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Bird Sightings : Hebrides : July 2008

 

 

 

 

This table is Hebrides Bird Sightings period July 2008
Friday 31st July, 2008 Rose-coloured Starling Siadar - Isle of Lewis
  • Rose-coloured Starling
  • AKA Rosy Starling, Rosy Pastor
  • Sturnus roseus
  • UK: Rare but regular migrant in small numbers in Spring & Autumn (Usually less than 20 UK records annually)
  • Breeds: Colonial breeder, using holes in buildings near open grassland. Eastern Europe to temperate Central & Southern Asia
  • Winters: India, tropical Southern Asia
  • Adult pink body, pale orange legs & bill. Glossy black head, wings & tail.
  • Males: fluffy, wispy crest (longer in breeding season than winter) plumage dull black areas with paler edges in winter, glossy black in breeding.
  • Females: short crest. Generally duller plumage with less defined colours.
  • Juveniles: similar to Common Starling juveniles, but short yellow bill & paler plumage in Autumn. Moulting to similar to adults but no crests (Juveniles are birds most likely to turnup in UK in Autumn - our starling juveniles have moulted to adult plumage by then so a brown starling is probably rose-coloured juvenile)
  • Habitat: Steppe, open agricultural land
  • Diet: Omnivorous, Grasshoppers, other insects. Some fruit
  • Song like a common starling

In years when grasshoppers and other insects are abundant, these birds will irrupt beyond their normal range, with much larger numbers than usual reaching UK.

A breeding colony of about 3000 birds can eat nearly 3 tons of grasshoppers, locusts or other insects a day, which makes them very welcome during a locust plague, to the point where locals will call them by magic and prayer.

Compare that to 1 million common starlings killed in a single eradication operation in the USA involving shootings, trapping, dynamite and poison (see Birds Britannica ISBN 0-701-16907-9).

Rose-coloured Starling
Martin Scott recently sent in this photograph of the Rose-coloured Starling

 

 
Little Grebe - single on Tiumpan Head Loch, Point , this morning
Grahame
Sunday, 27th July, 2008

A red throated diver in broadbay point , A lone reed bunting , A group of six curlews on a newly cut croft, Many green finches about too along with a few stonechats.

Andyl L
Sunday, 27th July, 2008

On the Balranald sightings board this weekend were Little Gull, Corn Bunting, Reed Bunting, Whimbrel
Sunday, 27th July, 2008
Sunday, 27th July, 2008 Glaucous Gull Ballantrushal - Isle of Lewis    
Sunday, 27th July, 2008 Rose-coloured Starling Siadar - Isle of Lewis
  • Rose-coloured Starling
  • AKA Rosy Starling, Rosy Pastor
  • Sturnus roseus
  • UK: Rare but regular migrant in small numbers in Spring & Autumn (Usually less than 20 UK records annually)
  • Breeds: Colonial breeder, using holes in buildings near open grassland. Eastern Europe to temperate Central & Southern Asia
  • Winters: India, tropical Southern Asia
  • Adult pink body, pale orange legs & bill. Glossy black head, wings & tail.
  • Males: fluffy, wispy crest (longer in breeding season than winter) plumage dull black areas with paler edges in winter, glossy black in breeding.
  • Females: short crest. Generally duller plumage with less defined colours.
  • Juveniles: similar to Common Starling juveniles, but short yellow bill & paler plumage in Autumn. Moulting to similar to adults but no crests (Juveniles are birds most likely to turnup in UK in Autumn - our starling juveniles have moulted to adult plumage by then so a brown starling is probably rose-coloured juvenile)
  • Habitat: Steppe, open agricultural land
  • Diet: Omnivorous, Grasshoppers, other insects. Some fruit
  • Song like a common starling

In years when grasshoppers and other insects are abundant, these birds will irrupt beyond their normal range, with much larger numbers than usual reaching UK.

A breeding colony of about 3000 birds can eat nearly 3 tons of grasshoppers, locusts or other insects a day, which makes them very welcome during a locust plague, to the point where locals will call them by magic and prayer.

Compare that to 1 million common starlings killed in a single eradication operation in the USA involving shootings, trapping, dynamite and poison (see Birds Britannica ISBN 0-701-16907-9).

Rose-coloured Starling
Martin Scott recently sent in this photograph of the Rose-coloured Starling

 

 


By the way (not birds but if you are out with your binoculars...)

"7 Orcas showing well. Off Skigersta between 4.20 and 5.20pm last night then drifted northy.
One male with a huge '6 foot' fin" Thursday 25th July, 2008"

Martin Scott
Thursday 25th July, 2008

There were other sightings of this pod yesterday see the Western Isles Wildlife Forum:

Saturday 26th July, 2008 Rose-coloured Starling Siadar - Isle of Lewis    
Thursday 24th July, 2008 Rose-coloured Starling Siadar - Isle of Lewis    
Wednesday 23rd July, 2008 Rose-coloured Starling Siadar - Isle of Lewis    
         
Wednesday 23rd July, 2008 Osprey Loch Bee - South Uist

"Spotted the osprey on South Uist yesterday afternoon.... Watched it for about ten minutes while it fished."

  • Osprey
  • Pandion haliaetus
  • AKA: Fish Eagle, Sea Hawk, Fish Hawk
  • Gaelic: Iolar Uisge
  • UK AMBER LIST. 148 pairs (Summer) BTO 4 UK nest records
  • WI Scarce passage visitor (usually May) 1-4 records annually
  • European breeders usually generally winter in Africa. Females migrating before males . Birds fly up to 430km a day
  • Habitat: Lakes & Lochs, rivers, sea coasts (usually nests near freshwater) Some nests used for 70 yrs
  • Diet: 99% fish, caught in barb-like talons. Hovers then dives (to) 1m deep after fish (closeable nostrils). Sometimes diet includes small birds or rodents, reptiles etc.
  • Large (2ft length, 6ft wingspan). Upperparts deep shiny brown. Breast (sometimes streaked) & other underparts white. Head white with dark mask-like eye patch. Golden rises. Black bill. White feet, black talons. Tail short. Wings long & narrow with "fingers". In flight arched wings gull-like with downturned "hands". Sexes fairly similar see WIKI for detailed ID .
    Mates for life
  • Max recorded age 26yrs 1 month. Typical lifespan 8yrs
Osprey Watch

Still a victim to egg-thieves. See BBC article about eggs stolen from Dunkeld nest in 2002

Salute to John who went down from Lewis last year to do a 3-day stint on the Osprey nest watch at the Osprey Centre Abernethy
"...had a brilliant time!"

Donald M
Wednesday 23rd July, 2008 Rose-coloured Starling Siadar - Isle of Lewis
  • Rose-coloured Starling
  • AKA Rosy Starling, Rosy Pastor
  • Sturnus roseus
  • UK: Rare but regular migrant in small numbers in Spring & Autumn (Usually less than 20 UK records annually)
  • Breeds: Colonial breeder, using holes in buildings near open grassland. Eastern Europe to temperate Central & Southern Asia
  • Winters: India, tropical Southern Asia
  • Adult pink body, pale orange legs & bill. Glossy black head, wings & tail.
  • Males: fluffy, wispy crest (longer in breeding season than winter) plumage dull black areas with paler edges in winter, glossy black in breeding.
  • Females: short crest. Generally duller plumage with less defined colours.
  • Juveniles: similar to Common Starling juveniles, but short yellow bill & paler plumage in Autumn. Moulting to similar to adults but no crests (Juveniles are birds most likely to turnup in UK in Autumn - our starling juveniles have moulted to adult plumage by then so a brown starling is probably rose-coloured juvenile)
  • Habitat: Steppe, open agricultural land
  • Diet: Omnivorous, Grasshoppers, other insects. Some fruit
  • Song like a common starling

In years when grasshoppers and other insects are abundant, these birds will irrupt beyond their normal range, with much larger numbers than usual reaching UK.

A breeding colony of about 3000 birds can eat nearly 3 tons of grasshoppers, locusts or other insects a day, which makes them very welcome during a locust plague, to the point where locals will call them by magic and prayer.

Compare that to 1 million common starlings killed in a single eradication operation in the USA involving shootings, trapping, dynamite and poison (see Birds Britannica ISBN 0-701-16907-9).

 
Wednesday 23rd July, 2008 Pectoral Sandpiper St Kilda
  • 56 UK records a year (BTO)
  • Fat-bodied, small-headed , larger than dunlin
  • males in breeding season have an inflatable throat sac - expands and contracts rhythmically during display flights and it creates a series of hollow hoots
  • wet fields , freshwater pools, marsh or lochsides, boggy ground on (migration mudflats)
  • breeds on the Arctic coast of East Siberia, North America, winters in South America
  • ID amongst waders - sharp contrast between the dark-patterned chest and the white belly AKA the pectoral line
  • Yellowish legs, bill has pale base
  • 2 pairs of white lines down the back like a pair of braces.
 
Tuesday, 22nd July, 2008 Rose-coloured Starling Siadar - Isle of Lewis    
Tuesday, 22nd July, 2008 Sooty Shearwater Ardvule Point - South Uist
  • Sooty Shearwater
  • Puffnus griseus
  • AKA: Mutton bird, Sooty, (Sooties)
  • From late July to early November we them on their way back to the Southern Ocean to breed. (See from sea-watching places)
  • Breeds in colonies in burrows on offshore islands in Southernmost Atlantic and Pacific oceans. Just one white egg laidNest visted only at night to avoid predators.
  • Feeds mostly on small squid and fish at the surface. (Good sense of smell). They can dive to 68m
  • Seabird - smaller than herring gull (40 - 50cm length). Dark chocolate-brown/blackish body. Long wings (bright silver band underneath)
  • Flight shearing (dips from side to side with stiff wings & few wing beats, wingtips almost touch water). Powerful, direct flight wings straight & stiff, frequent gliding.

Every Sooty Shearwater seen in UK waters has likely travelled a circular 10,000 mile route.

Sooty Shearwaters breed in the southernmost Atlantic and Pacific oceans during the spring of the southern hemisphere (November - February). (When the chicks have matured (March - May) the adults fly up the east coast of North America to sub-arctic waters (June - July) then return to their breeding grounds via British waters July - November

 

By the way..

Remember that Cattle Egret that was at Steinish in Lewis back in July / August last year? (Our first ever)
After that there was a major influx of the birds into the UK to overwinter. A current big UK birding news item is that Cattle Egrets bred in Somerset this year. The first UK breeding record.

(Just goes to show that speculation sometimes comes to something. Fingers crossed for future years with our Snowy Owls...)

Excerpt from the December 2007 bird report

BTO show just 3 UK annual records for the cattle egret.
BBRC show 23 records for 2006 (the highest on record).

Today in Cornwall there was a flock of 15 birds at one site alone, there have been reports this week of up to 50 birds wintering in the UK (some have reached as far North as Dumfries). In years when a species comes in large numbers like this it is called an influx or irruption. Often these are caused by the numbers of birds being too great for their usual feeding grounds. It has been put forward that in this case the egrets are coming to the UK because it is currently milder in the UK than in Europe!
The Cattle Egret is native to Asia, Africa and Europe. Most Cattle Egrets are permanent residents, there is some post-breeding dispersal which has the effect of extending their range, so there is plenty of speculation as to if some may stay in 2008 and breed in Britain.

 

Monday 21st July, 2008 Osprey South Uist    
Monday 21st July, 2008 Rose-coloured Starling Siadar - Isle of Lewis    
Monday 21st July, 2008 Iceland Gull Siadar Nr Barvas - Isle of Lewis
  • 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

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

 
Monday 21st July, 2008 Glaucous Gull Siadar Nr 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
 
Sunday 20th July, 2008 Siskin Leurbost - Isle of Lewis

i know you have plenty images of Siskins now, but i thought, since i explained recently how to get "natural" photos in the garden, i would send a recent effort which illustrates what can be achieved from the comfort of my kitchen using the methods i described.

i personally think it is better than a bird, or birds perched on a feeder, table, etc but i will leave it to the visitors of your website to decide.


Bird Sightings : Siskin juvenile
Frank's photograph of the siskin

 

  • Eurasian siskin
  • Carduelis spinus
  • UK: Resident Breeder, Passage/Winter Visitor, 369,000 pairs UK (Summer) BTO
  • WI: Scarce breeder (1-2 pairs), passage migrant
  • Breeds: Northern Europe - UK including Scotland, Russia, Asia
  • Winters: South Europe, Central Asia (favours riverside alders)
  • Habitat: Woodland treetops (prefers coniferous) (On passage here: Often tall & dense, seedy undergrowth )
  • Small finch: Upper parts greyish-green, under parts grey-streaked white. Short & forked tail. Wings & tail have yellow patches. Male: More yellow-green body & yellower face, black cap & bib. Female & young birds greyish-green heads & no cap. Gregarious out of breeding season (mixed flocks often with redpolls)
  • Diet: Seeds (prefers spruce & pine) alder, birch, (summer - insects)
  • Listen to siskin RSPB site
  • Similar birds greenfinch, serin (rare

Siskins have done well from the massive increase in commercial plantings of conifers over the last 25 years (pine seed being their favorite food), as the amount of acreage under pine plantation has doubled, siskin numbers in the UK have gone from 40,000 pairs to 360,000 pairs.

In previous times the siskin was less fortunate, the combination of its attractiveness, song and tameness led to it being often taken as a caged songbird.

Siskins are renowed for feeding in an upside down position. They seem fond of peanuts, but will eat most seeds (particulary tree seeds) and insects. The siskin has a quite longish beak for a seed eating bird, a useful tool for extracting pine seeds.

Eating at the bird table represents a major shift in behaviour for siskins, and was only first recorded in 1961. Before then they were rarely seen in gardens. This change caught on amongst the species and helped the birds through some of the worst winters on record.

Frank Stark
Sunday 20th July, 2008 Semipalmated Sandpiper Aird an Runair - RSPB Balranald - North Uist
  • Semipalmated Sandpiper
  • Calidris pusilla
  • UK Scarce but regular visitor. A couple of records every year, mostly Aug-Oct. (75 records 1958-2005) BTO
  • Breeds: Southern tundra (Arctic North America, Canada). Nest is scrape on ground. (Male makes several, female chooses one & adds grass lining). Both incubate the eggs. Then female leaves the young to forage with male.
  • Winters: Migrates in large flocks. Coastal South America, Mexico. (On migration found on coastal, wet meadows)
  • Diet: Forages (saltwater & freshwater) mudflats, sometimes also on land. Mostly aquatic insects, worms, crustaceans.
  • Shorebird. Adult black legs. Short straight, stout dark bill. Body dark grey-brown above, white below. Head & neck light grey-brownish.

BBRC records 1950 - 2006
0, 0, 0, 1, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0,
0, 0, 0, 0, 1, 0, 2, 0, 0, 0,
1, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 2, 0,
2, 0, 4, 1, 3, 1, 4, 0, 2, 4,
2, 0, 3, 4, 2, 2, 4, 1, 1, 15,
2, 3, 3, 4, 2, 1, 4,

 
Sunday 20th July, 2008 Rose-coloured Starling Siadar - Isle of Lewis    
Saturday 19th July, 2008 Rose-coloured Starling Siadar - Isle of Lewis

"Rosy pastor at Siadar, Isle of Lewis. Presumably the bird that has been around Barvas, though it has now lost its common cousins and is a lone ranger"

Rose-coloured Starling
Martin's photograph of the Rose-coloured Starling
Martin Scott
Friday 18th July, 2008 Red-necked Phalarope RSPB Loch na Muilne nature reserve - Isle of Lewis

In 2000 there were only 13 pairs of Red-necked Phalarope breeding in the whole of the UK, most were in Shetland. The Northern part of Scotland is on the Southernmost edge of it's breeding range. There are now estimated to be 20 to 30 pairs breeding in the UK. RSPB Loch na Muilne nature reserve on the Isle of Lewis is a red-necked phalarope breeding site.

The female red-necked phalarope usually arrive in mid-May and by the end of August have left our islands.

They spend summer in the Arctic and sub-Arctic and in winter live at sea off the Arabian coast.

Red-necked Phalarope do not make typical monogamous pairings. The females are the most brightly coloured, they sing and court the males, and also fight each other for the attentions of the males.

The males incubate the eggs and feed the young whilst the females take on a second partner...

Red-necked phalarope feed by swirling up freshwater bottom sediments and eating the insects etc that rise up. The process by which they swirl the water makes them spin around.

 
Thursday 17th July, 2008 Snowy Owl St Kilda
  • 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 .

 
Thursday 17th July, 2008 Sooty Shearwater Harris Offshore    
Wednesday 16th July, 2008 Rose-coloured Starling Barvas - Isle of lewis    
Wednesday 16th July, 2008 Sooty Shearwater Labost - Isle of Lewis    

(From ongoing discussion of feeding stations which entice siskins but look natural in a photograph...)

"I used to tape a plastic bottle with water in side it to a post and when i was going to photograph Finches i would collect seeding weeds, dandelions, thisles, meadowsweet etc and stick these into the bottle. The water kept the plants fresh and it was surprising the different species that could be photographed "naturally" in this way.

Dont just stick a bottle anywhere in the garden and expect all the birds in the neighbourhood to descend onto the thistles or whatever you decide to put in it. Place it close to, and slightly higher than your feeding station , nut holder, bird table etc.
This way the birds will certainly land on the seeding weeds, giving you a more natural photograph, even though they are probably more interested in the commercial seed or peanuts.
Occasionaly the odd bird will have a go at what you have in the bottle though, so it is certainly worth trying different plants.

Nothing new happening really, apart from a sub-adult Golden Eagle taking off about 20 mtres in front of me as i came round the hill.
And yes you guessed, i didn,t have my camera at the time. However, i'm used to these things happening now so , downwards and backwards, or something like that!

Frank

P>S. 6 juv Siskins in my garden today at different stages of moulting which suggests there are more than 1 pair of birds breeding in my area. "

Wednesday 16th July, 2008
Leurbost, Isle of Lewis

Monday 15th July, 2008 Great Skua Stornoway Council Tip   SK
Sunday 14th July, 2008 Red-throated Diver Bernera

A pair on Bernera around thye Bays of Croir and Bosta, also on a loch along the Uig road

  • Red-throated Diver
  • AKA: Red-throated Loon, Rain Goose, Cape drake, cape race, rain-goose, scape-grace, sprat loon, cobble, little loon, pegging-owl loon, pepper-shinned loon
  • WI Migrant/Resident Breeder, Passage/Winter Visitor
  • UK, AMBER LIST, 1200 pairs (Summer) BTO, 4850 Winter RSPB
  • Breeding grounds: North Europe, North Asia, North America, Arctic Canada. Arrive in March & April. Shallow nest (rush-lined) in rushes by ponds & freshwater lochs. 2 eggs late-may/early June. Departs in September & October
  • Winters: Coastal waters south of breeding range to Southern Europe, China and Southern North America. Birds from more Northern parts arrive to winter off the UK's coasts in August & September - peak in October.
  • Diet: Fish caught at sea, also some frogs (adults feed sand eels to their young)
  • Smallest UK diver (24-27in long). Breeding adults: grey head. Thick neck with red throat, white below. Dark mantle. Non-breeding: drabber. White chin & foreneck also most of face. Red Iris. Bill up-tilted.
  • Usually jumps up to dive. Remaining underwater up to 1.5mins & to depth 25ft. Very clumsy on land, ashore only to breed. Only diver that can take-off from land.
  • Listen to a red-throated diver (RSPB site)
  • Max recorded age 22yrs 11mths

RSPB and SNH have found that in the last 12 years black-throated divers have increased in numbers in the UK by 34%, and red-throated divers by 16%, with the greatest increase in breeding birds being in the Western Isles. Both species have however declined in Europe. So in September 2007 the black-throated diver was made a conservation priority by the UK government.

A diver's legs are a long-way back on it's body, this helps make the bird a great swimmer but barely able to walk on land, so the bird builds it's nest very close to the water's edge. A nest located like this is very vulnerable to flooding, so many eggs get lost, and numbers are further reduced by predators and egg-collectors. Someone had the bright idea of building the birds anchored rafts to nest on in safe areas in the middle of remote lochs. 58 have been created and numbers have increased ...

Susan P
Sunday 14th July, 2008 Merlin Point Isle of Lewis + Bernera

i watched a male merlin today on point . Didnt have my camera with me and i wouldn,t say the light was good for pics. Could you tell me if the crane is still about i could do with some pics with the tele lens if possible thanks Andy

Someone else asked this yesterday - the last record I have of the Common Crane was at Stornoway Airport on the 14th June, does anyone have a more recent record?

  • Merlin
  • AKA: Stone Falcon, Pigeon Hawk (flight - look a bit like pigeons)
  • Falco columbarius
  • UK AMBER LIST, 13,000 pairs (Summer) BTO
    (1,300 breeding pairs) RSPB
  • Breeds: Upland moorland, birch scrub, forest. North America, Asia, Europe (UK nest usually a scrape on upland rocky or scrub moor in long heather)
  • Winter: In Aug - Oct birds come down to inland & lowland coast areas & North European birds arrive. (Open countryside areas) .Some Icelandic breeding birds migrate to UK and birds that breed here move further south. Merlin often roost communally & with hen harriers. Africa, Asia, South America
  • Habitat: Moor, heath, desert, open coniferous forest
  • Diet: Small birds (mostly) usually caught by dashing pursuit
  • Smallest bird of prey. Male: 10-13in long, wingspan 24-27in. Female slightly larger. Compact, relatively long square-cut tail & fairly broad-based pointed wings (shorter than other falcons')
    Adult male: blue-grey above & orange-tinted below. Female & immature dark-brown above & whitish with brown spotting below.
  • Max recorded age: 12yrs 8mths
  • Listen to a merlin (RSPB site)
  • Similar birds: kestrel, sparrowhawk

Our smallest bird of prey.
Small but powerful...the hunting flight is a low-level glide,wings held close to body), pushed by occasional series of deft wingbeats (also hovers).

During a stoop the wings close and the bird becomes a missile that comes upon it's prey with such speed and power that the bird can take prey up to 4 times it's own weight. Dashing, agile aerial chases are a speciality. Will take a grouse but mainly feeds on pipits and larks

 

Andy L
Sunday 14th July, 2008 Common Crossbill Loch Eynort - 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

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, Crossbills may be numerous in the UK and will arrive from the Continent from late summer, often staying to breed. There are just 1 or 2 possible Western Isles breeding records.

Crossbill's breeding season lasts from summer to the next spring to take advantage of maximum cone supplies.

In a study it was found that the number of successful breeding pairs was found to be positively correlated to the number of cones read more

 
Saturday 13th July, 2008 Sooty Shearwater Butt of Lewis - Outer Hebrides    

 

Great Northern Diver Great Northern Diver Great Northern Diver Razorbill

Debbie Bozkurt's photos of the Great Northern Diver being robbed by a Herring Gull, and a Razorbill , both taken in Stornoway Harbour on the 4th July, 2008

 

Saturday 13th July, 2008 Iceland Gull Barvas - Isle of Lewis    
Saturday 13th July, 2008 Glaucous Gull Siadar Nr Barvas + Barvas - Isle of Lewis    
Bird Sightings : Gray Wagtail John Hamilton sent in this photograph of a Grey Wagtail which he took along the River Creed in the Stornoway Castle Grounds on the 17th May, 2008
Thursday 10th July, 2008 Golden Eagle Isle of Lewis "On the evenings of 9th and 10th July we had two very close encounters with a Golden Eagle on a stunning beach... Both times were quite late into the evening and both times it swooped out right in front of us from behind rocks on the top of a small hill. Both evenings we watched it as it majestically cruised the skies above the beach and small cliffs a few times, before drifting off ... It was beautiful to see at such close quarters...and we both were struck by the enormity of its size. Very awesome experience! :)"
Glen R
Thursday 10th July, 2008 Mute Swan Upper Aird Loch - Point - Isle of Lewis "2 appeared this evening"
G& J
"Never mind the goldfinches. The corncrake was lurking in undergrowth in our garden last night. I was wandering around in the garden at 1.45 trying to strangle the thing. (JOKING!!! we hope) The noise was so loud I thought it was the car alarm. It started calling at 12.00am and kept going until about 4.00am…non-stop. I presume that it is looking for Miss or Ms Corncrake and not having much luck. Any ideas where we can find a ‘date’ for this chap so that we can get a reasonable night’s sleep? I don’t suppose it would be interested in one of the many seabirds that live in the village? No.

Best wishes from a very grumpy,"

H.
Lemreway, Isle of Lewis
Tuesday 8th July, 2008

 

 

http://www.corncrake.net/steckbrief_e.htm is a web site dedicated to corncrakes, amongst other interesting items it has a wide range of different calls on it. Perhaps Helen can identify if her calling male has found a mate ... calls include:

  • Characteristic rasping call of the corncrake male, mainly during night, but also during day.
  • Call of a male corncrake; sign of excitement, which indicates that a female corncrake is present or even that both are a couple.
  • Excited male. Call can be heard when (1) the male is mated with a female or (2) the male is aggressive towards another male
  • Call of a female, similar to call of a male (but given only on very rare occasions)
  • Female attracting juveniles (about 10 days old)
  • warning call of a female with chicks
  • calls of newly hatched chicks
  • contact call of 10 day old chicks

Breeds: Europe, Asia (Western Isles April - September). Tall grass and tall rough vegetation (Hayfields, grassland, patches of yellow flag iris, reeds, nettle or rhubarb etc). Nest on ground is of dead stems & leaves. 8 -12 greenish-grey red-spotted eggs. 1st clutch May - June, 2nd clutch July - August. Incubation 16 -19 days. Fledging 34- 38 days.

The RSPB corncrake walks are running until 28th July so there may be a lot of birds calling yet ... (see top of page for details) AND that male may still call if he finds a mate and/or gets excited ...

In his book Birds of the Outer Hebrides (ISBN 0 906664 00 0) Peter Cunningham wrote that one exceptionally late calling male was heard in Breasclete (Isle of Lewis) on 11th August 1977.

BBC Radio 4 migration programme this week includes an article about the return of the Corncrake to mainland Britain

 

Wednesday 9th July, 2008 Corncrake Isle of Scalpay

"Corncrake heard for several hours overnight 8/9th July Isle of Scalpay..."

 

Naomi Mitchison, born 1897 wrote "he said it over and over again like a corncrake...."

Rather well put.
A male corncrake can call 20,000 times in one night, can be heard a mile away, and can call without pause for 6 hours.

The main period for calling is between midnight and 3am.
(under your bedroom window just when it is hot enough to want to leave it open...)

(Any new corncrake FAQ's to share would be gratefully received. )

Simon
Tuesday 8th July, 2008 Rose-coloured Starling Barvas - Isle of lewis    
Tuesday 8th July, 2008 Roseate Tern Loch Brusda - Isle of Berneray    
Tuesday 8th July, 2008 Glaucous Gull Siadar Nr Barvas - Isle of Lewis    
Tuesday 8th July, 2008 Quail Barvas - Isle of Lewis
  • Quail is a rare summer visitor, usually heard rather than seen
  • Male's call is decribed as "wet-me-lips" (listen to it on RSPB site)
  • 200-500 breeding pairs in the UK in Summer
  • Habitat fields, grazings
  • Weak flyer, but manages a migration to North Africa & back
  • On the Red List

"Wood sandpiper?....Coming back from Peats today, saw a Sandpiper with very unusual markings.
It was feeding & wading in open shallow muddy water on the edge of a large pool.
I was able to get within 10 feet of it before it slowly walked away.
Oystercatchers were on the same pool with young.
Very small, similar size to Common Sandpiper but with very prominent large dark brown & cream coarse mottled back feathers.
Legs were dark yellowish geenish colour. Bill was very dark.
Whitish rump without a clear cut border below neck.
May have been a Green Sandpiper as legs seemed quite dark but the very coarse mottled back was a problem in ID.
There have been strong easterly winds recently and I wonder if it had flown from Scandinavia."

John B
Skigersta, Ness, Isle of Lewis
7th July, 2008

Saturday 5th July, 2008 Quail Bragar + Barvas - Isle of Lewis  
Friday 4th July, 2008 Osprey Loch Carnan - South Uist  
"Got a new camera, wore my other one out ... Great find this morning in the harbour, in about 100 yards of each other, Guillemots, Razorbills and a beautiful Northern Diver, the light and sun was so strong it was difficult to get good pictures but I had a go. The guillemot just reflected to much sus so I will not send that. Here is a slightly out of focus Razorbill, kept diving and then went altogether before I could get a good picture and then a couple of nice Northern Divers

I tried to get a picture of the Diver with a fish in his mouth, just when I lined one up beautifully look what happened! Not sure who was most surprised about losing his brunch the Diver or me!"

(Herring Gull stole the catch - photograph to be added shortly)

Debs
Friday 4th July, 2008

"Not so much of a sighting but we have heard a Corncrake in a croft at Lemreway, South Lochs. It was heard by my stepdaughter and neighbours on Friday 04/07/08 evening and I heard it on Saturday evening 05/07/08. We have done our level best to try and spot it but the croft is very overgrown and is only used for grazing from November to May so I guess it is ideal for the Corncrake.

I also spotted 5 fledged goldfinches yesterday. We have a resident pair somewhere in the vicinity of our house and they seem to have produced a healthy brood."

Helen

"Off Canada Geese and onto another subject.
The attached image is my reward for spending thousands of pounds feeding the "Invasion" of Siskins, Some must have decided to hang around and rear a family in the area, bankrupting me entirely in the process.
Incidentally, the youngsters in the photo are perched on my not so super duper R.S.P.B nyjer seed feeder."

Frank Stark
Friday 4th July,2008

Bird Sightings : Siskin juveniles
Frank's photograph of the juvenile siskins


Friday 4th July,2008 Common Crossbill Loch Eynort - South Uist    
Friday 4th July, 2008 Woodpigeon Lochmaddy - Norh Uist

2.7 million territories in the UK

The Western Isles and Scotiish Highlands have fewer breeding pairs than anywhere else in the UK.

See BTO breeding atlas map

 
         

 

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