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 Bird Sightings Records : Hebrides : December 2008





   This table is Hebrides Bird Sightings period December 2008
Monday 29th December, 2008 Waxwing South Glendale - South Uist
  • Waxwing (Bohemian Waxwing, Chatterer)
  • Bombycilla garrulus
  • Gaelic: Gochan cireaneach
  • UK: 100 birds (winter) BTO
  • UK: Winter visitor
  • WI: Scarce Winter Visitor (Very small numbers each year), very rare (5 or less records) spring vistor
  • Breeding: Nest high up in the branches of trees in mature coniferous forest & birch woodland. Mossy, damp, lichen-rich places. Lays 4 - 6 pale bluish eggs. Northern Scandinavia, Russia. Europe, North America
  • Winters: Not regular. South Europe, South USA
  • Diet: Berries, hawthorn, rowan, cotoneaster. Plant buds. (Breeding season also insects, midges & mosquitoes)
  • Exotic looking bird, reminiscent of a Cockatoo. Starling-sized (18 - 21cm length), but plump, stocky & thick-necked with a short tail. Large sandy-chestnut coloured crest. Very dashing black eye patch & black throat. Pinkish-brown above. Pale sandy-brown below.
    Lower back & rump (above tail) bluish. Undertail plumage chestnut-red. Yellow band at tip of short blackish tail. Dark wings with white bars, yellow markings & small waxy, red patch
  • Waxwings live for up to 12 years
  • Listen to a Waxwing (RSPB site). Call pleasant ringing trill, "srrrr" like a small bell
  • Similar birds: Hawfinch

In some years the Waxwing come in large numbers, these are called irruptions, (irruption definition: to increase rapidly and irregulary in number) they happen when the numbers of Waxwings are too great for their usual feeding grounds. This is an irruption year with flocks of 150+ reported in the islands, and much larger numbers than usual all down the East coast of the UK
(Approx UK total 1100+ birds instead of 100)

A flock of approx 20 widgeon grazing at loch tiumpan point , A lone whooper swan on swordale lochs point.
Sunday 28th December, 2008 Green-winged Teal Loch Sandary - North Uist    
Sunday 28th December, 2008 Glaucous Gull

Drimsdale + Ardivachar + North Bay + Ardvule - South Uist

Sunday 28th December, 2008 Iceland Gull (3) Cheese bay - North Uist    
female hen harrier hunting heather moorland on point late this afternoon
Saturday 27th December, 2008 Waxwing (2) Willowglen - Stornoway    

Christmas treats on the radio
26 Dec 2008, 23:30 on BBC Radio 4

Jo Brand discovers what wildlife presenters really think of the animals they talk about.

Highlights include David Attenborough dishing the dirt on rats and Alan Titchmarsh letting rip at the cockroach. Michela Strachan, Steve Leonard and Mike Dilger all share their experiences of being bitten in exotic places

A quick visit to our neighbours at the Icelandic Birding Pages

23rd December
"Nothing reported today, pretty dark and wet out there and Icelanders too busy eating urine-flavoured fish. Yes, it stinks."

Iceland's rarities in the last few days included:
"European Robin, Bohemian Waxwings, Blackcaps, Green-winged Teal, Brambling, Common Goldeneye, Common Crossbills and Grey Herons "

Christmas Day Weather Forecasts


Heavy showers
7° C

Sunrise 11:23 (GMT)
Sunset 15:31 (GMT)

Western Isles
8° C

Sunrise 09:12 (GMT)
Sunset 15:36 (GMT)

Thank-you Yann

Erect a nest box now!

I asked Frank Stark about his nest boxes...

"House Sparrows roost in some nest boxes all year round . By doing this they become aware of potential nest sites, so take advantage of this by erecting nest boxes now.

...Remember to mention that a Robin requires an open fronted construction and the same type of box could possibly attract breeding Wrens.

I have a few Coal Tits in the garden and i am doing everything possible to try and get them to breed in my garden next spring.
I have suspended peanut feeders near most of my nest boxes so that at least they are aware of possible nest sites - dont hang the feeders directly from the nest box. I nail a branch above whatever the nest box is fixed to so that it projects past the front of the box. I then suspend the feeder to the end of the branch.

I am not stuck with the lack of mature trees. Fortunately i have quite a high thick hedge. All i do is hammer 8 ft long fence posts into the ground close to the hedge, sometimes in among the vegetation, until the posts are about 6-61/2 ft high. I then attach my nest boxes to the posts. I also fix some nest boxes lower down for Robins, Wrens, Coal Tits etc. and although i was concerned that cats might gain access to these , i found that the biggest threat was from keen eyed Corvids.

I have about 25 boxes just now but i plan to make more. It takes about 1 1/2 hours to build one from scratch, without power tools.
Re Robin roosting.... I have never noticed Robins roosting in any nest boxes but this does not mean that they dont.

I had a small garden where i used to live before moving here and only had 2 Blue \tit boxes erected. One Box was used every year by a breeding pair while the other was used entirely for roosting by one particular individual all year, but especially more so in winter.
The reason for this i deduced was that although the box used for roosting was what the bird required for that particular purpose, it was exposed to the sun all day during summer and was unsuitable for breeding in.

However, i cant explain why no birds roosted in the box that was used for breeding.

Frank Stark
Leurbost 2008

Tuesday 23rd December, 2008 Iceland Gull

Stornoway Harbour

Friday 20th December, 2008 Barnacle Geese (1,100) Loch Brushda - Isle of Berneray    
Friday 20th December, 2008 Richardson's Canada Goose Loch Brushda - Isle of Berneray    
a small flock of fieldfares in garrabost about 15 birds as well as 5 goldfinches
Friday 20th December, 2008
Thursday 18th December, 2008 Glaucous Gull Butt of Lewis    
Thursday 18th December, 2008 Iceland Gull

Butt of Lewis

+ West side road near Barvas - Isle of Lewis

Wednesday 18th December, 2008 Long-billed Dowitcher North Bay - South Uist
  • Long-billed Dowitcher
  • Limnodromus scolopaceus
  • UK: Accidental
  • UK: 3 records annually BTO
  • WI: Very rare visitor (five or less records) TBC
  • Breeding: Nests on ground nr water. Wet Tundra. N Siberia, Alaska, E Siberia
  • Winters: S US, Central America vagant to Europe
  • Habitat: Tundra, wet grassland (migration estuaries, beaches).Often nr fresh water
  • Diet: Forages by probing shallow water or wet mud. Mostly insects, molluscs, crustaceans aquatic worms(also some plant material)
  • Adult bird yellowish legs & very long straight dark bill. Summer body dark-brown above & reddish below. Throat & breast spotted. Bars on flanks. Tail black & white barred pattern. Winter bird mostly greyish.
Tuesday 16th December, 2008 Iceland Gull Loch Paible - North Uist    
Monday 15th December, 2008 Waxwing South Glendale - South Uist    
Sunday 14th December American Wigeon Loch Bee - South Uist
  • American Wigeon (Wigeon, Widgeon, Baldpate)
  • UK: Scarce visitor, 6 annual records BTO
  • WI: Rare visitor (less than 30 records)
  • Breeds North-West & Central America
  • Winters: South USA to Northerly South America. Gregarious outside of breeding season
  • Habitat: Open wetlands, wet grassland, marshes lochs, wet meadows (usually with some taller vegetation) Migration also rivers, estuaries
  • Diet: (Herbivore) Grazing for food - has short serrated-edged bill. Herbs, grasses, Wigeon grass, eelgrass, algae, roots. Also dabbling, pondweeds & other aquatic plants
  • Dabbling duck. Adult male in breeding season: pinkish brown body, greyish head with greenish eye patch, creamy white crown stripe (Common Wigeon's is creamy-buff/yellowish-orange) , black rear-end, white wing-patch (speculum). Non-breeding male fairly similar to female. Female light-brown, & similar to female Mallard.
  • Similar bird: Wigeon. Female & male American Wigeon out of breeding season similar to Mallard
Sunday 14th December Green-winged Teal Loch Bee - South Uist    
Sunday 14th December Long-billed Dowitcher North Bay - South Uist    
short report 30 barnacle geese upper bayble great northern diver bayble. (Lewis)
Monday 8th December, 2008 Barnacle Geese (30)      
Sunday 7th December, 2008 Richardson's Canada Goose Loch Brushda - Isle of Berneray    
Sunday 7th December, 2008 Barnacle Geese (700+) Loch Brushda - Isle of Berneray    
Sunday 7th December, 2008 Little Egret (2)

Oban Truimsgarry - North Uist

Sunday 7th December, 2008 Coal Tits (2) Loch Eynort South Uist
  • Coal Tit
  • Parus ater
  • Gaelic : Cailleach-cheann-dubh
  • WI: Uncommon resident breeder (10-99 breeding pairs) in Lewis. Otherwise rare visitor (30 or less records) to Uists and Barra
Sunday 7th December, 2008 Spotted Redshank Cladach Valley - North Uist    
Saturday 6th December, 2008 Pale-bellied Brent Geese Barra
  • Brent Goose
  • Branta bernicla
  • Gaelic: Gèadha-got
  • WI: Brent Geese are uncommon passage visitors (recorded in low numbers each year, but sometimes a few more occur) and rare winter visitors (less than 30 records).
  • 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 recorded age 18yr 10mths
  • Listen to a Brent Goose (RSPB site)
  • SImilar birds: Barnacle Geese (white faces)
Saturday 6th December, 2008 Mediterranean Gull Barra
  • Mediterranean Gull
  • Larus melanocephalus
  • UK: AMBER LIST. Estimated breeding population 90 -100 prs BTO
  • WI: Very rare vagrant (five or less records)
  • Adults white wing-tips and underwings, juveniles have more wing markings.
    Bit bigger than a black-headed gull. Head is black in the breeding season. Beak large & slightly drooped - adult's is bright red
  • Diet: Summer - insects. Winter marine fish, molluscs
Saturday 6th December, 2008 Glaucous Gull Loch Barvas - Isle of Lewis    
Saturday 6th December, 2008 Iceland Gull

Stornoway Harbour


Friday 5th December, 2008 Glaucous Gull Loch Barvas - Isle of Lewis    
Friday 5th December, 2008 Iceland Gull

Stornoway Harbour

Thursday 4th December, 2008 Glaucous Gull Loch Barvas - Isle of Lewis    
Wednesday 5th December, 2008 Iceland Gull Loch Tiumpan - Isle of Lewis    
Wednesday 5th December, 2008 Long-tailed Duck (300+) Broad Bay - Isle of Lewis
  • Long-tailed Duck (Hound Duck, Col-candle Wick, Col-candle Week, Callo. Obselete: Old Injun, Oldsquaw, Old Wife)
  • Clangula hyemalis
  • Gaelic: Eun-binn, Lach-bhinn
  • UK: AMBER LIST. 16,000 pairs winter BTO
  • UK: Scarce Breeder, Winter Visitor, Passage Migrant (See from sea watching points)
  • WI: Fairly common winter visitor (occurs in small numbers)
  • Breeding: Tundra pools, marshes, sea coasts, large mountain lakes. Nest is made from vegetation, lined with down & on ground near water. North Atlantic, Alaska, N Canada, N Europe, Russia, N America
  • Winters: Main area Baltic Sea, where 4.5 million gather. South of breeding range to coasts of N America, N Europe, Asia & Black Sea & the Great Lakes. (On migration - gregarious & forms large flocks on open lakes, coasts).
  • Diet: Usually feed near surface, but also dive depths of 60m (200 feet). Aquatic insects, crustaceans, molluscs, clams, crabs, small fish.
  • Small neat sea duck. Small round heads. Steep foreheads. Adults white below. Rest of plumage does complex changes with moulting.
  • Male long pointed tail (10 - 15 cm) and a dark grey bill crossed by a pink band. Winter male mostly white - some brownish-black markings. Dark cheek patch mostly white head & neck. Dark breast. Summer male dark head, neck, back. White cheek patch.
  • Females browner. Shorter pointed tail. Winter female head & neck white with dark crown. Summer female head mostly dark. White cheek patch.
  • Juveniles similar to autumn adult females (with a less noticeable cheek patch).
  • In flight all show all dark wings and white bellies.
  • Max recorded age 22yrs 8mths
  • Listen to a Long-tailed Duck (RSPB site)
  • Similar birds: Similar birds: Common Eider, Northern Eider (very rare)
Wednesday 5th December, 2008 Great Northern Diver (200+) Broad Bay - Isle of Lewis
  • Great Northern Diver
  • Gavia immer
  • UK: Scarce breeder, winter visitor. Arrives UK August - leave to breed April - May
  • UK: 3000 in winter BTO
  • WI: Fairly common passage (occurs in small numbers but of international importance) and winter visitor (occurs in small numbers, but of national importance)
  • Breeds: Greenland, Iceland, Alaska, North Scotland, North America, Canada
  • Winters: North Europe, UK, North America
  • Habitat: Lakes, ponds & rivers
  • Usually solitary, large: average 32 inches long, wingspan of 54 inches, weighs 9lbs (81cm : 136cm : 4.1kg) Breeding adults: black head, white below, checked black & white mantle, sexes similar
    Non-breeding brownish, white chin, foreneck, bill is grey- whitish held horizontal
  • Diet: Mostly fish, crustaceans amphibians. Fishes underwater to 200 feet (60m) immer means submerge
  • Similar birds: Black-throated Diver, Red-throated Diver, White-billed Diver

One of the names of the bird is "call-up-a-storm" the call was supposed to presage rain!

Tuesday 2nd december, 2008 Surf Scoter Sound of Taransay - Isle of Harris    


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