Nature Blog Network

Uist – November 2010

Well not too much to report this month although we did manage to ring over 150 new birds – not too bad seeing as we had nearly a week away in Lewis. I’ve included a summary at the end of this post.

We were able to start colour ringing the House Sparrows here in Askernish, this is for our Retrapping Adults for Survival (RAS) project which i mentioned last month.

Colour ring A33 added to a House Sparrow which we recaptured (it was originally ringed in August)

Colour ring A33 added to a House Sparrow which we recaptured (it was originally ringed in August)

It is now Atlas season again – the last winter of the BTO Atlas 2007-11 project. We headed out to the Isle of Barra which lies to the south of us where there are some tetrads that hadn’t yet had Timed Tetrad Visits (TTVs) done during the winter season. We’ve never visited Barra before so were looking forward to the visit. It meant waiting for a day when the weather looked good – not only for the fieldwork but for the 40 minute ferry crossing. We had an early start – up at 5.30pm and headed down to Eriskay to catch the ferry. Flat calm crossing and a beautiful day.

Arriving on Barra on the Calmac ferry Loch Bhrusda (i've been on this ferry previously as it used to run between Harris and North Uist/Berneray until the MV Loch Portain came into service).

Arriving on Barra on the Calmac ferry Loch Bhrusda (i've been on this ferry previously as it used to run between Harris and North Uist/Berneray until the MV Loch Portain came into service).

Ian was heading out to the most remote of our allocated tetrads – it was at least a half hour walk to reach the square.

Ian setting off to do his part of the survey work

Ian setting off to do his part of the survey work

Luckily he had his camera in his rucksack and took some shots out there. He said it was pretty hard going – nearly lost his welly in bog holes a couple of times and in places the heather was up to his waist.

Out in the hills

Out in the hills

Ian took this shot looking out towards the east side where i was doing my first TTV of the day

Ian took this shot looking out towards the east side where i was doing my first TTV of the day

Bridge in the middle of nowhere

Bridge in the middle of nowhere

After completing our 2 hour TTVs we each did an hour TTV then met up for a late lunch. Managed to have a drive right around Barra and did a little exploring. Here is a shot of the world famous airport at Barra – the plane lands on the beach.

Barra airport - sometimes they have to clear the cows off the beach so the plane can land safely!

Barra airport - sometimes they have to clear the cows off the beach so the plane can land safely!

Next around to Castlebay

The main street in Castlebay, Barra

The main street in Castlebay, Barra

In Castlebay the cafe has an excellent reputation for both eat-in and take-away Indian food.

Cafe Kisimul in the main street of Castlebay

Cafe Kisimul in the main street of Castlebay

Kisimul Castle

Kisimul Castle

and a final look back down to Castlebay as the sun was going down.

and a final look back down to Castlebay as the sun was going down.

So we headed back to the ferry having had a great day.

A surprise in the garden net the next day was this Chiffchaff

Chiffchaff

Chiffchaff

We caught our first control birds here in Uist – the first was a Greenfinch which, after a couple of emails we found had been ringed by Terry – the only other active ringer here. It had been ringed as an adult back in July this year.

The very next day we caught a Chaffinch which had been ringed on the left leg. It was funny because the week before Terry had phoned up to ask whether we ring birds on the left leg as he had some Chaffinches in his garden – all ringed on the left leg. No not ours. Not Terrys. I emailed to two guys up on Lewis who ring – not theirs either. Will have to wait and see where it’s come from.

Our next ferry trip was just a few days later as we headed from Berneray across to Leverborough in Harris and so up to my house in Lewis. The house has recently become empty and i needed to clean and tidy and make sure everything is OK for the coming winter. We thought that gales may hamper our return to Uist at the weeks end but it turned out that it was snow that almost stopped our return journey. We set out from Carloway and it wasn’t snowing too much but gradually got worse and worse. We got lucky in that we got behind a cement mixer lorry going up over the Clisham (the steep hill you have to climb to get to Harris).

Slowly making our way up and over the Clisham

Slowly making our way up and over the Clisham

We followed the lorry all the way to Tarbert and then we were on our own – we just about made it up the steep hill just outside Tarbert and the road conditions were getting worse all the time.

Wondering whether we'd make it to Leverborough to get the ferry back...

Wondering whether we'd make it to Leverborough to get the ferry back...

After a mile or so we were really happy to find that the snow plough was behind us so we found somewhere to pull over and were then able to follow him.

Yay! Saved by the snow plough :-)

Yay! Saved by the snow plough :-)

The weather right up to the end of the month continued very cold with a little more snow now and then. Makes for stunning views though.

Looking out from the back garden

Looking out from the back garden

I think the birds are finding it hard – Ian saw a Water Rail on the roadside verge near our neighbours house and this Snipe has been in and out of our garden for the last couple of days.

Snipe in the back garden

Snipe in the back garden

And before i insert the monthly ringing totals a final sunset – from the front of the house this time with the hills of Barra in the very distance.

Sunset looking south west(ish)

Sunset looking south west(ish)

Uist ringing summary for November 2010

Species New Retrap Control
Meadow Pipit 0 1
Waxwing 1
Wren 0 1
Dunnock 4 3
Robin 2 5
Blackbird 14 21
Song Thrush 4 2
Redwing 3
Blackcap 2 1
Chiffchaff 1
Starling 42 5
House Sparrow 17 14
Chaffinch 2 1
Greenfinch 58 29 1
Reed Bunting 1
Species: 15 151 82 2

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