SATURDAY 15 MAY
The day dawned very cold (just 5 degrees C), with a fresh NW wind blowing. We had all had a very good night sleep at Malaclete (North Uist) and breakfast was arranged for about 0900 hours.
Scanning the bay in front of the B & B chalets yielded a pair of Red-breasted Mergansers, whilst the Committee Road produced a nice roadside SHORT-EARED OWL hunting.
BALRANALD RSPB, NORTH UIST
A return visit was made to the RSPB reserve at Balranald where around the Information Centre, pure ROCK DOVES were a welcome sight and a couple of TWITE. The star attraction of course is CORNCRAKE and after hearing 5 or more birds calling, we eventually intercepted one showing out in the open by a neighbouring croft. The bird crept out from the safety of some wood piles and began ‘’crex-crex –ing’’ right in front of our two vehicles. Incredible – and such a difficult bird to see ! We were treated to about five minutes of view before he crept back into the undergrowth and disappeared. Chris Morgan obtained the image below.
We then took the sandy track out to the seawatching site at Aird an Runair. The sand-blasted fields were very attractive to a number of bird species including the localised CORN BUNTING but were particularly attractive to ROCK DOVE – at least 70 being recorded. I also discovered a trip of 3 DOTTERELS – two males and a female – this trio affording exceptional views as they fed alongside the track.
AIRD AN RUNAIR, BALRANALD RSPB, NORTH UIST
The bay held 5 or 6 transitional-plumaged GREAT NORTHERN DIVERS offshore (see image below), whilst the expansive sandy bay held a flock of Dunlin and up to 35 Sanderlings, many of which were in full breeding plumage. There were also 3 Common Shelduck and a single PALE-BELLIED BRENT GOOSE offshore, as well as numerous Fulmars and Kittiwakes. Several Atlantic Grey Seals were also offshore.
We did a seawatch for about an hour and a half and were highly rewarded – a total of 4 full-spooned adult POMARINE SKUAS flew north (a single bird then three together), 2 ARCTIC SKUAS, a GREAT SKUA, 6 Manx Shearwaters, a WHIMBREL and a Red-throated Diver.
NORTH UIST (OUTER HEBRIDES)
Returning back to the B & B at Sollas for breakfast along the Committee Road we saw a few COMMON RAVENS and 25 European Golden Plovers and many Greenland Wheatears at Balemartin.
Following breakfast, we returned once more to the seawatching, but before that feasting ourselves on more crippling views of CORNCRAKES in the Balranald RSPB car park area.
Back at Aird an Runair, the undoubted highlight was when a single flock of 14 adult LONG-TAILED SKUAS came through at 1112 hours – a fantastic spectacle. The two hours also produced a further ARCTIC SKUA, 3 Great Skuas, a BLACK GUILLEMOT and a fine male White Wagtail on the beach.
Returning to the Committee Road later, a cracking adult male HEN HARRIER was observed, along with a pair of Common Stonechats and a pale morph ARCTIC SKUA. We also enjoyed some great views of TWITE as we drove around, Chris obtaining the beautiful image below.
Mike Robinson was mad keen on seeing the ‘Northern Eider’ at Stinky Bay on Benbecula, so after eventually giving in, we spent an hour or so trying to locate it. At least 27 Common Eiders were in the vicinity of the pier but nothing could be found of the ‘sailed’ individual. A mass of at least 60 Sanderling were in the bay and on the neighbouring landfill site, a minimum of 9 COMMON RAVENS could be seen.
Returning in good time back to Lochmaddy Harbour for the ferry, we were able to observe the resident GOLDEN EAGLES from the quayside and a beautiful pair of TWITE. More COMMON RAVENS too.
The return trip to Skye was fairly uneventful, with the usual seabirds encountered including good numbers of ATLANTIC PUFFINS, and once back on the island, Collared Doves in Uig were followed by a visit to Toravaig, where we overlooked Portree Bay and the island of Burray for an hour or more. We did not see the pair of White-tailed Sea Eagles in that time but did note COMMON RAVEN, HOODED CROW, 5+ ROCK DOVES, Goldcrest and REDPOLL-TYPES.