Monday, 17 December 2012

I'm dreaming of a white (Gyr) Christmas

Any birder living in Uist at the moment would be forgiven for thinking that Christmas had come early with all the reports of white-Gyr's during the last month. The first sighting came on 18th November when one was seen at Bornish, South Uist. This was followed by one that hung around for a couple of hours on the morning 1st December at Balranald, North Uist. Initially it was presumed to have been the Bornish bird although when one was found dead at Eoligarry, Barra the same day the situation became more tricky.

Gyr at Balranald, December 1st  (Brian Rabbitts)

 Next came a sighting of a bird perched at Ardivachar, South Uist, 3rd December and it looked like this bird was on its way south until there was a sighting at Balranald and Loch Paible, 11th December. Again it was presumed that the bird of the 11th was the same as the bird of 1st and 3rd December although thanks to digital photography it would appear that this was not the case. The photo below shows the bird from the 11th December that is renewing its inner primaries although the bird above (1st December) does not show the inner primary moult.

Gyr near Loch Paible, 11th December (John Kemp)
There was another sighting from Loch Paible, North Uist yesterday, 16th December and then one today from Kipheder, South Uist. From the superb photos by John Kemp it's quite obvious that the Gyr on the 11th December is a different bird to the one photographed today from the south end of South Uist that shows a full set of fully grown primaries.

Gyr, 17th December (John Kemp)

So I suppose the question remains, just how many Gyr's have there been? That's at least 3 in the last month and there's one thing for sure; I'm glad I'm not a medium sized gull or wader in Uist at the moment! More photos can be found at Western Isles Wildlife.

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Gyr Falcon on North Uist

"Better have a look at that white blob on the fence post" I thought as I walked back towards the visitor centre at Balranald this morning and so glad I did. The probable plastic bag, that can often be found adorning various fence lines, shrubs and is widely distributed throughout the coutryside actually turned out to be a fantastic immature, white Gyr Falcon. Even at the great distance that this bird initially was the huge bulk was apparent. It actually appeared larger than a Common Buzzard and much more powerful. Unfortunately it didn't stay for long and a few flaps of the broad-based, pointed wings saw the bird disappearing low into the dunes to the south.

 JK had been disappointed at his unsatisfactory veiws of (presumably) this bird 10 days ago at Balranald when he had distant flight views of it for seconds. He braved the omens from this new report of the bird last seen heading south and drove up from South Glendale, at the very bottom of South Uist. I headed to the very south end of Balranald first noting a Peregrine and Merlin before finally hearing the sound of alarming Herring Gulls which once more revealed the presence of this butey. It perched on a post over-looking the mouth of Loch Paible before again heading south.

It flew across to the dune ridge at Knockintorran and perched on a post apparently on top. JK by this time wasn't far away so I directed him to the where-abouts of the bird. I saw him arrive; I could see the bird still perched but our twitcher from the south couldn't, so he started walking towards the dunes. I looked down to tie my boot and woosh, it was gone! Not my boot but the falcon had, once I had looked up again. It hadn't come my way but the phone call to JK didn't lift his spirits much although he needn't have worried as a few mintues later he was watching it; this time quite close, perched on a fence post. You can find more photos of this bird on Western Isles Wildlife
It's hard to imagine how something so large, white and gernerally causing pandemonium can disappear so easily but Gyr's unlike Peregrines hunt mostly in level flight and so at least here they probably often stay quite low to the ground. They also travel at some lick too, with a couple of flaps covering large areas of ground. Hopefully this bird will have better luck than the one found dead at Eoligarry on Barra in early December which was presumably the individual seen on South Uist in November. Amazing to think that there have been 2 Gyr's in Uist in the last month.