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Tuesday, 5 July 2022

2022 Hebridean Adventures, Pt. 2 - 23rd May

Here is Pt.2 of my account of our visit to the Outer Hebrides in May. If you missed it, you can find Pt.1 here :-

Monday, 23rd May                          Clachan Sands ; RSPB Balranald

The weather forecast for the day was sunny periods with the chance of a shower just after mid-day, and that's how the day unfolded, although the shower didn't amount to much more than a few drops of rain. The relatively strong winds persisted, however.

A wander round the garden before breakfast produced a distant Short-eared Owl and a close Snipe. 
Snipe (Gallinago gallinago) - from our garden, Clachan Sands, North Uist
Wren was, again, strutting his stuff!
Wren (Troglodytes troglodytes) - our garden, Clachan Sands
After breakfast I walked up the lane. The fields round the lane are used by nesting Corncrake, Oystercatcher, Redshank and Lapwing and this, in turn, attracts predators in the form of Buzzard, Hooded Crow, Short-eared Owl, gulls and, occasionally, Hen Harrier. On this occasion, I spent most of my time photographing the prey species, rather than the predators.

Oystercatcher (Haematopus ostralegus) - Clachan Sands
Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus) - Clachan Sands
Redshank (Tringa totanus) - Clachan Sands
Back in the garden I took some shots of Green-veined White  butterflies.
Green-veined White (Pieris napi) - garden, Clachan Sands
The main mission for the day was to find a beach or two that Lindsay could access with her bad knee. However, a little birding was on the agenda too!

Shortly after joining the main road (still single track with passing places!) eagle-eyed Lindsay spotted a deer on the horizon on the adjacent hillside.  It was munching away with its head down behind the horizon. In the end I  resorted to a quick beep of the car horn, and up came its head, together with two other deer! Roos, in Belgium, has advised that, rather than a young deer, she thinks that it is a deer in moult - I think that she's correct. Thank you, Roos!
Red Deer (Cervus elaphus) (female) - near south end of B893
On the Committee Road, we saw a Short-eared Owl which settled on a roadside post but I  couldn't get near enough for a good shot.

Short-eared Owl (Asio Flammeus) - Committee Road, North Uist
Having topped up the fuel in the car at the most expensive price I  had ever encountered, we set off for the RSPB reserve at Balranald. Here, I found a spectacular male Wheatear, and Lindsay found she could access the beach. I also photographed a few birds here.
Wheatear (Oenanthe oenanthe) (male) - RSPB Balranald area, North Uist
Skylark (Alauda arvensis) - RSPB Balranald area
l to r:- Sanderling (Calidiris alba), Dunlin, Turnstone - RSPB Balranald area
Dunlin (Calidris alpina) - RSPB Balranald area
Turnstone (Arenaria interpres) - RSPB Balranald area
Common Gull (Larus canus) - RSPB Balranald area
Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus) - RSPB Balranald area
Redshank (Tringa totanus) - RSPB Balranald area
We stopped at the Wee Cottage Kitchen for lunch, where the scallop and black pudding roll that I  had was excellent, and Lindsay enjoyed sweet potato and chilli soup.

The next stop was to pick up a little shopping at the Co-op and then, on the road from Sollas, a Meadow Pipit was obliging.
Meadow Pipit (Anthus pratensis) - near Solas, North Uist
Nearby was a male Stonechat. We'd been seeing far fewer than usual, so here's that one.
Stonechat (Saxicola rubicola) (male) - near Solas, North Uist
Having stowed the shopping away back at base, we went to try out another beach for Lindsay.  This time, it was the local Clachan Sands (beach, rather than road), and she managed really well.
Clachan Sands, North Uist
Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus) - road to Clachan Sands
Back at base, before tea, a couple of Snipe flew in just behind the cottage garden, however, only one showed itself, and then not very well.
Snipe (Gallinago gallinago) - from our garden
On the wall of the cottage was a sinister-looking fly. From its appearance and the fact that it was pointing downwards, I am confident that this was a snipefly, although I do not know of which specific species.
snipefly sp. - our cottage wall, Clachan Sands
After tea, I spent about an hour and a quarter a few hundred metres up the lane beyond the cottage, and was happy to have four sightings of Short-eared Owl.
The predators were making a nuisance of themselves and being mobbed by the parents of their would-be prey.
Common Buzzard (Buteo buteo) (juvenile) - Clachan Sands
Common Buzzard being mobbed by Lapwing - Clachan Sands
Lesser Black-backed Gull (Larus fuscus) - Clachan Sands
It was the Short-eared Owls that were the star turn that evening and, although they only perched at a great distance, they did occasionally fly a little closer and I did get some shots which I think capture the characteristics of this wonderful species.

Short-eared Owl (Asio flammeus) - Clachan Sands
Although no rarities had been seen, it had been a splendid day.

That night, my portable moth trap went out. Last year, when I deployed it here, it caught absolutely nothing! My fingers were crossed for a better result this time.
In the event, I ended up with just two moths - a Puss  Moth, and a Grey Scalloped Bar which was a first for me and, I suspect, more than a little uncommon in those parts.
Puss Moth (Cerura vinula) - from garden moth trap, Clachan Sands
Grey Sacalloped Bar (Dyscia fagaria - from garden moth trap, Clachan Sands

This brings me to the end of Pt.2 of my report. Hopefully, Pt.3 will follow in about a week's time. In the meantime, take good care of yourselves and Nature. Thank you for dropping by - - - Richard


  1. Some beautiful Owl and Redshank photos in particular there, just glad a male Bullfinch didn't appear in the post! Sounds like an excellent trip with a great variety of wildlife to see. Take care.

    1. I was sorry to hear that you have Covid, again!, Marc. I hope that it doesn't hit you badly and you recover soon.

      The Outer Hebrides always seem to deliver, even if the weather isn't ideal sometimes. However, didn't see a Bullfinch there - but still getting them daily in our garden here!

      Best wishes - - - Richard

  2. This is all mouth-watering stuff, Richard, especially the experience of so many Short-eared Owls. You got some wonderful shots. I suppose that all of life is a predator prey relationship in one way or another, and my emotions are always torn when I observe the results of it. It tears at one's emotions to see a Mallard duckling picked off by a Red-tailed Hawk, but gives one great pleasure to see a fierce raptor tearing bits off the prey to delicately feed its young. I hope you encountered Corncrakes and will be able to show us a picture. I just received a monograph on this species yesterday and look forward to reading it. I also bought a monograph on Ring Ouzel and I owe my only sighting of that species to you, brief though it may have been. I will look forward to part 3 of this tour latest odyssey. Best wishes to Lindsay - David

    1. Watching wildlife predators in action is always thrilling, but when it's young birds that are the prey there will also be negative feelings rising towards the surface too.

      Although I heard Corncrake, even close to the property that we were in, sadly I didn't see one during this visit. I remember well the Ring Ouzel incident and still regret that I had better views of the bird than you did.

      Lindsay and I both send our best wishes to you and Miriam - - - Richard

      P.S. The injection into the eye this morning was no worse than a visit to the dentist, but a lot more time consuming!

  3. Another enjoyable tour of the Hebrides via your comprehensive illustrated account Richard. For me, nice to see the brilliant male Stonechat putting in an appearance too. Hope all is well with yourself and Lindsey.

    My Kind Regards....Pete.

    1. Stonechats were far lest apparent during this visit to the Outer Hebrides, Pete, possibly due to the constant wind which, at times, was almost gale force.

      We're doing OK here, thank you, and my eye injection was not at all as bad as I feared!

      Best wishes to you and KT - - - Richard

  4. Hi Richard! Absolutely wonderful photos and nature observations. Hope you are ok.

  5. Hello Richard, :=) Well done in capturing so many different species. Your photos are all so beautiful.I loved all the Short eared Owl images, It has such a cute face,framed by what looks like a hood.Today I will keep my comment short but rest assured I would like to make a comment on all your splendid images.
    All the best.

    1. Thank you for your visit and your very kind words, Sonjia. The Short-eared Owl is probably my second favourite bird, and the main reason that I like to go to the Outer Hebrides (my favourite bird is the Little Owl). I had never thought of the likeness to a hood on the head of a Short-eared Owl, but now you mention it, I can see exactly what you mean - I will never look at a Short-eared Owl in the same light again!

      Take good care - - - Richard

  6. Stunning set of photos and I just love the owl shots they are amazing.
    I hope that you are both feeling better now, but I see that you had to have an injection into the eye, that does not sound good but whatever it was for, hopefully, it worked
    I hope you have a good weekend, I think of you often, especially when I see, or hear the Little owls around. I think there is a youngster somewhere out there from the noises I hear and the directions the sounds come from. The trees have just too much green on them at present and I only spot them if they come down onto one of the barns. Take care and keep well. Cheers Diane

    1. Hi Diane. Lindsay is probably going to have to wait six to nine months for her replacement knee, but she's quite happy with that as it gives her time to sort herself out beforehand. I am having a course of three injections into the eye at monthly intervals to halt a degeneration which causes me to see straight lines as distinctly distorted. There is a small chance that this condition might improve. After three months, I will be assessed as to the way forward - injections every three months in perpetuity seems to be the norm. The main problem is that I have difficulty in seeing detail and my powers of visual observation are greatly diminished - it's making it very hard for me to sort out photos with any degree of critical accuracy!

      It's sounding very promising for your local Little Owls. It must be very frustrating for you to hear them but not see them!

      My very best wishes to you and Nigel - take good care - - - Richard

    2. I started a reply and it vanished so I will try again!!
      Thanks for telling me the story of your eye, I can well imagine how difficult it is working with photos if your vision cannot pick up detail.
      I hope that both you and Lindsay will soon be back at full health, although Lindsay has a while to wait. Fingers crossed that the injections work for you, though the thought makes me a bit squeamish, not something that normally worries me.
      Take great care Diane

  7. Hello Richard
    First of all I would like to know if your eye is better and if Linsay's knee has gotten a little better?
    I can only add to your post to my blogger colleagues, fantastic trip and the short-eared owls are the highlight..
    Greetings Frank

    1. Hi Frank. Thank you for your visit and your kind words. About my eye and Lindsay's knee, can I please refer you to my reply to Diane (Rhodesia) above, rather than repeat it all here!

      I think that my best photos of Short-eared Owl from this visit to the Outer Hebrides will probably appear in a future blog post.

      Stay safe - - - Richard

  8. Aren't they wonderful, the one I was endeared to was the Short-eared Owl, beautiful Richard.

    1. I could spend a whole day watching Short-eared Owls, Bob, and not get bored!

  9. Hello Richard, first a late reaction from me on this fantastic post with the most wonderful birds, I agree with Bob that the Short-eared Owl is amazing. Still have to see my first one. The Deer I think is molding. Dous not look to me as a youngster. To read you have such problems with your eyes is sad. I do hope the injections will solve the problem in the end. For Linsay to have to wait so long for a new knee is not that good. But I understand she is ok with that. Wishing you both all the best and take care.
    Warm regards,

    1. Hi Roos. I'm delighted to tell you that I did get some even better encounters with Short-eared Owls later in our stay, and I intend to feature them on the blog at a later date.

      Thank you for your observation on the deer. I will amend this post accordingly!

      Thank you also for your kind words and wishes.

      Take good care and stay safe - - - Richard


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