Tag Archives: Lapwing

North Uist wildlife photography trip June 2019

North Uist in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland has been on my “want to visit” list for some years. Known for it’s outstanding wildlife I just had to give it a try and, after moving to Scotland in 2017, the logisitics of the trip became much easier – basically load the car, drive 3 and half hours to (almost) the tip of the Isle Of Skye and drive onto a ferry.

So in June of this year we did exactly that. A short ferry trip later and we were driving towards our B&B situated on the Northwest of the island near Loch Sanndaraigh. We chose this location as it’s near to the RSPB reserve of Balranald which is know for Corncrake amongst many other species.

After arriving late afternoon I had a quick walk around the surrounding area to get the layout. Instantly noticeable was the amount of wading birds (and young) that were in nearby fields. I’ve never seen so many lapwing. Also what struck me, especially in the area we were, there are lots of fenced off fields and plots of land that sandwich the single track roads. All those Snipe / Redshank / other birds perched on photogenic posts i’ve seen from this place now makes sense!

So, first morning is a really early start to try and see Corncrake along the approach road to Balranald. Hopefully that early will mean very little other traffic so we (my wife and I) can crawl along in the car with the windows open and take shots from the car. A drizzly grey day didn’t make shots easy but plenty to see and point a camera at –

Lapwing amongst flowers
Lapwing amongst flowers
Oystercatcher feeding in field
Lapwing amongst the daisies

The Corncrake were certainly there – their calls often heard but glimpses were frustratingly difficult. I did manage just a couple of poor images (these are quite heavy crops) of the ones we did see. Still – you don’t get great images every attempt!

So far so good though – I had never seen a Corncrake so first attempt success is always welcome! The tip is to come earlier in the year before the vegetation gets too high – then they are a bit easier to spot.

A bit more of a drive around, mostly down single track roads and spotted a visitor not welcomed by the local lapwing family.

For the afternoon we headed to a local beach, directed by our hosts. The beaches here are stunning! Mainly white sand that stretches for miles and crystal clear water. You could be forgiven for thinking it was the caribbean. The area we headed to was the mouth of Loch Phaibeil – there is a lovely deeper channel where the water floods in and out to fill the loch and looked a perfect place to spend some time working out what the birds were doing. It’s a great place for smaller waders so I laid out on the sand trying to bet images of the Dunlin as they fed at the waters edge.

Dunlin feeding at Loch Phaibeil
Dunlin feeding at Loch Phaibeil
Dunlin Flock at Loch Phaibeil

I kept my attention on the Dunlin although there were Oystercatchers around plus Shelduck and Eiders in the channel but they kept their distance despite me being laid flat.

Our walk back to the car (through fields) earned us the inevitable escorts from worried parents. It doesn’t really matter where you go at this time of year, there are so many nesting birds that wherever you walk (sticking to established paths of course) you will be accompanied by Redshank, Lapwing and Oystercatchers flying up and sounding the alarm. I try to take just a few images and move on. Even if you aren’t the object of concern, the crows and gulls guarantee there is always something to shout a warning about.

Get off my land!
Redshank flypast

Back to the B&B and still hearing the sound of Corncrake right outside the windows. My first full day is over but has made quite an impression. Day 2 report to follow shortly.

Posted in Birds, Cameras, D500, North Uist, Outer Hebrides, Photography, Scotland, Wildlife Photography Also tagged , , , , |

A day of reflection at Elmley Marshes

With a forecast of almost no wind and a bright sunny day I just knew I had to get out with the camera. Elmley was my choice of venue. It’s around a 80 minute drive from where I am and as, in my opinion, the entrance track as the sun is rising is one of the highlights of the reserve in my opinion, it meant a really early start.

As I turned from the road and started down the access track I could already see a large flock of birds wheeling around. A good number of starlings were gathering on the fields to feed along with a decent sized flock of curlew.Being such a still day inevitably meant fog. Although a little jumpy, I took a few shots of the curlew feeding in the field.

Curlew feeding in the fog

With a lot of water in the fields from the recent deluges we have had, my eye was naturally drawn to the reflections. It’s rare to have such a calm surface to the water and as even the lightest ripple can make a decent reflection difficult, I tried to make the most of the situation.Moving the car very slowly forward I changed the angle slightly so that I could include more birds. I was hoping they would go closer to the waters edge but before I could manage many more shots a passing Marsh Harrier put them to flight and I had to watch them wheeling away through the fog and landing further out.

 

Curlew reflection at Elmley Marshes

A lovely way to start the day, the ethereal fog and their haunting calls.

The sun soon burned the fog away and as I crept further along the track there were many more opportunities to continue with the reflection theme……

Lapwing reflection, Elmley Marshes

Lapwing reflection, Elmley Marshes

Redshank reflection, Elmley Marshes

Redshank reflection, Elmley Marshes

And my personal favourite..

Redshank calling, Elmley Marshes

Redhank calling, Elmley Marshes

Whilst driving slowly along the access track, as long as you take it really slowly, it’s possible to get incredibly close shots of some of the birds, especially the waders. They don’t see the car as a threat and your shape is well hidden so if there are no sudden movements they will allow views like this –

Lapwing closeup

Lapwing closeup

After parking up at the farm I started the walk to the main part of the reserve. The numbers of birds here really is quite a spectacle and you realise just how many wildfowl are in the fields and pools when a raptor flies through and scares them. The bulk of the birds in this image are Widgeon and was just a small part of an enormous flock that my 500mm didn’t really do justice to.

Wildfowl, Elmley Marshes

Wildfowl, Elmley Marshes

One of the birds I really hoped to get some shots of was the Avocet. They breed here and although a little early for any serious courtship action I hoped to get some good views as they fed in front of the hides. The views I certainly had but not close. The water level was very high which meant that the majority of the birds that did choose to rest near the hides were actually a little way off. A couple of shots I did manage and will have to return again in a few months to improve on.

Avocet in flight

Avocet in flight

Coming in to land

Coming in to land

Another plan I had was to stay into the afternoon and, as high tide pushed the birds that were feeding in the Swale into the reserve, I could catch them flying in as flocks. I hadn’t really thought this through as the amount of laying water across the fields meant that the birds had a massive choice where to land and the majority didn’t come close enough for a photo (lesson learnt!). These Ringed Plover did oblige though.

Ringed Plover in flight

Inevitably action slows down a little during the middle of the day but my eye was drawn towards a distant flock of starlings (a murmuration) that were whirling in the sky. Their fast and urgent movements suggested their was more going on that met the eye. I’m glad I did. This was a distant photo (500mm + a 1.4 converter) and is a Peregrine Falcon in hunting mode as it hurtled into the flock….

Peregrine attacking starlings

Peregrine attacking starlings

Peregrine among the starlings

Peregrine among the starlings

Peregrine attack

Peregrine attack

Not a successful hunt this time.

Another bird I had really hoped to see and photograph was the Short Eared Owl, regularly seen at Elmley. Although this owl can be seen at any time during the day, late afternoon is often the best time, especially in the golden light of a dropping sun. I have to send a thanks to Gary Stamp whom I met on the day and chatted to for a while. After a no show from the owl and parting company he appeared again a little later to let me know that the owl was out and about and to keep my eyes peeled. Sure enough the location I waited in was good. I’d love to say that I took some stunning images of the bird hunting across the reeds in the stunning evening light but unfortunately this time it wasn’t to be. Some reasonable views but no good photos still made the wait worthwhile and a quick showing from the local Barn Owl as the light dropped made it doubly so.

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Birds, Photography, Wildlife Photography Also tagged , , , , |