Sunday morning and a hike around moorland near Lochmaddy was sufficient to locate a pair of Arctic Skua on a small freshwater loch, one bird being a dark phase individual and the other a pale phase. Breeding waders on-site included Golden Plover and Curlew and a Short-eared Owl showed briefly by the roadside.
After breakfast it was off to the RSPB reserve at Balranald, a coastal reserve associated with the delicate machair habitat which proves irresistible to breeding waders and other birds. The approach road is one of the best places to see breeding waders and their chicks, with Redshank, Oystercatcher and Lapwing all being attentive to little and not so little balls of fluff! A pair of Gadwall were showing off their ducklings and a first summer Little Gull hawked insects overhead. Three Corncrakes were heard but not seen and a slow but enjoyable yomp around the machair headland was very pleasant in warm sunshine. In addition to the waders already mentioned, Snipe and Dunlin and Ringed Plover breed here too, joined by noisy Arctic Terns and Common Gulls. Twite 'twanged', Meadow Pipits 'chipped' and Wheatears 'chacked' as we cicum-navigated the dunes and shallow pools. Good numbers of shoreline waders included plenty of Sanderling and Bar-tailed Godwits and a couple of Corn Buntings 'jangled' along the drier sections. A gorgeous male Hen Harrier quartered nearby.
We went back here in the evening to coincide with high tide but there was no sign of the long-staying Harlequin Duck which has been in the area most of the spring (last reported on 7th June). More Arctic Skuas, nine Great Northern Divers, Short-eared Owl and plenty of off-shore Manx Shearwaters and other sea-birds were ample compensation. The still, light and warm conditions meant we were out birding here to nearly 11pm! The campers on-site were clearly going to have to endure the rasping calls of the Corncrake all night long!
Eleanor and Neil
|The Oystercatcher had caught|
and was breaking up a shore crab
when the Herring Gull came along,
grabbed it and promptly swallowed it.
The Oystercatcher was not pleased
and chased the gull all over the shop!
|Sanderling - summer plumage|