measures were introduced to recover the eelgrass and there are now about 100,000 brents in the UK in winter, roughly an eight-fold increase on the 1950's numbers.

 
Wednesday 27th August, 2008 Sooty Shearwaters

Griminish Pt - South Uist

Less than 10 sooties reported today  

"spent a brief day on north uist yesterday didnt manage to meet up with a short eared owl we did look hard .Will be back!
Sightings 27th North Uist
A trio of Golden eagles
Numerous Buzzards
Female hen harrier
Female kestrel
Sparrowhawk
Male merlin
Corncrake"

Andy L

Wednesday 27th August, 2008 Ruff Barvas - Isle of Lewis    
Wednesday 27th August, 2008 Snowy Owl

Balranald - North Uist

   

A quick visit to our neighbours at the Icelandic Birding Pages:

20th - 26th August 2008 included

Ring-billed Gull, approx 50 Sooty Shearwaters, Barred-tail Godwit, WoodWarbler, Barred Warbler, American Wigeon, Willow Warbler, Eursian Curlews, Grey Heron ...

Thank-you Yann

Tuesday 26th August, 2008 Snowy Owl

Balranald - North Uist

   
Tuesday 26th August, 2008 Sooty Shearwaters

Butt of Lewis

less than 20 reported today  
Monday 25th August, 2008 Sabine's Gull

Ardvule - South Uist

   
Monday 25th August, 2008 Manx Shearwater Ardvule - South Uist Over 1500 birds today !!!
  • Manx Shearwater
  • Puffinus puffinus
  • UK AMBER LIST, 295 thousand pairs (Summer) BTO
  • UK Migrant Breeder
  • Breeds: Colonies on rat-free North Atlantic islands. Burrows & coastal cliffs. Just one white egg - only visited at night-time so avoiding large gull predation. Leaves breeding site in July, migrates to South American coast for winter, returns late February and March.
  • Diet: From surface or diving: Mostly fish, (especially) herrings, sardines and sprats, small crustaceans, offal
  • Small shearwater, (30-38cm long). Long, straight, slender wings. Black upperparts. White underparts.
  • Bird most often seen in flight from West coast sea-watching points on spring and autumn migration. Cross-shaped. Very low-flying (wingtips almost touch sea). Wings stiff, few beats, bird changes colour - black to white as alternately the upper and below parts are exposed as it dips from one side to the other, shearing/banking over the sea.
  • Lives mostly at sea out of breeding season (Pelagic). Forms life-long monogamous pair-bonds.
  • Average lifespan 5yrs, Max recorded 40yr 10mths (longest living bird in UK). One bird said to have lived 55 years!
  • Listen to a Manx Shearwater (RSPB site). It is said that the Vikings, on hearing the call of the Manxie on the Isle of Isle of Rum were terrified that the locals were trolls!
  • Similar birds: Great Shearwater, Sooty Shearwater
 
Monday 25th August, 2008 Pomarine Skua Ardvule - South Uist
  • Pomarine Skua (From Latin pomarin : covered nose - the cere on the bill)
  • AKA: Pom, Pomarine Jaeger
  • Gaelic: Fàsgadair donn
  • Stercorarius pomarinus
  • WI: Common spring passage visitor & occasional on autumn passage
  • See at seawatching places late April - May & Aug - Nov
  • Breeds: Arctic tundra & Islands: Greenland, North Russia, North of America, North Europe, North Asia
  • Winters: Seacoasts: Tropical oceans, West African coast
  • Herring gull size seabird, long & twisted spoon-shaped tail streamers, wing has small white double flashes
  • 3 adult colour phases. Light-phase: Brown back, mainly white below. Head & neck yellowish-white, black cap. Dark-phase: Dark brown. Intermeadiate-phase: Dark with paler underparts, head and neck.
  • Diet: Breeding grounds: Lemmings (small rodents). Elsewise eggs, other birds (will kill a common gull), winter fish. Pirate (will steal from a gannet!), scavenges
  • Similar birds: Arctic skua, Long-tailed skua, great skua
 
Monday 25th August, 2008 Great Skua Ardvule - South Uist
  • Stercorarius skua - Catharacta skua
  • AKA: Bonxie
  • Passage visitor, migrant breeder
  • 9600 pairs UK in Summer BTO
  • Adults stout & dark, streaked grey-brown, black cap, juveniles warm-brown, unstreaked below, tail short & blunt. Flight direct & powerful. ID from other skuas: Herring Gull size, barrel chest, white wing flashes
  • Breeds: Western Isles, North Scotland, Faeroes, Iceland, Norway
  • Winters: North Atlantic, North & South America, Spanish Coast, Africa
  • Habitat: Coastal moorland, rocky islands, Winter: seacoasts
  • Diet: Fish from sea, other seabirds (kill to size great black-backed gull), piracy (robs terns, gulls, gannets!)
  • Listen to great skua RSPB site
  • Similar birds Arctic Skua, Pomarine Skua
 
Monday 25th August, 2008 Arctic Skua Ardvule - South Uist    
Monday 25th August, 2008 Spotted Redshank Ardvule - South Uist    
Monday 25th August, 2008 Storm Petrel Ardvule - South Uist    
Monday 25th August, 2008 Sooty Shearwaters

Labost - Isle of Lewis

Approx 60 birds in todays reports  
Sunday 24th August, 2008 Sooty Shearwaters

Mangersta - Uig - Isle of lewis

+Labost - Isle of Lewis

+ Ardvule - South Uist

(Approx 25 sooties total in the 3 reports - the first birds of this major movement heading off to their breeding grounds were from the East coast of England on Saturday)  
Sunday 24th August, 2008

Balearic Shearwater

Mangersta - Uig - Isle of lewis

Single

  • Balearic Shearwater
  • Puffinus mauretanicus
  • UK: RED LIST Critically endangered. 2000 birds annually BTO
  • Breeds: Burrows & coastal cliffs in Balearic Islands & Mediterranean in Jan & Feb. Burrows only visited at night-time avoiding large gull predation. Vulnerable to rat predation.
  • Winters: Most in Balearic sea / Mediterranean. Some reach the Atlantic Ocean in late summer (then range north to Great Britain & Ireland).
  • Habitat: Seabird (Pelagic), breeds in island burrows & cliffs
  • Diet: Mostly small fish, also squid & molluscs
  • Flight shearing (dips from side to side with stiff wings & few wing beats, wingtips almost touch water). Looks like flying cross - wings held right angles to body. Colour changes dusky brown to paler shade as the dark above & paler below alternately exposed, but not contrasting strongly like a Manx.
 
Sunday 24th August, 2008 Storm Petrel Ardvule - South Uist    
Sunday 24th August, 2008 Spotted Redshank Ardvule - South Uist    

The final photo from Bob Medland's trip to the Shiants (in late July) ringing Puffins and others ...

Bird Sightings - Puffinery

"This one is the parting shot then, of the Puffinery on Garbh Eilean..."

Bob Medland

Puffins bring up baby pufflings in puffinries - underground burrows

Sunday 24th August, 2008 Glaucous Gull Barvas - Isle of Lewis    

Another photo from Bob Medland's trip to the Shiants (in late July) ringing Puffins and others ...

Bird Sightings - Puffin "I wasn't sure which of many Puffin pics to send ... I have some 'traditional' shots showing a beak full of sandeels - but then I rather like this one, looking out to sea amidst all the aerial activity and Lewis in the distance. It was taken at the Airghean a' Bhàigh Puffinery on the north side of Garbh Eilean."

Bob Medland

According to the Birds Brittanica the allcomers record for one puffin's beakfull of fish is 62 fish!


Bird sightings - Black-throated Diver "i still havn't had any joy tracking down the point short-eared owl but its not for a want of looking .Im hoping to get down to north uist this week for the day weather dependant so fingers crossed and all that !!!
Enclosed is a pic of what i suspect is a black-throated diver flying across barvas moor on wednesday (at range) and it can be clearly seen carrying a large fish."

Andy l
Barvas Moor, Isle of Lewis
Sunday 24th August, 2008
 
 
Saturday 23rd August 2008 Whimbrel Butt of Lewis

"...two golden eagles showed as the sky cleared for a moment earlier in the day, but the best sighting for me was a solitary Whimbrel...lots of Ringed Plover, Dunlin, Turnstone on the beaches near the Butt..."

  • 350 - 500 pairs breed in the UK
  • 3000 birds UK passage - winters South Africa
  • WI rare migrant breeder, rare winter visitor, passage migrant
  • like a curlew (is bit smaller), In flight, shows a white 'V' shape up its back from the tail. Very distinct dark stripe eye to bill, pale mid-crown stripe
  • distinctive call hear it on the RSPB site
  • tundra, moor, heath, on passage marsh & estuary

Whimbrel are long-distance migrants, with breeding grounds in the sub-arctic zones of North Europe, North Asia and North America. 350 to 500 pairs breed in the UK, but none further South than the Grampian Mountains. We get an occasional record of a territory in the Western Isles, usually the bird seen here is on passage, and is the nominate race phaeopus which breeds from NE Greenland to Central Siberia and Winters along the W and E coast of Africa and along the coasts of the Indian Ocean .

Peter H

 

Another photo from Bob Medland's trip to the Shiants (in late July) ringing Puffins and others ...

Bird sightings - Razorbill raft "Here's one showing the raft of Razorbills between Garbh Eilean and Eilean Mhuire. We watched the chicks tumble their way down the scree and across the beach and then paddling out to the wait flock of adults, all the time running the gauntlet of the gulls and Bonxies. Inevitably a number of them didn't make it. All very dramatic and nature in the raw."

Bob Medland

 

"thought you migth be interested in recent response to BirdTrack (6th August 2008) - the dates are slightly outwith now and the hay has been cut on the croft - I might be migrating for the winter too. More recently I saw two very large birde high above Adabroc 'floating' eastwards and they then seemedto be joined by a third simlar bird already circling there - it would have been about 6 in the evening about 3 weeks ago

Out here / up here at the north end of the Isle of Lewis, we are seeing the return of the Geese, Ravens are playing in the thermals above the nearby sea-cliffs and the gannets are going in like guidedmissiles. There don't seem to be so many Fulmars on the cliffs tho this is not a scientific assessment - just ahunch.

The Corncrakes are still here. I've seen two separate events of juvenile birds practising their short flight-and-flop-back-into-the-cover routine in the last couple of weeks. Their dark brown plumage being very eye catching. One at a distance of about 5 metres in a CornCrake Corners, and the other down the field at about 50/60 metres clearly visible against the light fawn colour of the haygrass, in the evning. The hay cut will of course not be until beginning of September, and will allow for any birds who might have 'overstayed'. There was some calling a few days ago so there's a guy out theer still hoping! Am planning to improve the early and late cover for next year. I.ve enjoyed a couple of other sightings in May / June of birds walking cautiously from cover to cover, and of course vociferous callling from 3 separate locations in the vicinity of my croft and neighbouring
Martin A

Thursday 21st August, 2008 Glaucous Gull Barvas - Isle of Lewis
  • Glaucous Gull
  • Larus hyperboreus
  • Winter Visitor, 200+ UK (winter) RSPB
  • Breeds Arctic & Northern Atlantic European coasts: Greenland, Iceland, North Russia, North North America. (nests on ground or cliffs)
  • Winters: Mostly North Atlantic & North Pacific oceans, some go as far south as Northern Mexico
  • Large gull: bigger, bulkier than herring gull. Pale wingtips (no black in wings & tail)
    Adult pearl-grey above, thick yellow bill. Immatures: very pale-grey, creamy-white or biscuit coloured with pink & black bill.
    More fierce looking than similar (smaller) Iceland gull
  • Habitat: Seacoasts, lakes, rubbish tips, reservoirs, fishing ports (with other winter gulls)
  • Diet: Omnivorous: mostly animals, also other seabirds ( in flight) scavenges carrion, scraps & is a pirate
  • Listen glaucous gull (RSPB site)
  • Similar birds: herring gull, Iceland gull
 

There is a national Greylag Goose count about to take place on the island. It is being organised by the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust and supported by SNH, but RSPB are co-ordinating the count for Lewis and Harris.

I am sure at this stage I do not have to raise the issues around geese, but you will be aware that, as such, this count will be feed into future national/government goose policy and actions.

The intention is to do it in the last few days in August but at this juncture I am pulling together where the birds are currently. Most are still in family groups post moult and are moving into inbye areas. Often they can be difficult to pick out, even large groups, if they are just over a rise or hillock, so any info will be gratefully received

Could you let me know of any particular 'hang outs' of geese in your area so that we can ensure that goose counts are as accurate as possible. Any counts between now and the end of August that you can send would also be helpful and will add to the picture of the population on the islands.

Martin

Western Isles RSPB

Thursday 21st August, 2008

 

"We stayed on the Shiants for a week (late July), ringing Puffins and others. ... we climbed up the cliff...it was quite a hairy climb at times but well worth it for the view. We went on over Garbh Eilean to ring Bonxie chicks and then down the northern slope of Airghean a' Bhàigh where the main Puffinery is and back along the boulder scree of Carnach Mhor...

Birds sightings: Great skua chick
Bonxie chick    
This one still has down - and trying to pretend he's not there in the Juncus. Next pic shows how ugly they get within a week ..."

 

Bird sightings - Great Skua

" the ugly big sister Bonxie chick. . ."

 

Bob Medland

     
  • Stercorarius skua - Catharacta skua
  • AKA: Bonxie
  • Passage visitor, migrant breeder
  • 9600 pairs UK in Summer BTO
  • Adults stout & dark, streaked grey-brown, black cap, juveniles warm-brown, unstreaked below, tail short & blunt. Flight direct & powerful. ID from other skuas: Herring Gull size, barrel chest, white wing flashes
  • Breeds: Western Isles, North Scotland, Faeroes, Iceland, Norway
  • Winters: North Atlantic, North & South America, Spanish Coast, Africa
  • Habitat: Coastal moorland, rocky islands, Winter: seacoasts
  • Diet: Fish from sea, other seabirds (kill to size great black-backed gull), piracy (robs terns, gulls, gannets!)
  • Listen to great skua RSPB site
  • Similar birds Arctic Skua, Pomarine Skua
 

(See Bob's photos of the view from the top of the island, and his other photos of the Shiants in our Island pictures section)

 

Wednesday 20th August, 2008 Snowy Owl

Aird an Runair - Balranald - North Uist


This headland is the most westerly point of N. Uist - 2.5miles SW of Balmartin

  • Snowy Owl
  • Nyctea scandiaca, Bubo scandiacus
  • AKA: Arctic Owl, Great White Owl, Catyogle, Child's Snowman
  • UK: 3 records a year (BTO) (1958-2004 total of 159 records)
  • UK: accidental, former breeder
  • WI: Vagrant
  • Distribution: Primarily resident circumpolar - North of the Arctic Circle. Europe, North Asia, North North America. Nomadic bird - shortage of prey forces it to more Southern tundra breeding sites. Nests on ground - a scrape on a mound, rock or gravel bar. (Areas with good visibility & good hunting). An abandoned eagle nest sometimes used. Breeds in May, laying 5 -14 eggs). Winter: fields & prairie
  • Diet: Hunting style "sitting and waiting", bird has sharp talons & catches prey on ground, in air or fish from surface of water. Lemmings, voles & other rodents, small birds , fish, carrion
  • All white. Upright stance. Body barrel-shaped. Head rounded. Eyes yellow & staring. Bill black. Male almost pure white. Female (largest bird) & young covered with narrow black bars & crescent-shaped spots. Heavily feathered feet (together with bird's thick plumage suitable for life in the Arctic)

A nesting pair were found on the Island of Fetlar in Shetland in 1967. During the next few years they bred and and fledged 23 young. A second female joined them in 1972, but she was unsuccessful in fledging her young - perhaps because the male could not provide for two broods. The male left in 1976, and did not return. An immature male was later found nearby but did not join the two females. (see Birds Britannica)

BBRC Snowy Owl records 1990-2006
3, 4, 1, 5, 5, 1, 4, 3, 1, 1, 1, 3, 0, 1, 1, 7, 2,

Up to 6 Snowy Owls were recorded in The Western Isles in 2006. Times do change, there is an old record of a gamekeeper in Ness shooting 3 Snowy Owls in one day (see Peter Cunningham's: Birds of the Outer Hebrides).

Makes a sound called "clapping" when threatened or annoyed (the sound is probably made by clicking of the tongue).

If prey is small enough the Snowy Owl usually swallows it whole, the bird's stomach juices digesting the flesh and it's gut compacting the fur, bones etc into a pellet which it then regurgitates. The owl frequently uses the same perch to regurgitate from, so there may be a lot of pellets marking this area .

 

 

Ever wonder what those fulmar are protecting when they eye you up with the threat of the contents of a bill full of foul-smelling oil?
There is a photo on the Scienceblogs USA web site of Fulmars with their chicks taken at the Butt of Lewis by Dave Rintoul earlier this month

 

Wednesday 20th August, 2008 Baird's Sandpiper

Rubha Ardvule - South Uist

2.5 miles NW of Kildonan & 7 miles NW of Lochboisdale. Most westerly point of S Uist. Extends 1 mile out from the machair into the Atlantic Ocean)

AKA: Loch Aird a' Mhuile

  • Only 4 UK records annually
  • Breeds: Northern tundra - East Siberia to West Greenland
  • Winters: South America
  • Habitat Coastal & Alpine tundra (migration mudflats, grazing land)
  • Diet mostly insects, small crustaceans
  • BTO site says a Baird's Sandpiper lays a clutch of eggs that is up to 120% of her body mass in four days...
  • May be hybriding with white-rumped sandpiper

See the Surfbirds online guide to identification of long-winged peeps

 
Wednesday 20th August, 2008 Glaucous Gull Barvas - Isle of Lewis    

A quick visit to our neighbours at the Icelandic Birding Pages:

They also saw the influx of Common Crossbills at the end of July - start of August, and notably had one of the hottest days on record in Iceland with temperatures over 29°C in the south.

7th - 20th August :
Long-tailed Skuas, White rumped Sandpipers, Eurasian Siskins, Sooty Shearwaters, Bar-tailed Godwits, Bohemian Waxwings, Eurasian Curlews, Common Goldeneye, Common Pochard

A pair of Long-eared Owls raised three chicks in southern Iceland this summer.
A bull Walrus was found on the 9th August. It later died. Walruses are rare vagrants to Iceland from eastern Greenland.

Thank-you Yann

Wednesday 20th August, 2008 Short-eared Owl Aiginish - Point - Isle of Lewis

"Seen last night, near Cnoc School"

  • Short-eared owl
  • Asio flammeus
  • AKA: Short-horned Owl, Day Owl, Hawk Owl, March Owl, Marsh Owl, Moor Owl, Mouse Hawk, Woodcock Owl, Sea Owl, Pilot Owl, Red Owl, Short-horned Howlet, Cat Owl, Fern Owl, Grey Hullet, Grey Yogle, Brown Yogle
  • WI uncommon migrant breeder, scarce in winter
  • UK AMBER LIST. 1000-3500 breeding pairs, winter 5000-50,000 birds RSPB
  • Breeds: Nests on ground. Changes areas seeking voles. Europe (inc WI), Scandinavia, Russia, Iceland, Asia, North & South America, Caribbean, Hawaii, Galápagos Islands
  • Winters: Heads south. Birds from Scandinavia, Russia, Iceland winter in UK (usually coasts) Also wanders seeking voles
  • Medium sized owl. (37-39cm, 13-17in) Wingspan (95-103cm, 38-44in). Stocky. Big head & short neck. Mottled brown, Upper-parts barred & streaked. Under-parts bold dark streaks. Barred tail and wings. Throat & upper-breast black-brown streaks. Small ear tufts (not visible in field). Pale facial disc. Black rings around pale yellow-orange large eyes. Female is darkest.
    Flight: Broad long wings. Irregular wingbeats (moth-like). Under-wings pale, blackish tips & dark mark half-way up. Quarters ground low then swoops to prey feet-first. Often hovers. Circles over breeding territory. (wing-clapping part of display flight)
    Often sits on posts, rarely in trees. Usual owl seen hunting in daylight.
  • Habitat: Breeding: Open county: grassy moorland, marshes, sand dunes. Winter: grassy marshes, grazings, coastal marshland (& nearby fields, moorland) Roosts communally
  • Diet: Mostly field voles, Other small mammals: mice, shrews, rats, young rabbits. Small birds. Large insects
  • Listen to a short-eared owl (RSPB site) (silent in winter)
  • Similar birds: long-eared owl

 

Grahame
Birds sightings : WhinchatAndy L sent in this photograph of a Whinchat taken in Point, Lewis today

Tuesday 19th August, 2008
     
  • Whinchat
  • Saxicola rubetra
  • Gaelic: Gocan
    AKA: furze-hacker, furze-chat, furze-chuck, gorse-chat
  • UK: 21,000 prs summer BTO
  • WI: Scarce Migrant Breeder (approx 10 breeding records a year), Passage Visitor (mostly May)
  • Breeds: Woodland, upland areas, open rough pasture, uncultivated grassland. Nests in tussocks. Europe, Asia
  • Winters: Africa
  • Habitat: Open grassland, meadow
  • Diet: Hunts from perch. Insects, also some seeds. berries
  • Robin-sized perching bird. Hops or runs on ground. Perches tops of low bushes. Both sexes Warm orange-buff throat. Streaky brown above. White tail (black terminal band). Yellowish rump.
    Summer male dark cheek patches. Prominent white stripe above eye. White wing patches.
  • Female pale brown head sides. Buff stripe above eye. No white wing patches.
  • Max recorded age 5yrs 2mths
  • Similar birds: Stonechat
 
         
Tuesday 19th August, 2008 Osprey Loch Carnan - South Uist
  • 127 pairs in UK (Summer) BTO
  • 4 UK nest records
  • Birds fly to West Africa - Up to 430km a day
 
Monday 18th August, 2008 Baird's Sandpiper

Rubha Ardvule - South Uist

Rubha Ardvule is 2.5 miles NW of Kildonan and 7 miles NW of Lochboisdale. Most westerly point. Extends 1 mile out from the machair into the Atlantic Ocean

AKA: Loch Aird a' Mhuile

  • Only 4 UK records annually
  • Breeds: Northern tundra - East Siberia to West Greenland
  • Winters: South America
  • Habitat Coastal & Alpine tundra (migration mudflats, grazing land)
  • Diet mostly insects, small crustaceans
  • BTO site says a Baird's Sandpiper lays a clutch of eggs that is up to 120% of her body mass in four days...
  • May be hybriding with white-rumped sandpiper

See the Surfbirds online guide to identification of long-winged peeps

 
Monday 18th August, 2008 Snowy Owl Balranald - North Uist
  • Snowy Owl
  • Nyctea scandiaca, Bubo scandiacus
  • AKA: Arctic Owl, Great White Owl, Catyogle, Child's Snowman
  • UK: 3 records a year (BTO) (1958-2004 total of 159 records)
  • UK: accidental, former breeder
  • WI: Vagrant
  • Distribution: Primarily resident circumpolar - North of the Arctic Circle. Europe, North Asia, North North America. Nomadic bird - shortage of prey forces it to more Southern tundra breeding sites. Nests on ground - a scrape on a mound, rock or gravel bar. (Areas with good visibility & good hunting). An abandoned eagle nest sometimes used. Breeds in May, laying 5 -14 eggs). Winter: fields & prairie
  • Diet: Hunting style "sitting and waiting", bird has sharp talons & catches prey on ground, in air or fish from surface of water. Lemmings, voles & other rodents, small birds , fish, carrion
  • All white. Upright stance. Body barrel-shaped. Head rounded. Eyes yellow & staring. Bill black. Male almost pure white. Female (largest bird) & young covered with narrow black bars & crescent-shaped spots. Heavily feathered feet (together with bird's thick plumage suitable for life in the Arctic)

A nesting pair were found on the Island of Fetlar in Shetland in 1967. During the next few years they bred and and fledged 23 young. A second female joined them in 1972, but she was unsuccessful in fledging her young - perhaps because the male could not provide for two broods. The male left in 1976, and did not return. An immature male was later found nearby but did not join the two females. (see Birds Britannica)

BBRC Snowy Owl records 1990-2006
3, 4, 1, 5, 5, 1, 4, 3, 1, 1, 1, 3, 0, 1, 1, 7, 2,

Up to 6 Snowy Owls were recorded in The Western Isles in 2006. Times do change, there is an old record of a gamekeeper in Ness shooting 3 Snowy Owls in one day (see Peter Cunningham's: Birds of the Outer Hebrides).

Makes a sound called "clapping" when threatened or annoyed (the sound is probably made by clicking of the tongue).

If prey is small enough the Snowy Owl usually swallows it whole, the bird's stomach juices digesting the flesh and it's gut compacting the fur, bones etc into a pellet which it then regurgitates. The owl frequently uses the same perch to regurgitate from, so there may be a lot of pellets marking this area .

 

We stayed on the Uists and happily saw three W-t Eagles... and also Golden Eagles at two sites on South Uist. Ardule point was very quiet ...

we did later see a fine adult male Peregrine. The only migrant of note was a Reeve amongst the Dunlins and Sanderling
Also on Friday, we had a group of 4 GN Divers on the W coast of N Uist (3 juvs) plus BT and RT divers. There was also a Black throat on Loch Eynort on the Thursday with the breeding Red throats. We found Merlins to be plentiful on the islands and had at least five sites with Hen Harrier (2 adult males).

We didn’t find the Snowy Owls despite a few searches....

We had bottle nosed dolphins on the outward ferry (Wednesday am) and Harbour porpoise and Minke Whales on the return (Sat am). I think I texted you my single Sooty Shear from Neist point.

There was an impressive flock of 50+ Twite at Balranald.

... a brave female Merlin which carried a Starling 400m out to sea into a stiff breeze, to a place where it could be safely slaughtered and consumed.

Common Crossbill also at L Eynort

On the mainland we missed twitching the WWB Tern but had a Black-necked Grebe on Moray Firth as compensation. It wasn’t really meant to be a birding trip but then, I’m never without my bins and we ended up with 142 species over the 9 days.

We will be back, hopefully sooner rather than later.
Glyn E
1st week of August, 2008

     
  • Ruff (female also called Reeve)
  • Philomachus pugnax
  • Gaelic: Gibeagan
  • UK: Migrant Breeder, Passage/Winter Visitor. AMBER LIST. 700 birds winter BTO . Breeding 37 males RSPB
  • WI: Scarce (sometimes uncommon) passage visitor Mar - - Oct peak occurences Aug/Sept . Approx 50 a year. May have bred
  • Breeds: Bogs, marshes, wet meadows. Nests in short vegetation. Females raise the young. Northern Europe, Russia, Asia
  • Winters: South of breeding range to Africa, India, Australia
  • Habitat: Grassy tundra, croftland, farmland, machair, lakes (migration mudflats)
  • Diet: Forages wet grassland & mud, probing or by sight. Mainly insects, earthworms, some plant material, seeds (winter), larvae, frogs, small fish
  • Medium-sized wader (22-32cm length). Pot-bellied profile. Long neck, small head. Medium, slightly drooping bill. Yellowish-orange med-long legs.
    Breeding males spectacular black, chestnut or white neck ruffs & head tufts. Backs grey-brown. White below except for black breast. Flight: Faint wing-stripe & oval white patches either side of the tail. Gregarious - a wintering flock of 1 million occured (Senegal)
  • Max recorded age 9yrs
  • Similar bird: Redshank
  • Listen to a Ruff (RSPB site)

A few birds are present in the UK all year round. The ruff is usually present as a migrant, young birds from Scandinavia visiting the UK in late summer, then heading on to winter in Africa. The birds which winter in the UK are usually found near the coast.

The males with intense coloured feather ruffs use their ruffs to attract females but those with white ruffs do not display to females.
Read more about this in the WIKI

 
Sunday 17th August, 2008 White-rumped Sandpiper ?

Ardivachar Point - South Uist

(Headland at NW corner of South Uist
3 miles W of Eochar. Aird a' Mhachair village is directly South)

  • White-rumped Sandpiper
  • Calidris fuscicollis
  • UK: Scarce visitor. 8 records annually BTO
  • Breeds: Northern tundra Arctic Islands, Alaska, Canada. Nests hidden in vegetation on ground
  • Winters : Northern South America
  • Habitat: Small pools, tundra (migration mudflats)
  • Diet: Forages probing mudflats/tundra and by sight in shallow water. Mostly insects, molluscs, worms (also some plant material)
  • Generally like a streamlined Dunlin. ID it by very long wings which protrude past tail tip (Only Baird's Sandpiper also has this). Adults black legs. Small thin, dark bill. Body dark brown above, mostly white below, breast has brown streaks. White rump. White stripe over eye. Winter plumage pale grey above. Pointed, (not rounded) feather patterns, White rump (Baird's is not white).
  • Similar birds: Dunlin, Little Stint, Baird’s Sandpiper

    See the Surfbirds online guide to identification of long-winged peeps
 
Sunday 17th August, 2008 Snowy Owl Balranald - North Uist
  • Snowy Owl
  • Nyctea scandiaca, Bubo scandiacus
  • AKA: Arctic Owl, Great White Owl, Catyogle, Child's Snowman
  • UK: 3 records a year (BTO) (1958-2004 total of 159 records)
  • UK: accidental, former breeder
  • WI: Vagrant
  • Distribution: Primarily resident circumpolar - North of the Arctic Circle. Europe, North Asia, North North America. Nomadic bird - shortage of prey forces it to more Southern tundra breeding sites. Nests on ground - a scrape on a mound, rock or gravel bar. (Areas with good visibility & good hunting). An abandoned eagle nest sometimes used. Breeds in May, laying 5 -14 eggs). Winter: fields & prairie
  • Diet: Hunting style "sitting and waiting", bird has sharp talons & catches prey on ground, in air or fish from surface of water. Lemmings, voles & other rodents, small birds , fish, carrion
  • All white. Upright stance. Body barrel-shaped. Head rounded. Eyes yellow & staring. Bill black. Male almost pure white. Female (largest bird) & young covered with narrow black bars & crescent-shaped spots. Heavily feathered feet (together with bird's thick plumage suitable for life in the Arctic)

A nesting pair were found on the Island of Fetlar in Shetland in 1967. During the next few years they bred and and fledged 23 young. A second female joined them in 1972, but she was unsuccessful in fledging her young - perhaps because the male could not provide for two broods. The male left in 1976, and did not return. An immature male was later found nearby but did not join the two females. (see Birds Britannica)

BBRC Snowy Owl records 1990-2006
3, 4, 1, 5, 5, 1, 4, 3, 1, 1, 1, 3, 0, 1, 1, 7, 2,

Up to 6 Snowy Owls were recorded in The Western Isles in 2006. Times do change, there is an old record of a gamekeeper in Ness shooting 3 Snowy Owls in one day (see Peter Cunningham's: Birds of the Outer Hebrides).

Makes a sound called "clapping" when threatened or annoyed (the sound is probably made by clicking of the tongue).

If prey is small enough the Snowy Owl usually swallows it whole, the bird's stomach juices digesting the flesh and it's gut compacting the fur, bones etc into a pellet which it then regurgitates. The owl frequently uses the same perch to regurgitate from, so there may be a lot of pellets marking this area .

 
Sunday 17th August, 2008 Baird's Sandpiper

Rubha Ardvule - South Uist

2.5 miles NW of Kildonan and 7 miles NW of Lochboisdale. Most westerly point. Extends 1 mile out from the machair into the Atlantic Ocean

AKA: Loch Aird a' Mhuile

  • Only 4 UK records annually
  • Breeds: Northern tundra - East Siberia to West Greenland
  • Winters: South America
  • Habitat Coastal & Alpine tundra (migration mudflats, grazing land)
  • Diet mostly insects, small crustaceans
  • BTO site says a Baird's Sandpiper lays a clutch of eggs that is up to 120% of her body mass in four days...
  • May be hybriding with white-rumped sandpiper

See the Surfbirds online guide to identification of long-winged peeps

 
"I decided to record the "Juvenile" birds that were frequently seen in my garden last week.
I knew there were a few species but i have to admit i was a bit surprised at the final list , which was as follows:
Dunnock
Blackbird
Starling
House Sparrow
Blue Tit
Coal Tit
Chaffinch
Siskin
Robin
Stonechat
Reed Bunting

A pair of Song Thrush raised a family here last year and i am a bit disappointed i could not add them to this years list.
However, an adult occasionally appears so a youngster could still turn up?"

Frank
Leurbost, Lewis
Saturday 16th, August 2008

No rock doves???

"Now that you mention it, yes i did have one young Rock Dove, last month i think. I still get some adults coming in to the garden so i will look out for other juveniles.
Also Collered Doves.
I expect you know the main reasons why Collered Doves are so successful at becoming established and spreading .
They breed almost all year round.
When their offspring become independant the adults chase them of their maternal teritory.
The adults maintain their patch and the youngsters have to establish a teritory quickly, or they would starve.
Also, they soon learn what a bird table is and this helps their numbers no end.
I dont think they arrived in Britain until the late 1960's and just look at them now.
Most people regard them as pests but i have plenty time for them, mainly because they are docile. I watch them regularly waiting paitiently for the smaller finches and sparrows to disperse before getting their shot at the feeder.
You wouldn't see that happening with those Starlings, would you?"
Dooman

What is a Dooman?

"In Scotland, or at least in the village where i grew up, all Pigeons and Doves were called Doos. A Fantail Dove was a Fantail Doo, a Woodpigeon was a Cuchie(pronounced cushie) Doo etc.
A Dooman is a Pigeon Fancier, someone who breeds, shows or races these birds.
"


Bird sightings - GreenfinchFrank Stark also sent in this photograph of a Greenfinch feeding a fledged chick

 

Saturday 16th, August 2008 Baird's Sandpiper

Rubha Ardvule - South Uist

   
Friday 15th August, 2008 Eider Stornoway

single female, seaward side of Goat Island, Stornoway Harbour, Friday, 15th, in the afternoon.

  • Eider
  • Somateria mollissima
  • UK: Resident breeder, Winter Visitor. Breeding 31,650 prs. AMBER LIST Winter 80,000 birds (RSPB)
  • WI: Fairly common resident breeder and winter visitor
  • Breeds: Europe, North America, Siberia. Colonial breeder. Nest is close to the sea and lined with eiderdown, plucked from the female's breast.
  • Winters: Europe & USA south of breeding range
  • Habitat: Seacoasts, Tundra ponds, lochs
  • Diet: Feeds by diving or up-ending. Coastal molluscs, especially mussels and other crustaceans on sea-bed
  • Large seaduck (50-71cm). Bulky shape. Large wedge-shaped bill. Male black & white plumage (green nape). Female brown bird but ID as Eider by size & head shape. Gregarious. Often stays near shore in a sandy bay or forms long lines out past the breakers
  • Typical lifespan 18yrs. Max recorded age 35yrs 6mths
  • Similar birds: shelduck

Eider have a circumpolar breeding distribution. Although some are resident, others migrate up to 1000km south for winter. The UK is at the south of the breeding range, so most of our breeding birds stay or make only a small shift. Some continental birds come in from the east to winter.

Eiders pair up in winter, if a male pairs with a female from another breeding area he will follow her back to her natal area to breed.

Eider are found off most of the sandy shores and in the sounds of the Western Isles thoughout the year. In autumn large flocks of up to 400 birds can occur. Broadbay near Stornoway often has 300 birds in winter, a flock in which *drakes are dominant.

The eider's nest is is lined with eiderdown, which is plucked from the female's breast. Eiderdown was used by man for filling pillows and quilts, and collection of it almost led to species extinction. Nowadays eiderdown is still sometimes used, but it is collected after the ducklings have left the nest.


(*Peter Cunningham Birds of the Outer Hebrides. ISBN 0 906664 00 0)

Grahame
Thursday 14th August, 2008 Glaucous Gull Barvas - Isle of Lewis
  • Glaucous Gull
  • Larus hyperboreus
  • Winter Visitor, 200+ UK (winter) RSPB
  • Breeds Arctic & Northern Atlantic European coasts: Greenland, Iceland, North Russia, North North America. (nests on ground or cliffs)
  • Winters: Mostly North Atlantic & North Pacific oceans, some go as far south as Northern Mexico
  • Large gull: bigger, bulkier than herring gull. Pale wingtips (no black in wings & tail)
    Adult pearl-grey above, thick yellow bill. Immatures: very pale-grey, creamy-white or biscuit coloured with pink & black bill.
    More fierce looking than similar (smaller) Iceland gull
  • Habitat: Seacoasts, lakes, rubbish tips, reservoirs, fishing ports (with other winter gulls)
  • Diet: Omnivorous: mostly animals, also other seabirds ( in flight) scavenges carrion, scraps & is a pirate
  • Listen glaucous gull (RSPB site)
  • Similar birds: herring gull, Iceland gull
 
Thursday 14th August, 2008 Baird's Sandpiper Balgarva - South Ford - South Uist    

Grahame Thompson sent in these photographs of a Common Crossbill seen in Point, Isle of Lewis on the 4th August, 2008
"Its the Flesherin bird, the measurements indicate this is a Common Crossbill."

Bird Sightings : Common Crossbill Bird Sightings : Common Crossbill

 

Wednesday 13th August, 2008 Baird's Sandpiper Balgarva - South Ford - South Uist    
Wednesday 13th August, 2008 Linnets (2) Tobson - Croir - Bernera   SK
"...a small group of 10 twite seen hanging about garrabost yesterday and numerous greenfinches with young on the feeder also a loan swift flying about..."
Andyl
Tuesday, 12th August, 2008
Tuesday, 12th August, 2008 Great Skua Stornoway - Isle of Lewis

2 birds near the Council tip, 1 on the loch and the other trying to snatch a gull's meal

  • Stercorarius skua - Catharacta skua
  • AKA: Bonxie
  • Passage visitor, migrant breeder
  • 9600 pairs UK in Summer BTO
  • Adults stout & dark, streaked grey-brown, black cap, juveniles warm-brown, unstreaked below, tail short & blunt. Flight direct & powerful. ID from other skuas: Herring Gull size, barrel chest, white wing flashes
  • Breeds: Western Isles, North Scotland, Faeroes, Iceland, Norway
  • Winters: North Atlantic, North & South America, Spanish Coast, Africa
  • Habitat: Coastal moorland, rocky islands, Winter: seacoasts
  • Diet: Fish from sea, other seabirds (kill to size great black-backed gull), piracy (robs terns, gulls, gannets!)
  • Listen to great skua RSPB site
  • Similar birds Arctic Skua, Pomarine Skua
SK
Monday, 11th August, 2008 Common Crossbill Drimsdale - South Uist
  • Common Crossbill
  • Loxia curvirostra
  • Gaelic: cam-ghob
  • UK: Migrant/Resident Breeder, Passage/Winter Visitor
  • UK: Summer breeding 11,000 pairs BTO
  • WI: Scarce passage visitor. Every few years an irruption year, then over 100 records. Just 1 or 2 possible breeding records
  • Europe, Asia, North + Central America
  • Habitat: Coniferous forest
  • Diet: Conifer seeds. Feeds fluttering from cone to cone. Bill is an adaptation for extracting the seeds of a cone.
  • Noisy, chunky finch. Large head. Bill crossed over at tip. Usually flys at treetop height coming down to drink. Adult males orange or brick-red. Females greenish-brown.
  • Listen to a Common Crossbill (RSPB site)
  • Average lifespan 2yrs, Max recorded lifespan 8yr 4months
  • Simlilar birds: Scottish Crossbill, Parrot Crossbill
 
Monday, 11th August, 2008 Red-footed Falcon Tarbert - Isle of Harris
  • Red-footed Falcon
  • Falco vespertinus
  • AKA: Western red-footed falcon
  • UK: Scarce visitor. 14 records annually BTO
  • Breeds: Europe, Asia
  • Winters: Africa
  • Habitat: Farmland, open woodland, steppe
  • Diet: Insects - bird hovers, searching ground below, then makes a short steep dive towards prey
  • Medium-small (28- 34cm length). Long-winged. Adult male blue-grey with red legs & undertail. Underwings uniformly grey. Female grey back & wings, orange head & underparts, white face ( black eye stripe & moustaches). Young: brown above, buff below( with dark streaks), and a face like the female
 

BTO Press Release:

Results from the Breeding Bird Survey show that many bird species are doing better in Scotland than England

Cuckoo (+39%)
House Martin (+152%)
Treecreeper (+60%)
House Sparrow (+30%)

Skylark (+2%)
Starling (+1%)
Linnet (+26%)
Yellowhammer (+15%)

Read the full report: Breeding Bird Survey

In an article about the influx of Two-barred Crossbills, the Shetland Bird Recorder Paul Harvey suggests "...a successful breeding season followed by a sudden food shortage" is indicated because so many juveniles are present.
(48 Two-barred Crossbill records)

Herald
Monday 11th August, 2008
Sunday 10th August, 2008 Greenfinch Croir - Great Bernera

"The greenfinch are back today, they have been away all summer. One on the feeder and a flock criss-crossing the garden... Lovely to hear that bubbling call once again. "

  • Greenfinch
  • Carduelis chloris
  • AKA: European greenfinch, Green Linnet, Gringoe, Greeny, Greenie, Greenfynch, Greenbird,
  • UK: Summer 695 territories BTO
  • WI: Resident breeder, winter visitor
  • Distribution: Europe,South-west Asia, North Africa (introduced to New Zealand) mostly resident, some northern birds migrate South
  • Habitat: Mostly close to man. Thick vegetation. Open woodland, arable or pasture farmland, gardens. Nests in trees or bushes. 2 broods of 4-5 eggs.
  • Diet: Seeds: inc rose-hips, cereal grain, some invertebrates. Insects for nestlings
  • Large (14-16cm) chunky finch. mainly olive-green (yellow in wings & tail). Female and juveniles duller, brownish backs. Bill very thick, conical. Song wheezes & liquid twitters. Male display flight butterfly-like. Sociable & squabbles. Often forms flocks(up to 40 birds) with other finches (& buntings) outside of breeding season
  • Max recorded age 12 yrs, typical lifespan 2 yrs
  • Similar birds: siskin
  • Listen to a greenfinch (RSPB site)

There are breeding records of greenfinch from plantations and other pockets of woodland across across the Western Isles.

The majority of greenfinch in the UK are resident , but some of the birds migrate south to continental Europe. Most of the UK's incoming winter visitors are from Norway.

Greenfinch seen here in areas outside of their breeding environment are likely to be passage migrants.

 
Friday 8th August, 2008 Two-barred Crossbill Tarbert - Isle of Harris

Garden of the Harris Hotel

  • Two-barred Crossbill
  • Loxia leucoptera
  • AKA: White-winged Crossbill
  • UK: Scarce visitor. 2 records annually July - Feb (110 records 1958 - 2004) BTO
  • Breeds: Nests in coniferous forest. Alaska, Canada, North USA, Asia, North- East Europe.
  • Diet: Mostly conifer seeds. Feeds fluttering from cone to cone. Bill is an adaptation for extracting the seeds of a cone (prefers larch), also Rowan berries, some invertebrates in summer
  • Finch. Bill crossed over at tip. Adult males red or pinkish. Females green or yellowish (much variation).
    ID from Common Crossbills by strong white wingbars. Also white tips on tertials. Note that Common Crossbills sometimes have weak white wingbars)

A rare vistor to the UK, it sometimes joins flocks of common crossbills when they irrupt South. An irruption is when finches and other seed eaters move in large numbers in search of food.

If the cone crop failed on their usual breeding grounds, Common Crossbills may be numerous in the UK and will arrive from the Continent from late summer, often staying to breed. (Crossbill's breeding season lasts from summer to the next spring to take advantage of maximum cone supplies).

In the last week or so over 30 two-barred crossbills have been seen in the UK, all on Scottish islands, (Shetlands, Orkney Islands and St Kilda), this is probably the largest UK influx of them on record.

 
Thursday 7th August, 2009 Sabine's Gull Butt of Lewis
  • Passage visitor
  • 140 annual UK records
  • Breeds: Arctic (forms colonies)
  • Winters: Pacific and Atlantic Ocean
  • Habitat: Coastal wet heath during breding season, mostly at sea otherwise
  • Diet: Fish and small invertebrates
  • Smaller than a black-headed gull
  • Juvenile sounds like a young tern
  • BTO records
 
Wednesday 6th August, 2008 Greylag Goose? Callanish - Isle of Lewis

"Saw this goose with a flock of greylags just as it was getting dark. As the others settled this one stayed to the outside edge of the group. I reckon it is a greylag with albinoism (hybrid?), if anyone else has any other ideas or comments please email"

Bird Sightings - Greylag Goose ?
Bird Sightings - Greylag Goose ?

 

 

"I would say the bird in the photos is a Leucistic Greylag, probably not a hybrid, and certainly not a true albino.

One of the birds adults and most probabaly both must have been carrying a recessive Leucistic, or pied gene.
It is highly unlikely but if the photographed bird happened to breed with one of its parents then a percentage, i think possibly 50% would be pied and although the remaining offspring would look like normal Greylags, they would be carrying the recessive pied, or leucistic gene.
Its been a while since i had any real involvment with this sort of thing, so I am not sure if this is accurate. However i dont think i will be far of the mark? clear as mud?
Frank"

 

Extract from an educator's web site:
http://www.newton.dep.anl.gov/askasci/mole00/mole00645.htm

"....A true albino has pink eyes because, since there is no pigment in the iris,
all you see is the blood is the eye. If the animal has blue eyes, it means
that a small amount of melanin is being produce in the iris...."

 

Below are close-ups of the eye of a typical greylag goose (left) and the partially leucistic greylag (right) - the iris of the leucistic is blue - not pink as an albino's would be...

Bird sightings greylag goose eye Bird sightings greylag goose eye

 

Found an in depth article on Birdforum about abnormal colouration which more fully describes the difference between albino and leucistic:
Read the full article here: http://www.birdforum.net/showpost.php?p=28261&postcount=11

 

Later addition from Frank:
"...Also, i,m almost certain that the pied gene in most birds is sex-linked. Males looking normal can carry the pied gene or they can look completely pied. The pied gene in a female cannnot be hidden and a female carrying the pied gene looks like the bird in youir photograph..."


"If you go onto the S.O.C website and look at the latest rarities gallery there is a photo of a beautiful leucistic Common Buzzard."
Frank
http://www.the-soc.org.uk/images/gallery2008/buzzard-crossmichael-aug08.jpg

Suzanne
Tuesday 5th August, 2008 Sooty Shearwater

Butt of Lewis

(Also a report from Neist Pt, Skye - Glyn E)

   
Monday 4th August, 2008

Crossbill

Cuckoo

Flesherin - Point - Isle of Lewis

"Single, this afternoon in Flesherin, Point.
Also a Cuckoo being fed by Meadow Pipets."

 

Meadow Pipits are also known as Titlarks, Meadow Pipets, Mips, Mipits, Mippits, Teeticks, Hill Sparrows and Moss-creepers.

The Meadow Pipit's typical lifespan is 3yrs (Max recorded is 7yrs 8mths). They breed when one year old.

A meadow pipit lays two clutches of eggs in the breeding season, each clutch is incubated for 13 - 15 days, and the young fledge at 12 - 14 days (BTO).

Cuckoo eggs are incubated for 11 - 13 days. The young fledge at 17 -21 days. Because the cuckoo egg hatches earlier than the pipit's and the cuckoo chick is very fast growing, it will usually throw out the eggs or young of the pipit by instinct.

Grahame and Jackie

Bird Sightings : Snowy Owl
Glyn Evans sent in this photograph of a snowy owl

 

"...took it on 14th May this year (at 06:19 it says on the file), at Balranald. Dead lucky really. We were headed for Aird an Runair when we stopped to look at the Ringed Plovers on the machair. As they took off, we followed them and the owl caught my eye as they flew across. We were lucky enough to see a male bird fly across the road on the same day."

Monday 4th August, 2008 Sooty Shearwater

Ardvule Point - South Uist

Butt of Lewis

   
Monday 4th August, 2008 Yellow wagtail Europie - Ness - Isle of Lewis
  • Yellow Wagtail
  • AKA: Blue-headed wagtail, yellow wag, yellow waggy
  • Motacilla flava (Gaelic: breacan buidhe)
  • Migrant Breeder, Passage Visitor (April - October)
  • AMBER LIST, UK 19,000 pairs (Summer) BTO
  • Annually less than 10 Western Isles records,
  • Breeds: Europe (Bred St Kilda (1998) Asia, North Africa, Alaska,
  • Winters: South Africa, North Australia
  • Habitat: Open land near water: Damp meadows, arable farmland, estuaries, along streams, marsh, riverbanks
  • Diet: Insects: From ground or in flight, (often around livestock) walks & runs across ground & constantly wags its tail
  • Small graceful yellow & green bird, medium-length tail, slender black legs. Breeding adult male olive above & yellow below. (Their head colour varies according to subspecies). Other plumages yellow is whiter.
  • Listen to yellow wagtail (RSPB site)
  • Similar birds: grey wagtail, pied wagtail
 

"I On Sunday I watched a peregrinne flying over Lewis...Later on in when I was in Point I photographed 2 juvenile willow warblers and a pr of reed buntings".

Andy L
Sunday 3rd August , 2008

Sunday 3rd August , 2008 Two-barred Crossbill St Kilda    
Sunday 3rd August , 2008 Snowy Owl St Kilda    

There is an article on Stornoway Gazette online about Whooper Swans breeding at Balranald.

Although the Whooper Swan is fairly common in Winter most of them leave in Spring to breed elsewhere, there are very few annual UK breeding records.

Six cygnets were born in the Balranald nest.

Monday 4th August, 2008

Friday 1st August, 2008 Short-eared Owl Malacleit - North Uist

"The bird was a long way off - just a blur on a post, even with binoculars, but once I zoomed in on the photo I realised that those huge yellow eyes had been looking right at me...seeing that owl made my holiday!"

Bird Sightings : Short-eared Owl Bird Sightings : Short-eared Owl
  • Short-eared owl
  • Asio flammeus
  • AKA: Short-horned Owl, Day Owl, Hawk Owl, March Owl, Marsh Owl, Moor Owl, Mouse Hawk, Woodcock Owl, Sea Owl, Pilot Owl, Red Owl, Short-horned Howlet, Cat Owl, Fern Owl, Grey Hullet, Grey Yogle, Brown Yogle
  • WI uncommon migrant breeder, scarce in winter
  • UK AMBER LIST. 1000-3500 breeding pairs, winter 5000-50,000 birds RSPB
  • Breeds: Nests on ground. Changes areas seeking voles. Europe (inc WI), Scandinavia, Russia, Iceland, Asia, North & South America, Caribbean, Hawaii, Galápagos Islands
  • Winters: Heads south. Birds from Scandinavia, Russia, Iceland winter in UK (usually coasts) Also wanders seeking voles
  • Medium sized owl. (37-39cm, 13-17in) Wingspan (95-103cm, 38-44in). Stocky. Big head & short neck. Mottled brown, Upper-parts barred & streaked. Under-parts bold dark streaks. Barred tail and wings. Throat & upper-breast black-brown streaks. Small ear tufts (not visible in field). Pale facial disc. Black rings around pale yellow-orange large eyes. Female is darkest.
    Flight: Broad long wings. Irregular wingbeats (moth-like). Under-wings pale, blackish tips & dark mark half-way up. Quarters ground low then swoops to prey feet-first. Often hovers. Circles over breeding territory. (wing-clapping part of display flight)
    Often sits on posts, rarely in trees. Usual owl seen hunting in daylight.
  • Habitat: Breeding: Open county: grassy moorland, marshes, sand dunes. Winter: grassy marshes, grazings, coastal marshland (& nearby fields, moorland) Roosts communally
  • Diet: Mostly field voles, Other small mammals: mice, shrews, rats, young rabbits. Small birds. Large insects
  • Listen to a short-eared owl (RSPB site) (silent in winter)
  • Similar birds: long-eared owl

There are some superb phographs of a short-eared owl on Steven Round's web site

The eared owls have tufts of feathers that look like ears. In some species the tufts may not be visible. The short-eared owl has very short tufts which are not usually visible but it will display them when in a defensive pose.

The word flammeus is Latin for flaming. In flight the short-eared owl's large yellow -orange eyes are said to glow like the flames of a fire.

Suzanne
         

 

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