9th – 12th June The Outer Hebrides part 2 and the Applecross peninsula   Leave a comment

Later on the 10th we headed south from Stornaway. Back in Harris we took the side road to Huisnis, the scenery was fantastic, with huge mountains to our right and white beaches to our left. The area was said to be good for Golden Eagles, but we didn’t have any luck in the short time we were there. In the evening we caught the ferry from the southern tip of Harris to the island of Berenay, which is connected to North Uist by a causeway.

Stornaway, the capital of the Outer Hebrides.

 

Cuckoos remain commoner in Scotland than the south.

The road to Huisnis passes through the grounds of this castle.

 

The mountains of west Harris …….

 

…. and beautiful white sand beaches.

 

Again we had trouble finding our pre-booked B&B, it was off a loop road that ran round the small island of Grimsay which between North Uist and Benbecula, but all we knew wa that it was number 7 but none of the houses were marked. With dusk not arriving until 11 pm there was time to head to Benbecula and search for a vagrant Greater Sand Plover that had been there for the last few days. I have seen one Greater Sand in the UK, but that was in 1978, so I was disappointed to find it had gone. The area was stuffed full breeding waders that noisily mobbed me as I headed for Stinky Bay, the last known site of the Sand Plover.

Oystercatchers called loudly in defense of their nests.

The Uists have a mountainous eastern side, full of small lochans and covered in bare rock whilst the western side is covered in flower rich grassland known as the machair, which has probably the highest number of breeding waders in Europe.

Breeding Redshanks call from fence posts

On Monday 11th I had a pre-breakfast visit to Stinky Bay, just in case, Short-eared Owl and a Hen Harrier were some compensation. Later we headed for the RSPB reserve at Balranald where Corncrakes were in good voice and then onto the north side of the island at Sollas where a beautiful male Snowy Owl was in residence. A quick visit to a viewpoint where Golden Eagle nest could be seen was a bit disappointing, we could just make out the nest but with the scope blowing about in the wind I couldn’t really make out any birds. Margaret had been suffering from a cold for the last few days and was feeling really rough this afternoon, so we returned to the B&B until the evening.

Short-eared Owl

Male Hen Harrier

Once common throughout the UK, Corncrake numbers fell dramatically with agricultural intensification, their last outpost was the Outer Hebrides where only 400 pairs remained in the 90s. Active management has increased the population since.

Another bird that has declined precipitously but now has a stronghold in the Hebrides is the Corn Bunting

 

The Hebrides have an endemic race of Song Thrush, which lacks the buffy wash on the breast and flanks

 

This beautiful male Snowy Owl has been on the Outer Hebrides for several years but this summer it has taken up residence in an accessible location.

 

Another visit to Stinky Bay in the evening was unsuccessful but again we saw large numbers of breeding Lapwing, Curlew, Ringed Plover, Dunlin, Redshank and Oystercatcher, along with many Greylag Geese, Eider and Shelduck, all with young. Twite, Short-eared Owls, a Hen Harrier and drumming Snipe all added interest. The sky had been grey but now in the late evening the sun appeared below the cloud bathing the machair in a wonderful purple glow.

We were up early on the 12th in order to catch the 0730 Lochmaddy to Uig ferry. There were several other birders on board, one managed to find a Storm-petrel on the crossing but I failed to pick it up, but we did see a good number of Manx Shearwaters along with the expected auks.

Back on Skye we drove across the island, over the bridge to the mainland and then north to Lochcarron. Our B&B here was a back up site for Pine Marten, but of course we had already seen one further south, however it proved to be an excellent base to explore the Applecross peninsula and to drive on Britain’s highest road. At the top we searched for Ptarmigan, but although I heard one, I got no more than a brief glimpse. One the way down we flushed a Red Grouse. The views from the top were stunning, an almost 360 degree panorama. We later drove around the narrow coastal road seeing some of the finest coastal scenery in the UK.

The Applecross peninsula

 

Below: 180 degree panorama taken in three photos from the top of the Applecross peninsula looking south over Loch Carron. Skye can be seen in the background to the right.

Posted June 30, 2012 by gryllosblog in Uncategorized

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