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Uist ringing summary – October 2010

The weather was typical for October – lots of windy days but luckily interspersed with days of sun and calm which made us say “wow, what a fabulous place!”. A Snipe turned up one afternoon and spent time happily probing the flower beds at the front. Ian was out but i managed a couple of half decent digi-scoped shots through the window.

Snipe in the flower bed

Snipe in the flower bed

Snipe

Snipe

The ringing was much slower this month, mostly because of the restriction (by the wind) on mist netting. We did, however, manage 118 birds ringed of 15 species. to summarise:-

Species New Retrap Total
Wren 5 4 9
Dunnock 7 1 8
Robin 1 3 4
Hermit Thrush 1 1
Blackbird 10 16 26
Song Thrush 2 2
Redwing 7 7
Blackcap 2 2
Goldcrest 4 2 6
Starling 3 3
House Sparrow 46 25 71
Chaffinch 3 3
Brambling 3 3
Greenfinch 23 5 28
Lesser Redpoll 1 1
Species: 15 118 56 174

The highlight of the month though was probably the Hermit Thrush captured at our ringing site at Loch Druidibeg Nature Reserve – this is probably only the 8th Hermit Thrush to turn up in the UK, the 7th being present at the same time (and found the day before) on the Isle of Barra and i think is probably only the 2nd one ever ringed in the UK. It was in remarkably good condition considering it was about 3000 miles off course, it had 30 fat (ESF) and 2 muscle.

Hermit Thrush

Hermit Thrush

Surprise in the net!

Surprise in the net!

More mundane chores like shopping are made so much better here by being able to do a bit of birding along the way and i think the Co-op supermarket at Creagorry, Benbecula must have one of the most scenic car parks ever.

View from the Co-op car park - looking out over the South Ford

View from the Co-op car park - looking out over the South Ford

On really clear days you can see the mainland – it usually comes as bit of a shock as living here you tend to forget all about the hussle and bussle that must be going on over there. This clear day we were able to pick out the Cuillins on Skye in the far distance (although probably not much in the way of hussle and bussle going on there!).

See the Cuillins in the very far distance?

See the Cuillins in the very far distance?

Ardivachar is a good place to check out for waders, there is nearly always something – we found a Grey Phalarope there this month. A combination of storms and high tides means that vast quantities of weed get piled up on the beach (and phew, it doesn’t half pong), i’m not kidding the weed must be 10 feet deep. The gulls seem to like it, i think it must be the clouds of flies.

I’ve mentioned Locheynort before, the plantation at the end of the road there is like being in another world. Not one but two Red-eyed Vireos turned up there, the first one being found by a birding tour group and then local birder Steve Duffield was amazed to find two feeding together there. A good bird to add to our island list. Quite a bit of stuff passing through while we were there including Pied Fly and Lesser Whitethroat.

Ardivachar

Ardivachar

Our next ringing session at Loch Druidibeg was fairly slow although there was quite a movement of birds – Siskin, Brambling, Redwings and Fieldfare all passing over. We were happy to catch a couple of Brambling – a first year male and an adult male.

Adult male Brambling, winter plumage

Adult male Brambling, winter plumage

The difference in the tails between the two birds was quite marked, the adult on the left and the first year bird on the right.

The difference in the tails between the two birds was quite marked, the adult on the left and the first year bird on the right.

More wind and rain then a beautiful, eerily calm day. We added both Pied and Spotted Flycatchers seen in the garden.

Loch Bee

Loch Bee

It’s good to have a house that looks out onto a couple of lochs although it can be quite distracting as we’re always gazing out of the window or running for the binoculars to try and see whats “just dropped in”. The ‘scope is permanently set up in the lounge overlooking the loch at the front. These Scaup appeared one morning and Ian was able to jump over to the croft the other side of the road and get some nice digi-scoped pics.

Scaup

Scaup

I think it was a good choice to use the spare bedroom at the back of the house as an office as it has an amazing view. I think i must be living in rainbow central here as we get so many i’ve almost given up going out to take photos of them. I made an exception for this one.

Rainbow (looking towards Beinn Mhor)

Rainbow (looking towards Beinn Mhor)

We had the first sprinkling of snow on the highest hill in the Uists, Beinn Mhor and we’ve also had our first frost of winter. The quality of the light here is something that never ceases to amaze me – so vivid and clear.

More decent days, one of them even warm enough for Ian to sit outside on the (rapidly rusting away) swing chair to drink his evening beer.

Beer o'clock - outside in October!

Beer o'clock - outside in October!

As the winter nights approach i decided to have a look in the booklet, found in the Co-op, advertising local evening courses. One caught my eye, it was Knit an Eriskay Jumper. The blurb said “helping to keep this unique island tradition and skill alive”. Sounded like an opportunity not to be missed, being taught, in Eriskay, by an Eriskay woman, how to knit one of these traditional fisherman’s jumpers.

Casting on. (Ian couldn't quite believe his eyes that i knew how to knit)

No, i haven't got a Yellow-headed Blackbird in my hand, just about to ring it, i'm casting on my knitting. (Ian couldn't quite believe his eyes that i knew how to knit)

I got the 5-ply wool from Frangipani in Cornwall as they were recommended to me by a regular customer of theirs. They were very pleasant and helpful when i phoned up and the cones of wool arrived in only 2 days.

More nice weather meant we were able to get out birding – Ian was heartily sick of doing work around the house and sorting out the loft…

Found these Corn Buntings in Howbeg.

Found these Corn Buntings in Howbeg.

Ian has still been running 3 times a week, although the cows and sheep have now been turned out onto the golf course so he has to dodge them on his way.

Highland Cow

Highland Cow

We heard that a group of whales had come into Loch Carnan at the north of South Uist and were in danger of beaching. There were fears of a mass stranding. They were watched almost continuously and when we arrived the group had moved further out into the loch. Ian got some digi-scoped shots. It was a pretty amazing sight. The good news is that the group have safely left the loch now and it is thought that they had come in along with a female that subsequently gave birth.

Pilot whales at Lochcarnan

Pilot whales at Lochcarnan

Lapland Bunting still around on the machair and 4 Snow Buntings on the beach.

The last day of the month, another calm one so the garden nets were open. A surprise Brambling in the ground trap. Went out to re-set the Potter trap after processing the Blackbird that had been in it. Stood up and spotted a bird in the double panel just a few feet away. My first thought was warbler and i stepped towards the net but it struggled and shot out into a bush in next doors garden, i ran in for my bins, shouting to Ian, he’d already seen as he was watching from the window. We had the briefest of glimpses of the bird, and even with the help of Bill from next door (the other side) couldn’t relocate it. Our main thinking was Barred Warbler but it’s going to have to be “the one that got away”.

So, that was October. Good birding, lots passing through, not too much getting in our net but the ground traps and Potter traps have been good. Hopefully we should get some decent weather during November – if we don’t Ian will be the proud possessor of an Eriskay jumper before too long. :)

Moths: the trap was only out 3 times this month. On the 12th we captured 10 Small Wainscot and 8 Large Wainscot. The 16th we only had 1 Angle Shades and a Large Wainscot and last night (the 31st Oct) nothing!

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