Wednesday, 15 July 2015

A Tour of the Outer Hebrides Part1 - Barra, Eriskay, South Uist, Benbecula, North Uist

Finally looked through all the photos so here is a quick tour of the Outer Hebrides starting with a five hour ferry from Oban to Barra. The weather wasn't great but what can you expect in Summer! The crossing was a bit squally and very murky at times, we did see our first Black Guillemots of the year along with some Guillemots and Gannets, but the highlight although in the murk were the Manx Shearwater:
We arrived on Barra about 6:30 in the evening so headed straight to our very nice hotel and settled in for the night. Next day we did a full round trip of the island including Vatersay, firstly spending some time at the 'Airport' to see on the only scheduled beach landing airline service in the world, I missed videoing the landing but here's the take off:

Barra itself is a lovely island very picturesque:
Plenty of birds about but didn't get close to that many,
Rock Pipit
 March of the Eiders!
and a fly by by a Great Skua
A total of 36 bird species seen on Barra, but  sadly no Otters or Cetaceans. The next morning saw us head for the ferry to Eriskay with a causeway to South Uist and on to Benbecula and North Uist and our next hotel at Lochmaddy. The crossing was less than an hour giving us some good sea bird sightings:

We stopped at the ferry terminal on Eriskay for a bit as allegedly it is a good place for Otters but not today! A Stonechat gave us some nice views in the drizzle though!
We took our time driving north through South Uist and Benbecula, we had a great time exploring on the way north stopping at any place that looked interesting for views and wildlife, the highlight coming when we stopped down a lane overlooking a loch populated main;y by Greylags. Tina had got out of the car to get some supplies from the boot, when she rushed back and said I can hear a Corncrake! We raced out and tracked it down in the adjacent field. There were two calling to one another and we had great views of one of them. Like an idiot though I had left the camera in the car! Plonker! I raced back to get it after watching for a while, but of course when I got back (90 seconds at most) the Corncrake had hidden itself and didn't come out again although we could hear it really well. C'est la vie! As the afternoon went on though the weather worsened and we concentrated on getting to our Hotel in Lochmaddy.

The next morning we set off for RSPB Balranald where Redshanks on posts entertained us on the drive in and a Snipe showed as we parked up, a good start. It's about a 3 mile walk around the reserve starting off through farmland where again we heard Corncrake calling but not showing even though we hung around for a while! Elusive little ..........!

Some other more obliging birds:
Meadow Pipit
Ringed Plover
Dunlin with Ringed Plover Flypast
Arctic Tern
Little Stint
After surviving a rain shower by hiding in the sand dunes we continued what was a brilliant walk, again looking for views of the Corncrake on the way back, but no luck, although we could hear them again! We then explored the area a fair bit finding:
Redshank on a post
 and Snipe on a post!
The weather improved considerably and we came across an Eagle watch point, with a somewhat surly Yorkshire Man 'guardian' who took offence when we didn't introduce ourselves straight away because we were too busy watching a pair of Golden Eagles!

A bit further on we had a Short-eared Owl encounter:
Followed by a Hen Harrier flying over the car, but disappearing over the trees before I could get the camera out! That was to be the story with all our Hen Harrier sightings.

So all in all a great time so far!

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