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 Western Isles of Scotland

 

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Bird Sightings : Hebrides : May 2008

 

 

 

 

This table is Hebrides Bird Sightings period May 2008
Friday 30th May, 2008 Garganey Loch Fada - Benbecula    

Female Red-necked Phalarope back at RSPB Loch na Muilne, Arnol today - but elusive

Walk past the Historic Scotland Blackhouse (but pop in on the way back!) and turn right towards the gate by the turning circle. Go through the metal gate towards the dry stone interpretation area. Birds prefer the smaller of the two lochs, but can be very elusive. Do not venture into the marsh. In previous years calm days have made viewing easier as the birds come out to feed on insects rather than skulking in the vegetation.

Cheers
Martin

RSPB Conservation Officer (Western Isles)
Tuesday 27th May, 2008

Bird sightings red-necked phalarope Martin's photograph of the Red-necked Phalarope

 

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.

Tuesday 27th May, 2008 Golden Oriole Askernish - South Uist
  • Golden Oriole
  • Oriolus oriolus
  • UK: AMBER LIST. Migrant breeder, passage visitor
  • UK: 11 pairs breeding, 85 passage (May - August)
  • Breeds: Europe, Asia
  • Winters: Africa, India
  • Habitat: Shy bird of the tree-tops. Deciduous woodland, (likes black poplar)
  • Diet: Insects (likes large caterpillars) berries
  • Blackbird-sized. Male bright yellow body. Black wings. Female drabber green. Flight thrush-like.
  • Max recorded age: 9yr 9mths
  • Listen to a golden oriole (RSPB site). Call a Jay-like screech, song fluting. Usually indicator of bird's presence

Oriole comes from the Latin "aureolus" which means golden.

 
Tuesday 27th May, 2008 American Wigeon Nr Loch a' Charra - North Uist
  • AKA: Widgeon, Baldpate
  • Anas americana
  • Scarce visitor, 6 UK annual records BTO
  • Breeds North-West & Central America
  • Winters: South USA to Northerly South America
  • Duck: Adult male in breeding season: pinkish brown body, greenish eye patch, creamy white crown stripe,
  • Gregarious outside of breeding season
  • Habitat: lochs, marshes, wet meadows, on migration also rivers, estuaries
  • Diet: Mostly grass, invertebrates ( seeds in summer)
  • Similar bird: (wigeon cream-buff or orange crown)
 
Tuesday 27th May, 2008 Iceland Gull

Balranald - North Uist

Stornoway Harbour

  • 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.

 
Tuesday 27th May, 2008 Garganey Coot Loch Benbecula
  • Garganey
  • Anas querquedula
  • UK Migrant Breeder, Passage Visitor
  • UK AMBER LIST, 69 pairs (summer) BTO
  • Breeds: Europe, Asia (a few in UK)
  • Winters: South Europe, South Africa, Australia, South Asia
  • Diet: Garganey is a dabbling duck so often feeds swimming with head under water, or by skimming surface. Eats leaves, shoots, aquatic vegetation
  • Habitat: Shallow wetlands, rushy marshland, flooded meadows, ditches, shallow lakes, reedbeds
  • Secretive duck (especially when breeding). Smaller than mallard, bit bigger than teal. Adult male, brown head & breast. Broad white stripe over eye. Rest of plumage grey, (loose grey shoulder feathers). Grey bill & legs.
    Fight shows a pale blue forewing.
  • Max recorded age 21yrs 4mths
  • Similar birds: teal, green-winged teal (rare)
  • Listen to a garganey (RSPB site)
 
Tuesday 27th May, 2008 Red-backed Shrike Malacleit - North Uist
  • Red-backed Shrike
  • Lanius collurio
  • UK: RED LIST. 227 records a year BTO
  • UK: Scarce Breeder (0-5prs) , Passage Visitor
  • Breeds: Europe, Asia
  • Winters: South of breeding range to Africa
  • Habitat: Open woodland, scrub, savanna, farmland
  • Diet: Perches on tops of bushes, fence posts, wires etc, watching for prey which they will store in their larder impaled on a thorn or stuck into a fork. (hence the name butcher bird). Mainly insects (prefers beetles). Small mammals, birds, reptiles
  • Aprox size of house sparrow, but slimmer. Male unmistakable bluish-grey head, black mask, bright chestnut back, thick hooked black bill.
  • Listen to a red-backed shrike (RSPB site)
 
BBC web site article today about the recent bee-eater, golden oriole etc
Tuesday 27th May, 2008

It is the week of the Rare Bird Alert trip to Sula Sgeir.
A great selection of rare birds seen in our islands just now, but there has been no sign of Albert the Black-browed Albatross yet.

Sunday 25th May, 2008 Trumpeter Finch North Rona
  • Trumpeter Finch
  • Bucanetes githagineus
  • UK: Accidental 1958 - 2004 only 20 records BTO
  • Breeds: Rock crevices in stony desert or semi-desert. Canary Islands, North Africa, Middle East, Central Asia. Mostly resident. Sometimes food shortage causes birds to migrate into Europe - some reach UK. (As in 2005)
  • Diet: Forages on ground and also digs. Mainly seeds. Some grass shoots, leaves. (Breeding season insects also)
  • Small & long-winged. Large head, short thick bill. Summer male red bill, grey head & neck. Pale brown above. Breast, rump & tail pink (tail dark terminal feathers). Winter males, females & young birds pale version of the breeding male.
  • The song is like a tin trumpet!
 
Sunday 25th May, 2008 Red-backed Shrike Balranald - North Uist    
Sunday 25th May, 2008 American Wigeon Nr Loch a' Charra - North Uist    
Saturday 24th May, 2008 Glaucous Gull Loch 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
 
Saturday 24th May, 2008 Red-throated Pipit Pabbay
  • Red-throated Pipit
  • Anthus cervinus
  • UK: Scarce Visitor
  • UK: 9 records a year (406 birds 1958 - 2006) BTO
  • Breeds: Open country: mountains, marsh, tundra, wet meadows. Nests on hummock in marsh, elsewise on ground. Far North of Europe & Asia, Alaska
  • Winters: Africa, Asia West Europe (vagrant to UK)
  • Insecteater: small insects. Some seeds
  • Small pipit. Breeding adults: brick red face &throat. Otherwise a pipit heavily streaked brown above with whitish mantle stripes, below has black markings on white background .
 
Saturday 24th May, 2008 Short-toed lark St Kilda
  • Short-toed Lark
  • AKA Greater short-toed lark
  • Calandrella brachydactyla
  • UK: Scarce visitor, 27 records a year BTO
  • Breeds: Nests on ground in dryish open or cultivated country, grassland. Southern Europe, Northwest Africa, across temperate Asia, Africa
  • Winters: South of breeding range to south Sahara, India (Common wanderer to N & W Europe spring & autumn)
  • Diet: Forages on ground or digs. Seeds, in breeding season also insects
  • Small pale lark, (smaller than Skylark). Dark-streaked greyish-brown above, white below. Strong pointed bill. Pale eye stripe, dark patches on sides of neck. Tail dark. (Western birds sometimes have rufous crown). Sexes similar
 
Saturday 24th May, 2008 Red-backed Shrike Clachan - North Uist    
Saturday 24th May, 2008 Turtle Dove Carinish - North Uist
  • Eurasian Turtle Dove
  • Streptopelia tutar
  • AKA: Turtle Dove, Gaelic: tutar
  • WI: Regular but scarce passage migrant (March - Oct but mostly May-June & Sept) Approx 10 records a year
  • UK: RED LIST, 44,000 territories (summer) BTO
  • UK: Migrant reeder, Passage Visitor
  • Habitat: arable land near townships, woodland edges, hedgerows & open land with some shrubs, gardens
  • Breeds: Europe, Central Asia, North Africa
  • Winters: south of breeding range to Central Africa
  • Diet: Seeds, cereal grain, weeds
  • Size of a large blackbird. Dainty dove. Smaller & darker than collared dove. Upperparts mottled chestnut & black. Black tail has white edge
  • Max recorded age: 7yr 1 mth
  • Listen to a turtle dove (RSPB site)
  • Similar bird: collared dove

Turtle doves are the only migratory dove.

 
Saturday 24th May, 2008 American Wigeon Nr Loch a' Charra - North Uist    
 

Gray Wagtail - on the river creed in Stornoway - Saturday 17th May 2008

John Hamilton

Bird Sightings : Grey Wagtail John's photograph of the Grey Wagtail

 

It is that time of year again when corncrakes are about and audible - and if your lucky you might catch a glimpse of one.
 
The annual survey started on Monday and will run through the summer. Initial indications from all down the west coast is that birds are slow to come back this year. Perhaps they know that there is little growth with the lack of rain we have been having!
 

If you hear any corncrakes yourself, or hear of any, please drop us an email. If you can provide a grid reference too that would be a great help. Traditionally they come to much the same locations but one at Cameron Terrace on Monday night shows that they can appear anywhere!

Donald MacSween will be doing the night time rounds this year again on Lewis and Harris.

Cheers

Martin
RSPB Conservation Officer (Western Isles)
martin.scott@rspb.org.uk (link fixed)

         
Friday 23rd May, 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 .

 
Friday 23rd May, 2008 Bluethroat St Kilda
  • Bluethroat
  • Luscinia svecica
  • UK: AMBER LIST. 113 annual records BTO
  • UK: Scarce breeder (UK 1 pair), Passage visitor May -J une & July - August
  • Breeds Europe, Asia, Alaska
  • Winters: Africa, Asia
  • Habitat: Spring/Autumn: Coastal scrub or grassy places
  • Diet: Hops along ground foraging under leaves on soil surface for insects, caterpillars. Some fruit: berries. Disturbed bird dives into bush for cover
  • Small & robin-like. Spring-time male bright blue throat, bordered below with bands of black+white+chestnut. Chestnut or white central throat spot. Chestnut tail patches.
  • Max recorded age 6yrs 8mths
  • Listen to a Bluethroat RSPB site
 
Friday 23rd May, 2008 Blue-headed Wagtail St Kilda    
Friday 23rd May, 2008 Turtle Dove St Kilda    
Friday 23rd May, 2008 Garganey Coot Loch Benbecula    
Friday 23rd May, 2008 Little Stint Loch Barvas - Isle of Lewis
  • Calidris minuta
  • Passage, winter visitor
  • 770 UK annual records
  • Tiny wading bird, short straight fine black bill, medium-length black legs, brownish-grey above (grey - winter) very white below, quick movements, dark legs & grey outer tail feathers
  • Autumn birds have two pale stripes down backs, often feed with dunlin
  • Breeds: Arctic Europe, Asia
  • Winters: India, Africa
  • Habitat: Tundra, (migration mudflats)
  • Diet: Invertebrates at mud surface
    BTO records
  • Listen to little stint on RSPB site
 
Friday 23rd May, 2008 Subalpine Warbler Malacleit - North Uist
  • Subalpine Warbler
  • Sylvia cantillans albistriata

BBRC records for subalpine warbler in the UK 1995 - 2006:
0, 0, 0, 1, 0, 0, 0, 2, 1, 7, 0, 0,

 
Friday 23rd May, 2008 Hobby North Uist    
Friday 23rd May, 2008 American Wigeon Nr Loch a' Charra - North Uist    
         
Thursday 22nd May, 2008 Wood Sandpiper Loch Stiapabhat - Ness - Isle of Lewis
  • Wood Sandpiper
  • Tringa glareola
  • UK: AMBER LIST. Scarce Breeder (a few pairs in the Scottish highlands), Passage Visitor Spring & Autumn
  • Breeds: Taiga near water (moist subarctic coniferous forest begins where tundra ends) Alaska, North Europe, North Asia
  • Winters: Africa, Australia, South Europe, South Asia
  • Migration: Coastal areas & lochs, lakes, rivers, wet meadow
  • Diet: Insects: worms, spiders, shellfish and small fish.
  • Medium-sized wader. Narrow, straight bill, yellow legs. Long white stripe bill - over the eye to back neck. Flight: Square white rump, no wing-stripes
  • Listen to a Wood Sandpiper (RSPB site)
  • Similar birds: green sandpiper (rare here), common sandpiper
 
Thursday 22nd May, 2008 Little Stint Loch Barvas - Isle of Lewis
  • Calidris minuta
  • Passage, winter visitor
  • 770 UK annual records
  • Tiny wading bird, short straight fine black bill, medium-length black legs, brownish-grey above (grey - winter) very white below, quick movements, dark legs & grey outer tail feathers
  • Autumn birds have two pale stripes down backs, often feed with dunlin
  • Breeds: Arctic Europe, Asia
  • Winters: India, Africa
  • Habitat: Tundra, (migration mudflats)
  • Diet: Invertebrates at mud surface
    BTO records
  • Listen to little stint on RSPB site
 
Thursday 22nd May, 2008 Quail  
  • 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
 
Thursday 22nd May, 2008 Spotted Flycatcher St Kilda
  • Spotted Flycatcher
  • Muscicapa striata
  • UK: RED LIST. 59,000 territories(Summer) BTO . Most in UK May - August (Northern birds arrive September)
  • UK: Migrant Breeder, Passage Visitor
  • Breeds: Europe, Asia
  • Winters: Africa
  • Habitat: Open woodland, parks, gardens
  • Diet: Mostly flying insects. Perches watching for insects, flys out to get them then returns to perch
  • Grey-brown with off-white breast, (streaked with darker grey). Forehead also streaked forehead.
  • Similar birds: Pied Flycatcher
  • Listen to a Pied Flycatcher (RSPB site)
 
Thursday 22nd May, 2008 Bluethroat St Kilda
  • Bluethroat
  • Luscinia svecica
  • UK: AMBER LIST. 113 annual records BTO
  • UK: Scarce breeder (UK 1 pair), Passage visitor May -J une & July - August
  • Breeds Europe, Asia, Alaska
  • Winters: Africa, Asia
  • Habitat: Spring/Autumn: Coastal scrub or grassy places
  • Diet: Hops along ground foraging under leaves on soil surface for insects, caterpillars. Some fruit: berries. Disturbed bird dives into bush for cover
  • Small & robin-like. Spring-time male bright blue throat, bordered below with bands of black+white+chestnut. Chestnut or white central throat spot. Chestnut tail patches.
  • Max recorded age 6yrs 8mths
  • Listen to a Bluethroat RSPB site
 
Thursday 22nd May, 2008 Ortolan Bunting St Kilda
  • Ortolan Bunting
  • Emberiza hortulana
  • UK: 71 annual records BTO
  • UK: Passage vistor
  • Breeds: Europe, Asia
  • Winters: Africa, Arabia
  • Habitat: Scrubland, fields, towns
  • Diet: Insects, seeds
  • Yellowish bib & streaked head. Male greenish & yellow head markings. Warm reddish below. Female duller, with pinkish bill, pale eye-ring.
 
Thursday 22nd May, 2008 Tree Pipit St Kilda
  • Tree Pipit
  • Anthus trivialis
  • UK: 74,000 territiories (summer) BTO
  • UK: Migrant Breeder, Passage Visitor April - September
  • Breeds: Europe to Asia
  • Winters: South of breeding range to India, Africa
  • Habitat: Likes newly planted conifers, open heath, open upland woodland
  • Diet: Mostly insects: Some plant material, like berries in autumn & winter
  • Brown streaked above, pale below. Also streaking on buffish chest & flanks.(Differ from meadow pipits by heavier bill & fine streaking on flank)
  • Listen to a tree pipit (RSPB site)
  • Similar birds: Meadow pipit, Skylark
    Max recorded age 3yrs 1mth
 
Thursday 22nd May, 2008 Subalpine Warbler St Kilda
  • Subalpine Warbler
  • Sylvia cantillans albistriata

BBRC records for subalpine warbler in the UK 1995 - 2006:
0, 0, 0, 1, 0, 0, 0, 2, 1, 7, 0, 0,

 
Thursday 22nd May, 2008 American Wigeon Nr Loch a' Charra - North Uist
  • AKA: Widgeon, Baldpate
  • Anas americana
  • Scarce visitor, 6 UK annual records BTO
  • Breeds North-West & Central America
  • Winters: South USA to Northerly South America
  • Duck: Adult male in breeding season: pinkish brown body, greenish eye patch, creamy white crown stripe,
  • Gregarious outside of breeding season
  • Habitat: lochs, marshes, wet meadows, on migration also rivers, estuaries
  • Diet: Mostly grass, invertebrates ( seeds in summer)
  • Similar bird: (wigeon cream-buff or orange crown)
 
I saw my first swallow of the year today at Upper Carloway. (I appreciate it's not the first sighting for the island)

Many years ago during when I lived in England - the earliest date I recorded a swallow was 14th March; which I think is quite early.

Richard H
Thursday 22nd May, 2008

Wednesday 21st May, 2008 Turtle Dove Grenitote - Northy Uist
  • Eurasian Turtle Dove
  • Streptopelia tutar
  • AKA: Turtle Dove, Gaelic: tutar
  • WI: Regular but scarce passage migrant (March - Oct but mostly May-June & Sept) Approx 10 records a year
  • UK: RED LIST, 44,000 territories (summer) BTO
  • UK: Migrant reeder, Passage Visitor
  • Habitat: arable land near townships, woodland edges, hedgerows & open land with some shrubs, gardens
  • Breeds: Europe, Central Asia, North Africa
  • Winters: south of breeding range to Central Africa
  • Diet: Seeds, cereal grain, weeds
  • Size of a large blackbird. Dainty dove. Smaller & darker than collared dove. Upperparts mottled chestnut & black. Black tail has white edge
  • Max recorded age: 7yr 1 mth
  • Listen to a turtle dove (RSPB site)
  • Similar bird: collared dove

Turtle doves are the only migratory dove.

 
Wednesday 21st May, 2008 Garden Warbler Vallay Strand - North Uist
  • Sylvia borin
  • Passage visitor, migrant breeder
  • 190,000 pairs in UK (summer)
  • Arrives late-April - May, leaves mid- July, Continental migrants seen Aug - Sept
  • Breeds: West Asia, Europe
  • Winters: Central & Southern Africa
  • Very plain warbler, mainly brown-grey above and whitish below, mostly hides in scrub cover
  • Habitat: Forest edge, glades, deciduous & mixed woodland edges, towns (prefers open areas near trees)
  • Diet: Berries, summer insects
  • BTO records
  • Listen to a garden warbler RSPB site
 
Wednesday 21st May, 2008 Iceland Gull

Loch Sandary + Balranald - North Uist

  • 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.

 
Wednesday 21st May, 2008 American Wigeon Nr Loch a' Charra - North Uist

 

 

 
Wednesday 21st May, 2008 Little Egret Vallay Strand - North Uist    

"I heard snipe drumming yesterday frorm the back door, and a cuckoo. Today, I saw both starling and robin actively catch prey for feeding young. (The robin used the same fence post as a lookout/launching pad and caught a small worm and a bright green caterpillar.)

Just out of interest, was the black crowned heron seen on the Uist the other day established as an 'escape/exotic' or wild?

Richard H
Wednesday 21st May, 2008

There have been about 20 UK Black-crowned (AKA Night Heron) sightings in the last month. Most on the East & SE coast of England so looks like a probable overshoot, if anyone can offer an expert opinion I would be very interested to learn more...

Tuesday 20th May, 2008 American Wigeon Nr Loch a' Charra - North Uist    
Tuesday 20th May, 2008 Iceland Gull

Loch Sandary - North Uist

   
Tuesday 20th May, 2008 Golden Oriole North Bay - Barra
  • Golden Oriole
  • Oriolus oriolus
  • UK: AMBER LIST. Migrant breeder, passage visitor
  • UK: 11 pairs breeding, 85 passage (May - August)
  • Breeds: Europe, Asia
  • Winters: Africa, India
  • Habitat: Shy bird of the tree-tops. Deciduous woodland, (likes black poplar)
  • Diet: Insects (likes large caterpillars) berries
  • Blackbird-sized. Male bright yellow body. Black wings. Female drabber green. Flight thrush-like.
  • Max recorded age: 9yr 9mths
  • Listen to a golden oriole (RSPB site). Call a Jay-like screech, song fluting. Usually indicator of bird's presence

Oriole comes from the Latin "aureolus" which means golden.

 
Tuesday 20th May, 2008 Surf Scoter Sound of Harris
  • Melanitta perspicillata
  • Accidental
  • Large sea duck, bulky shape, large bill.
  • Male almost all black, white patches nape & forehead. Bulbous red, yellow & white bill.
  • Females brown birds, pale head patches. Head wedge-shaped & no white in wings helps ID female from female velvet scoter
  • Fewer than 20 UK records
  • Breeds: Alaska & Canada
  • Winters: South USA, Europe & UK
  • Habitat: Close to sea, lakes, rivers, tundra
  • Diet: Molluscs, crustaceans, (migration fish eggs)
  • BTO records
 
Tuesday 20th May, 2008 Snowy Owl Grenitote - North Uist Male bird
  • 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 .

 
Monday 19th may, 2008 Wood Warbler

Horgabost - Isle of Harris

Loch Eynort - South Uist

  • Wood Warbler
  • Phylloscopus sibilatrix
  • UK: AMBER LIST, 17,000 males (May - August)
  • Breeds: Nests near ground in low shrubs in shady, mature deciduous woodlands or forest. Northern & temperate Europe, Extreme West Asia
  • Winters: (Entire population) tropical Africa
  • Diet: Insects and spiders, some fruit
  • Darkish moss-green above, lemon-yellow throat & upper chest. Yellow eye stripe.
  • Max recorded age 8yr 1mth
  • Listen to a wood warbler (RSPB site)
  • Similar birds: willow warbler, chifffchaff
 

I have attached an image for you. The wonder of new life.

Frank
19th May, 2008

Bird Sightings : Greylag Goose and Goslings Greylag goose and goslings

 
Monday 19th May, 2008 Snowy Owl Grenitote - North Uist    
Sunday 19th May, 2008 Iceland Gull

Butt of Lewis

Loch Sandary - North Uist

   
Sunday 19th May, 2008 Snowy Owl Grenitote - North Uist Male bird so perhaps the Crowlista one is NOT the same bird? (50 miles apart)  
Sunday 19th May, 2008 Garganey Loch Sandary - North Uist
  • Garganey
  • Anas querquedula
  • UK Migrant Breeder, Passage Visitor
  • UK AMBER LIST, 69 pairs (summer) BTO
  • Breeds: Europe, Asia (a few in UK)
  • Winters: South Europe, South Africa, Australia, South Asia
  • Diet: Garganey is a dabbling duck so often feeds swimming with head under water, or by skimming surface. Eats leaves, shoots, aquatic vegetation
  • Habitat: Shallow wetlands, rushy marshland, flooded meadows, ditches, shallow lakes, reedbeds
  • Secretive duck (especially when breeding). Smaller than mallard, bit bigger than teal. Adult male, brown head & breast. Broad white stripe over eye. Rest of plumage grey, (loose grey shoulder feathers). Grey bill & legs.
    Fight shows a pale blue forewing.
  • Max recorded age 21yrs 4mths
  • Similar birds: teal, green-winged teal (rare)
  • Listen to a garganey (RSPB site)
 
Saturday 18th May, 2008 Snowy Owl Grenitote - North Uist Male bird so perhaps the Crowlista one is NOT the same bird? (50 miles apart)  
Saturday 18th May, 2008 Iceland Gull

Loch Sandary - North Uist

   
Saturday 18th May, 2008 Garganey Loch Sandary - North Uist    

According to a BBC article this morning the Snowy Owl that arrived in Crowlista is the same male bird that was seen in the Uists with the female. Perhaps no Snowy Owl breeding record here for 2008 after all...

BBC web site
Saturday 17th May, 2008

Friday 17th May, 2008 Merlin Gallan Head - Uig - Isle of Lewis

" i have been out to crowlista today and thought i could see it (the Snowy Owl) at range on the other side of the salt marsh up against a rock but couldn't confirm...I also took a good look at ardroil dunes where i have found rabbit remains,bones and and pellets at an obvious roost under a large rock on a hill but there appears to be nothing fresh there compared to a couple of weeks ago ...
I did see a female merlin at gallan head today"

  • 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
Friday 17th May, 2008 Iceland Gull

Loch Sandary - North Uist

 

 

Friday 17th May, 2008 Garganey Loch Sandary - North Uist    
Thursday 16th May, 2008 Hoopoe Grimersta - Isle of Lewis
  • (Eurasian) Hoopoe
  • Upupa epops
  • UK: scarce spring passage visitor (Late April - May). Has bred
  • UK: 116 records a year, usually single birds
  • WI: Accidental, approx 5 records in a century
  • Breeds: Nests in hole in tree or wall. Prefers farming areas with open grazing, open woodland, copses, hedges, bushes. Savanna, steppe. Europe, Africa, Middle East, Asia, Bangladesh
  • Winters: Tropical Africa, Asia (resident in many equatorial areas)
  • Diet: Feeds on insects mostly caught on ground & also pulled from underground - so short grass areas or bare patches. Has very short tongue in long bill so swallows food ( Insects: worms, grasshoppers, crickets, larvae, locusts) by throwing it into the air & catching it way back in the gullet.
  • Exotic looker! Large thrush-size. Pinkish-brown body. Black & white stripes. Long, narrow, downcurved bill. Both sexes have a flat ornamental crest of long feathers that rests folded on nape (when bird is excited they raise and expand forming a spectacular fan. Tail broad white band. Flight flappy & erratic. Wings broad & rounded.
  • Average lifespan 11years
  • Listen to a hoopoe (RSPB site)( "hoop-hoop-hoop")

About 78% of the birds in the UK are seen as singles on the South coast of the UK in late April and May, these are on spring passage, migrating north to Europe from their East African wintering sites and they have overshot their usual European breeding grounds. There are a total of over 30 UK breeding records. Vagrant birds have been found as far North as Iceland.

Birds on the autumn passage usually occur from mid-July to late October. Occasionally birds have over-wintered in the UK.

The hoopoe has worldwide traditional associations with divination of wisdom and is sometimes called "The Celestial Messenger".

 
Thursday 16th May, 2008 Snowy Owl Gallan Head - Crowlista - Uig - Isle of Lewis    
Thursday 16th May, 2008 Golden Oriole Loch Eynort - South Uist
  • Golden Oriole
  • Oriolus oriolus
  • UK: AMBER LIST. Migrant breeder, passage visitor
  • UK: 11 pairs breeding, 85 passage (May - August)
  • Breeds: Europe, Asia
  • Winters: Africa, India
  • Habitat: Shy bird of the tree-tops. Deciduous woodland, (likes black poplar)
  • Diet: Insects (likes large caterpillars) berries
  • Blackbird-sized. Male bright yellow body. Black wings. Female drabber green. Flight thrush-like.
  • Max recorded age: 9yr 9mths
  • Listen to a golden oriole (RSPB site). Call a Jay-like screech, song fluting. Usually indicator of bird's presence

Oriole comes from the Latin "aureolus" which means golden.

 
Thursday 16th May, 2008 Iceland Gull

Ardvule Point - South Uist

  • 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.

 

Thursday 16th May, 2008 Wood Warbler Horgabost - Isle of Harris
  • Wood Warbler
  • Phylloscopus sibilatrix
  • UK: AMBER LIST, 17,000 males (May - August)
  • Breeds: Nests near ground in low shrubs in shady, mature deciduous woodlands or forest. Northern & temperate Europe, Extreme West Asia
  • Winters: (Entire population) tropical Africa
  • Diet: Insects and spiders, some fruit
  • Darkish moss-green above, lemon-yellow throat & upper chest. Yellow eye stripe.
  • Max recorded age 8yr 1mth
  • Listen to a wood warbler (RSPB site)
  • Similar birds: willow warbler, chifffchaff
 
Egg thieves are still a major problem, we have some nationally important populations of breeding birds here, so keep your eyes open for trouble.
 
There is a BBC article written on April 2nd 2008 about a guy who collected eggs, he had more than 7,000 in his collection, including 653 belonging to the UK's most protected species such as a red-necked phalarope. His collection included eggs from choughs, peregrine falcons, barn owls, golden eagles, ospreys, and nearly 40 black-necked-grebe's eggs. (RSPB estimates there are only between 40 and 60 breeding pairs of black-necked grebes in the UK....)
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/7325311.stm
 
Living here with lots of rarities not only do the birders come but so do the baddies.
Phone the police or RSPB if in doubt.
 
A lot of people think that egg-collecting does not happen anymore, an archaic thing to do in these enlightened times - but sadly the rarer a species becomes the greater a target it is.  
Wednesday 14th May, 2008 White-billed Diver (2)

Skigersta - Isle of Lewis

  • White-billed Diver
  • AKA Yellow-billed loon, parsnip bill
  • Gavia adamsii
  • Passage migrant (Spring), Winter Visitor
  • WI up to 7 (spring)
  • UK 4 -22
  • Breeds in Arctic: Russia, Alaska, Canada
  • Winters at sea: Coasts of Norway, western Canada; & sometimes found on large inland lakes.
  • Largest of the loons, 77-100 cm (30-40 in) length. Wingspan 135-160 cm (53-63 in). Breeding adults: black head. White below. Chequered black & white mantle. Non-breeding drabber with white chin & foreneck. Long straw-yellow bill looks slightly uptilted.
  • Diet: fish, catches prey underwater

 

BBRC (British Birds Rarities Committee) records of the incidence of this species in Britain 1996 to 2006 are: 4,9,14,5,3,13,22,11,26,17.

In his book " Bird's of the Outer Hebrides" published 1990, Peter Cunningham wrote that there were only four records ever of this rare diver in the Outer Hebrides, all off the coast of the Uists. In recent years this bird has been a regular visitor to the Lewis Coast, usually found just offshore at Skigersta (or in 2008 Port of Ness) from mid-February, but most frequently in mid-April to early-May. In 2007 there were up to 7 birds along the Port of Ness - Skigersta - Tolsta - Tiumpanhead coastline.

The white-billed diver was seen off Lewis in February of 2007 and 2008 so now is a winter visitor as well as a spring migrant.

 
Wednesday 14th May, 2008 Osprey Loch Eyenort - South Uist    
Wednesday 14th May, 2008 Green-winged Teal Loch Euphort - North Uist
  • Green-winged Teal
  • Anas carolinensis
  • UK Scarce vistor, 22 annual records BTO
  • Breeds: North America (nests on the ground, near water & under cover)
  • Winters: South of breeding range
  • Habitat: Lakes, marshes, ponds, shallow streams, sheltered wetlands, (taiga bogs)
  • Diet: Seeds, vegetation, insects - usually feeds by dabbling for plant food or grazing
  • Breeding male: flanks & back grey. Yellow rear. Head chestnut with green eye patch. White-edged mark under eye.
    Distinguished from drake Common Teal by vertical white stripe on side of breast, NO horizontal white shoulder stripe & NO thin buff edging lines on head.
    Females light brown, similar to female Mallard, but with white-edged mark under eye. (Very similar bird to a female Common Teal).
    Non-breeding drake looks like the female.
  • Gregarious dabbling duck. Noisy species. Male has clear whistle, female a weak quack.
  • Similar birds common teal
 
Wednesday 14th May, 2008 Snowy Owl Aird an Runair - Balranald - North Uist

Female

 
black swan.
An acquaintance has told me about seeing a black swan near the old slipway at Caolis, Isle of Vatersay on 21 April 2008, in the afternoon - it was there for a couple of hours. She had been asked by another person to have a look in order to verify the sighting. I do not know this area as I live in Port of Ness at the north end of Lewis.

corncrake.
There is a corncrake at my croft, and is close to the buildings alot of the time. I've seen it twice in the last few days, or at least I have made two sightings so lets hope one is female. The male bird is so close that not only do I hear it but also the vibration along the walls/ yard being concrete - I understand from the R S P B corncrakes like to call from near walls/ buildings as this enhances the volume. Maybe I'll install amicrophone and loudspeaker to give an extra boost to the call!! I am trying to create corncrake friendly areas.

skua/lapwings
Over one of my fields I've noticed some aerial skirmishes. Loch Stiapabhat in Ness( local nature reserve) is nearby and I believe a favourite of the Skuas.

skylarks
there seem to be several around and I ve seen a pair in one of my fields which I ve kept free from animals / people, so that they can nest.

Martin A
Wednesday 14th May, 2008
Wednesday 14th May, 2008 Bee-eater Dail Beag - Isle of lewis
  • European Bee-eater
  • Merops apiaster
  • UK: 38 annual records BTO
  • UK: Scarce migrant (usually in spring - overshot usual breeding grounds), has bred in UK,
  • Breeds: Usually nest in burrows (up to 3m long) in vertical cliff faces. Open country in warm climates. Woodland, farmland. Southern Europe, Africa, Central Asia. Sping overshoot birds sometimes nest in NW Europe. Lays 5-8 eggs in June.
  • Winters: Tropical Africa, India
  • Diet: Watches from perch then catches flying insects in air, mostly bees, wasps (even hornets), these are rubbed or hit against the perch to remove the sting. Bee-eaters need about 225 bees daily to raise their young
  • Kaleidoscopic plumage! Richly-coloured, slim bird. Length 27-29 cm (approx size blackbird), inc the two long central tail feathers. Brown & yellow upper parts. Green wings are green. Beak black. Sexes are alike.

Bee-eaters fledged young in Durham in 2002, this was the first successful UK breeding record since 1955. In 2005 they hatched chicks in Herefordshire, but foxes predated the nest. (see WIKI)

Likes bee hives!

 

Saw the bee-eater yesterday in LochMaddy after a pint of beer. Didn't
quite believe it until we went on-line and saw the confirmed sighting.

It was trying to join a group of starlings near the Tigh Deargh Hotel.

Cheers
Tim Oliver
Wednesday 14th May, 2008

BBC article about the possibility of Snowy Owls breeding in the Western isles
Tuesday 13th May, 2008
Tuesday 13th May, 2008 Iceland Gull

Loch Sandary - South Uist

  • 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.

 

Tuesday 13th May, 2008 Garganey Loch Grogarry - North Uist
  • Garganey
  • Anas querquedula
  • UK Migrant Breeder, Passage Visitor
  • UK AMBER LIST, 69 pairs (summer) BTO
  • Breeds: Europe, Asia (a few in UK)
  • Winters: South Europe, South Africa, Australia, South Asia
  • Diet: Garganey is a dabbling duck so often feeds swimming with head under water, or by skimming surface. Eats leaves, shoots, aquatic vegetation
  • Habitat: Shallow wetlands, rushy marshland, flooded meadows, ditches, shallow lakes, reedbeds
  • Secretive duck (especially when breeding). Smaller than mallard, bit bigger than teal. Adult male, brown head & breast. Broad white stripe over eye. Rest of plumage grey, (loose grey shoulder feathers). Grey bill & legs.
    Fight shows a pale blue forewing.
  • Max recorded age 21yrs 4mths
  • Similar birds: teal, green-winged teal (rare)
  • Listen to a garganey (RSPB site)
 
Tuesday 13th May, 2008 Bee-eater Brevig - Castlebay - Barra    
Tuesday 13th May, 2008 Turtle Dove Brevig - Castlebay - Barra
  • Eurasian Turtle Dove
  • Streptopelia tutar
  • AKA: Turtle Dove, Gaelic: tutar
  • WI: Regular but scarce passage migrant (March - Oct but mostly May-June & Sept) Approx 10 records a year
  • UK: RED LIST, 44,000 territories (summer) BTO
  • UK: Migrant reeder, Passage Visitor
  • Habitat: arable land near townships, woodland edges, hedgerows & open land with some shrubs, gardens
  • Breeds: Europe, Central Asia, North Africa
  • Winters: south of breeding range to Central Africa
  • Diet: Seeds, cereal grain, weeds
  • Size of a large blackbird. Dainty dove. Smaller & darker than collared dove. Upperparts mottled chestnut & black. Black tail has white edge
  • Max recorded age: 7yr 1 mth
  • Listen to a turtle dove (RSPB site)
  • Similar bird: collared dove

Turtle doves are the only migratory dove.

 
Monday 12th May, 2008 Yellow Wagtail Aird an Runair - Balranald - North Uist
  • 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

Yellow wagtails only live 3 years

There are 15 - 20 subspecies of yellow wagtail!
Most often we get the" Grey-headed" subspecies Motacilla flava thunbergi (Dark-headed wagtail).

We have also had Motacilla flava flava and Motacilla flavissima

 
Monday 12th May, 2008 Snowy Owl Aird an Runair - Balranald - North Uist    
Monday 12th May, 2008 Great Northern Diver Aird an Runair - Balranald - North Uist
  • Great Northern Diver
  • AKA: (big loon, common loon, black-billed loon, call-up-a-storm, imber diver, ring-necked loon, and walloon, ember-goose, greenhead, guinea duck)
  • Gavia immer
  • AKA Common Loon
  • Scarce breeder, winter visitor
  • Arrives UK August - leave to breed April - May
  • 3000 in UK in winter BTO
  • 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
  • Breeds: Greenland, Iceland, Alaska, North Scotland, North America, Canada
  • Winters: North Europe, UK, North America
  • Habitat: Lakes, ponds & rivers
  • Diet: Mostly fish, crustaceans amphibians,
  • Fishes underwater to 200 feet (60m) immer means submerge

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

In April and May large numbers of Great Northern Diver gather together ready to begin their return trip to Greenland and Iceland. Many will be in breeding plumage. The usual gathering sites are Broadbay (near Stornoway) and the Sounds of Harris, Taransay and Barra. Single birds may be seen offshore during most months.

 
Sunday 11th May, 2008 Garganey Loch Fada - Benbecula    
Sunday 11th May, 2008 Glaucous Gull Shader - 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
 
Saturday 10th May, 2008 Snowy Owl North Uist

Male near the Grenitote picnic area and female at Balranald !

 
Saturday 10th May, 2008 Lesser Whitethroat Barra    
Saturday 10th May, 2008 Turtle Dove Barra    
Saturday 10th May, 2008 Long-tailed Skua Balranald - North Uist    
Saturday 10th May, 2008 Garden Warbler Barra
  • Sylvia borin
  • Passage visitor, migrant breeder
  • 190,000 pairs in UK (summer)
  • Arrives late-April - May, leaves mid- July, Continental migrants seen Aug - Sept
  • Breeds: West Asia, Europe
  • Winters: Central & Southern Africa
  • Very plain warbler, mainly brown-grey above and whitish below, mostly hides in scrub cover
  • Habitat: Forest edge, glades, deciduous & mixed woodland edges, towns (prefers open areas near trees)
  • Diet: Berries, summer insects
  • BTO records
  • Listen to garden warbler RSPB site
 
Saturday 10th May, 2008 Glaucous Gull Shader - Barvas - Isle of Lewis    
Friday 9th May, 2008 Marsh Harrier Ben Thatharsal - South Uist
  • Eurasian Marsh Harrier
  • Circus aeruginosus
  • Gaelic: Clamhan l òin
  • WI Accidental/Scarce passage visitor (April - October), just a couple of records annually
  • UK Migrant/Resident Breeder, Passage Visitor. AMBER LIST 206 females (summer) BTO
  • Breeds: Shallow freshwater rivers or lakes. Europe to Asia, Africa
  • Winters: (UK small resident population) South of breeding range to Africa, Asia
  • Habitat: Marshland, reedbeds, farmland by wetlands
  • Diet: Small birds, mammals.
  • Largest harrier. Recognised by long tail, soaring light flight - wings held in shallow V-shape
  • Similar birds hen harrier, buzzard
 
Friday 9th May, 2008 Cuckoo Callanish - Isle of Lewis

"I have not often heard one calling in this part of Callanish"

  • Common Cuckoo
  • Cuculus canorus
  • AKA: Gokk, Gowk, Gok, Cucu, Cuccu, Gaukr, Geac
  • Gaelic: Cuthag
  • UK: AMBER LIST, 14,000 pairs (Summer) BTO
  • UK: Migrant Breeder, Passage Visitor (Arrives late March - April, departs July - August)
  • Breeds: Europe, Asia, North Africa
  • Winters: South of breeding range to South Africa, South Asia
  • Habitat: Reedbeds. Trees: open woodland, taiga (moist subarctic coniferous forest begins where tundra ends), steppe forest
  • Diet: Larger Insects and large hairy caterpillars & beetles (usually ones that other species avoid)
  • Dove-sized blue-grey bird with slender body, long tail, strong legs. Pointed wings.
    Adult females two morphs: sometimes grey like male but with rusty-buff tinge & dark barring on breast, other morph rusty-brown above & breast with dark barring all over, the “hepatic” phase. Young are brown.
  • Max recorded age 17yrs 9ths
  • Listen to a cuckoo (RSPB site). It is the call of the male that gives the bird it's name. Female's call is a loud bubbling sound
  • Similar birds: Sparrowhawk, collared dove

There are different common cuckoo populations (gens). The female of each cuckoo population lays eggs that match in colour and markings those of her host species, eg pipit-cuckoo (mottled brown eggs), robin-cuckoo, (red-speckled eggs). Male cuckoos will breed with the female from any of the cuckoo populations. Other host species include Wheatears, Dunnocks, Reed Warblers, Twites, Reed Buntings (over 100 different species have been recorded as host species to cuckoos).

A female cuckoo has up to 50 nests in her territory, she watches them and times her egg-laying so that she lays her egg almost at the same time as the host species. She usually throws out one of the host's eggs before laying hers. Sometimes the host species has a domed nest with a small entrance hole, the female cuckoo has evolved an extrusible cloaca, she can "squirt" her egg into this nest. She can lay an egg every two days.

The cuckoo egg hatches earlier than the host's and the cuckoo chick is very fast growing, it will usually throw out the eggs or young of the host by instinct.

The female cuckoo will return to the same breeding territory for up to 10 years. 75% of the nestlings return in later years to establish their own breeding territories within 40km of their birth site.

You will often see a cuckoo being followed by a meadow pipit (sometimes several pipits). In the Gaelic the pipit is called the cuckoo's lady in waiting, in reality it is a wee irate pipit seeing off the cuckoo ...

Ela
Thursday 9th May, 2008 Black-crowned Night Heron Vallay Strand - North Uist
  • Night Heron
  • Nycticorax nycticorax
  • AKA: Night Heron, Quark
  • UK: Approx 10 records a year BTO
  • UK: Scarce visitor, escaped breeder
  • Habitat: Nest in colonies on platforms of sticks in tree group. Or on ground in safe places (islands, reedbeds). Fresh and saltwater wetlands: Marshes, ponds, lakes, mangrove
    Diet: Mostly fish, crustaceans, frogs, aquatic insects, small mammals
  • Short-necked, stout heron. Black crown & back. Rest of body white/grey. Eyes red. Short yellow legs. Young birds: brown, flecked with white & grey.

    This heron stands at the water's edge waiting to ambush prey, mostly at night. During the day it rests in trees or shrubs.

    The Latin name, Nycticorax, means "night raven", and refers to the nocturnal habit and crow-like call of the night heron.
 

Heard two cuckoos calling together in Carloway,

Richard H
Wednesday 7th May.

I would'nt normally report this , but to see one in our garden, Upper Aird, Point, this am, 7 May, was a nice surprise !
Movements of Wood Pigeons have been reported from the East coast of Scotland.

Grahame & Jackie
Wednesday 7th May, 2008

Wednesday 7th May, 2008 White-billed Diver (2)

Broad Bay - Isle of Lewis

   
Wednesday 7th May, 2008 Hoopoe Daliburgh Uist
  • (Eurasian) Hoopoe
  • Upupa epops
  • UK: scarce spring passage visitor (Late April - May). Has bred
  • UK: 116 records a year, usually single birds
  • WI: Accidental, approx 5 records in a century
  • Breeds: Nests in hole in tree or wall. Prefers farming areas with open grazing, open woodland, copses, hedges, bushes. Savanna, steppe. Europe, Africa, Middle East, Asia, Bangladesh
  • Winters: Tropical Africa, Asia (resident in many equatorial areas)
  • Diet: Feeds on insects mostly caught on ground & also pulled from underground - so short grass areas or bare patches. Has very short tongue in long bill so swallows food ( Insects: worms, grasshoppers, crickets, larvae, locusts) by throwing it into the air & catching it way back in the gullet.
  • Exotic looker! Large thrush-size. Pinkish-brown body. Black & white stripes. Long, narrow, downcurved bill. Both sexes have a flat ornamental crest of long feathers that rests folded on nape (when bird is excited they raise and expand forming a spectacular fan. Tail broad white band. Flight flappy & erratic. Wings broad & rounded.
  • Average lifespan 11years
  • Listen to a hoopoe (RSPB site)( "hoop-hoop-hoop")

About 78% of the birds in the UK are seen as singles on the South coast of the UK in late April and May, these are on spring passage, migrating north to Europe from their East African wintering sites and they have overshot their usual European breeding grounds. There are a total of over 30 UK breeding records. Vagrant birds have been found as far North as Iceland.

Birds on the autumn passage usually occur from mid-July to late October. Occasionally birds have over-wintered in the UK.

The hoopoe has worldwide traditional associations with divination of wisdom and is sometimes called "The Celestial Messenger".

 
Wednesday 7th May, 2008 Snowy Owl Balranald - North Uist Female bird  
Wednesday 7th May, 2008 American Herring Gull Stornoway - Isle of Lewis

This is the Nearctic counterpart of Herring Gull

The American herring gull is apparently similar to the herring gull, but a little larger and heavier, with a stronger bill, smaller head, with a flatter forehead.

The American herring gull is slimmer than the glaucous gull with a rounder head, eyes that are more centrally placed, a more slender bill, and with a less clear *gonys-angle (*not in my dictionary - please can anyone explain this?) and a narrower tip.

The gull's head often peaks on the crown well behind eyes. When it has settled it shows 3 or 4 equally spaced primary tips beyond tail.

Distinguishing the American herring gull from the herring gull is described as straighforward in first years (!) but otherwise extremely difficult, and for older birds is often impossible.

Apparently sound recordings of the American herring gull played to herring gulls in Western Europe got no response. (So perhaps they are unlikely to cross-breed and make identification even more difficult...)

 
Wednesday 7th May, 2008 Wood Sandpiper Barra
  • Wood Sandpiper
  • Tringa glareola
  • UK: AMBER LIST. Scarce Breeder (a few pairs in the Scottish highlands), Passage Visitor Spring & Autumn
  • Breeds: Taiga near water (moist subarctic coniferous forest begins where tundra ends) Alaska, North Europe, North Asia
  • Winters: Africa, Australia, South Europe, South Asia
  • Migration: Coastal areas & lochs, lakes, rivers, wet meadow
  • Diet: Insects: worms, spiders, shellfish and small fish.
  • Medium-sized wader. Narrow, straight bill, yellow legs. Long white stripe bill - over the eye to back neck. Flight: Square white rump, no wing-stripes
  • Listen to a Wood Sandpiper (RSPB site)
  • Similar birds: green sandpiper (rare here), common sandpiper
 
Wednesday 7th May, 2008 Garganey Loch Paible - North Uist    
Wednesday 7th May, 2008 Cuckoo Croir - Great Bernera Two in the garden, flew off in oppposite directions as I went out, one calling...it looks like the poor little pipits are going to be working hard this summer SK
Wednesday 7th May, 2008 Iceland Gull

Peninerine - South Uist

 

 

A large group of long tailed ducks off the brae and on the brae loch yesterday.Also razorbills feeding on sandeels in bayble bay

Andy L
Tuesday 6th May, 2008

Tuesday 6th May, 2008 Chiffchaff Croir - Great Bernera

Singing. Possibly the one recently in Breacleit?

  • WI Rare migrant breeder, (approx 3 singing records annually? - Stornoway). Passage visitor
  • Listen to a chiffchaff (RSPB site)

 

Sunny
Tuesday 6th May, 2008 Snowy Owl Balranald - North Uist    
Tuesday 6th May, 2008 Dotterel Balranald - North Uist
  • Medium size plover
  • 630 pairs in UK in summer - Amber list
  • Breeds: UK - Europe, Asia, Alaska
  • Winters: Mediterranean
  • Habitat: "High tops" grassland with stones, on (on migration mudflats)
  • Diet: Insects, small invertebrates & spiders (from under stones...)
  • Female more bright in colour than male
  • Adults mostly grey-brown upperparts, bright chestnut belly, a white chest band, throat and eyestripe, dark cap
  • Male stays on the nest & incubates the eggs
  • Listen to a dotterel on the RSPB site
  • BTO records
 

"...a fantastic week on Taransay – more like the Seychelles than Scotland... a pair of King Eiders on the east coast of Taransay on Monday 5th May... "

Mick B

Monday 5th May, 2008 Iceland Gull

Peninerine - South Uist

 

 

Monday 5th May, 2008 Dotterel West Gerenish - South Uist    
Monday 5th May, 2008 Arctic Tern Stornoway - Isle of Lewis

"2 this am in Stornoway Harbour"

  • AKA Arctic Tern, Sea swallow
  • Sterna paradisaea
  • 553,000 pairs - summer UK BTO
  • AMBER LIST
  • Mostly grey & white, red beak & feet, white forehead, black nape & crown, white cheeks. Deeply forked whitish tail giving long "streamers"
  • Breeds: UK - Europe, Arctic, North America
  • Winters: Antarctic oceans
  • Habitat: Tundra, Seacoast, lochs, rivers. Winter - sea
  • Diet: Fish, insects
  • A chick ringed in Northumberland one June was in Australia, that October (12, 000 mile round trip)
  • Usually return to breed in area & colony, where they hatched to breed. Lives to 20yrs.
  • Listen to an Arctic Tern RSPB site

The birds winter far South in the Antarctic oceans. In Late April, early May they begin to arrive back in the UK, the northernmost birds arriving back in June. Migration back South starts at the end of the breeding season in late July and August.

Grahame
Saturday 3rd May, Sunday 4th May, 2008 Ring-billed Gull Loch Sandary - North Uist
  • Ring-billed Gull
  • Larus delawarensis
  • Scarce UK visitor, 74 annual records BTO
    (Most common gull in North America)
  • Breeds: North America, Canada (Colonies nest on ground by rivers, lakes & coast. Bird returns to same nest site each year)
  • Winters: South to North America & the Great Lakes (wanderer to UK & West Europe)
  • Habitat: Seacoasts, lakes, rivers, fields
  • Diet: Forages, scavenges, steals. Omnivorous: Fish, insects, earthworms, small mammals, grain, eggs & rodents
  • Slightly larger than common gull. White head, neck & below. Shortish, yellow bill has dark ring. Back & wings silver-grey. Yellow legs and eyes. Different immature plumage classes for first three years.
  • Live to 15yrs
 
Sunday 4th May, 2008 Siskin Stornoway - Isle of Lewis

14 siskins in the garden.

This evening: 13: 7 males and 6 females, they are costing me more to feed than my grown up son was!

A couple of days a go a hooded crow swept down into the garden and frightened all the wee birds and one of the siskins crashed into the kitchen window. I crept out...and there was the male siskin in a heap on the floor! I thought at first it was dead, I picked it up and I could see it was just breathing. I didn't want to leave it on the floor as both crows and seagulls were ahead and one of the neighbours has a cat. I sat in the cold on the step with this wee little soldier in my hand. After about 10 minutes in came around and snuggled in my hand, had a few hops about but didn't seem inclined to move, I didn't dare risk sitting indoors incase it flew away and hurt itself in my kitchen. It let me take a few photos one handed and then after 20 minutes flew away as if nothing was wrong. The siskins are quite brave and tame as they will wait on the barbed fence whilst I am filling the seed holders and are the last ones to be spooked by the large birds.

Debbies siskin photos:

Siskin
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)


Debbie Bozkurt
"Been out and about for a couple of days and have noted in the uig area : ringed plover,redshanks,wheatears,meadow pipits,white wagtail,shelduck and heard a cukoo and 2 corncrakes at ardroil . 

Also saw a male merlin around the pentland road being harrased by a hooded crow"

Andy L.
Sunday 4th May, 2008

Sunday 4th May, 2008 Cuckoo Croir - Great Bernera "First I have heard in this area. One call and then on and on..." SK

Sunday 4th May, 2008

Apparently someone saw a PRATINCOLE in Berneray, North Uist today.

The Pratincoles are classed as wader, they have short legs, very long pointed wings and long forked tails.

Their short bills are an adaptation to aerial feeding, they hunt their insect prey on the wing like swallows ( they also feed on the ground). Being mostly aerial feeders, their flight is fast and with twists and turns as they chase their prey. They are most active at dawn and dusk.

Records on the BBRC site show The Collared, Oriental and Black-winged Pratincoles as very rare visitors to the UK with just one record of a species every year or so.

The Common Pratincole occurs 1-5 times a year.

Sunday 4th May, 2008 Glaucous Gull Barvas - Isle of Lewis    
Sunday 4th May, 2008 Iceland Gull

Gramsdale - Benbecula

 

 

Saturday 3rd May, 2008 Iceland Gull

Bayhead - North Uist

 

 

Saturday 3rd May, 2008 Ring-billed Gull Loch Sandary - North Uist    
Saturday 3rd May, 2008 Killdeer

Balranald - North Uist

nr Aird an Runair

  • Killdeer
  • Charadrius vociferus
  • UK just one record a year
  • Breeds: Bare sandy/gravelly terrain near freshwater (gravel-pits, reservoirs, saltpans etc). North America
  • Winters: North to South America. Vagrant to Europe
  • Habitat: On migration: Freshwater margins, estuaries, coastal mudflats
  • Diet: Forages by sight: fields, mudflats, shores. Insects, mostly earthworms, also snails, grasshoppers, beetles
  • Adults: Bit similar to & bit smaller than ringed plover but white breast has 2 black bands. Brown wings & back, white belly, Rump orange-brown. Bill all black. Legs greyish-pink or brownish (not orange)

In North America where the bird breeds, it does the "broken wing" act to entice predators away from it's nest. It also stops horses, cows etc from trampling the nest by fluffing up, putting it's tail over it's head, and charging at the animal to scare it off!

BBRC Killdeer records 1992-2006
0, 2, 0, 1, 1, 0, 0, 1, 0, 0, 3, 0, 1, 2, 3

2nd Killdeer in the Western Isles in the last 10 years. In 2004 we had one arrive which stayed over Christmas and the New Year - a great mid-winter treat!

 
Friday 2nd May 2008 Killdeer

Balranald - North Uist

nr Aird an Runair

   
Friday 2nd May 2008

Chiiffchaff

Willow Warbler

Stornoway Castle Grounds "Heard the chiffchaff then saw and heard a willow warbler, the warbler's song was liquid music ..." Sunny
Friday 2nd May 2008 Garganey Northton - South Harris    
Friday 2nd May 2008 Hoopoe Malacleit - Vallay Strand - North Uist    
Thursday 1st May, 2008 Iceland Gull

Gramsdale - Benbecula

 

 

Thursday 1st May, 2008 Great Northern Divers Mouth of Loch Roag - Isle of Lewis

"3 birds, one of them was in full breeding plumage, very smart"

In April and May large numbers of Great Northern Diver gather together ready to begin their return trip to Greenland and Iceland. Many will be in breeding plumage. The usual gathering sites are Broadbay (near Stornoway) and the Sounds of Harris, Taransay and Barra. Single birds may be seen offshore during most months.

SK
         

 

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