Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Eagles and Otters - a fine day out in North Uist

A warm, breezy day in North Uist with the car thermometer reading up to 23 degrees - not sure how accurate it is but it was certainly warm despite the strong wind from the east. Adrian Lee, Wildlife North West had requested a tour of the island with the hope of connecting with otters and birds of prey. As it happens his top request was Hen Harrier as he'd not seen one before and no sooner had we started than our first Hen Harrier of the day was spotted along the road to Loch Euphort. The female showed well, if briefly as it crossed the road in front of us. Numerous Red Deer were picked up here as at many other spots around the island. We headed back to the main road and whilst scanning the moorland to the north-west we spotted a Golden Eagle being mobbed by a Buzzard. A quick spin up the main road put us more or less under the encounter and gave us great views of the pair as they headed east.

The Committee Road was quiet and our ottter site produced little although very fresh spraints outside a holt revealed that they were in the area and a Red-throated Diver bobbed on the sea. We headed around the north-west corner of the island and as we rounded the corner at Scolpaig came across our second harrier of the day, this time a fine adult male. We watched the bird as it flew low across the loch and towards the valley leading back the way we came so we reversed our route and watched the bird hunt low over the moor. Unfortunately it never came close again although we did spot a juvenile Ruff in flight over Loch Olobhat.
Heading back towards Scolpaig our attention was drawn to a commotion over the hillside where 3 Kestrels were chasing a Merlin that was carrying prey. They soon disappeared over the hill and we carried on to Clettreval. More Kestrels were on view but little else so we popped into Loch Sandary where 3 Whooper Swans remained. Our next stop saw us at Aird an Runair, Balranald. The beach held a small number of waders including a juvenile Little Stint whilst a Corn Bunting sang from a nearby fence.

The afternoon was ticking away so we returned to our otter site but not before having a close encounter with another male Hen Harrier en route. It showed well although again all to brief before it had vanished low over the corn fields. Once back at our otter site we almost immediately found one feeding. In total we watched it for around 50 minutes, in which time it came tantalisingly close as if it was going to come ashore just below our position but alas it never did although it did show well bringing its larger catches out on a rocky island to eat in full view.
Finally we headed back south and called in at Baleshare in search of more harriers. We paused to look at a flock of alarmed Lapwings to discover an immature Golden Eagle perched on a fence post. It appeared enormous and allowed us to approach within150 feet before deciding it was time to move to another post further away; flushing masses of Greylag Geese as it went. We turned back to the car and a Merlin came hurtling past in hot pursuit of a small passerine that managed to take shelter in a small garden nearby. The Merlin perched on the edge of the beach before heading off once again flushing 5 knot as it went; \ fine end to the day.

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