Monday, 8 April 2013

Harlequin Duck!!!

Mega Harlequin duck....... wicked where! North Uist.....ahhh bloody hell too far..
So six weeks later everyone's been but me, naaa i ain't going unless something else turns up on there....So come April the first, Snowy Owl North Uist bingo Wow..
So i mentioned it to Keith and he was well up for it.. So Ferries, all booked up bugger! ah well that's that then... Nope bit of perseverance and Ferries booked. So Thursday after work comes and things are changing by the min but vans packed and off we all go. So by 12am we arrive on Skye, that's enough driving for tonight. Tents pitched and a good night sleep. Well except for it being bloody cold. Minus something!!! Next morning we awoke to an amazing view, but god knows where we are.

Somewhere on Skye
So i got my news bins out and started scanning whilst Keith was packing his stuff up, first bird in my new bins Osprey!!! wow.
So now time to move on to get the Ferry to North uist, not a great deal of birds seen on the way. In the harbour Eider, Black Guillemot and Great Northern Diver. On the top road over looking the sea a group of 12 Great Northern Diver.
So we jump on the ferry and have a very unproductive journey until we reach Uist where the action starts hotting up with brief views of Dolphin, 2 White-tailed Eagle and amazingly a Golden Eagle.

So on Uist we made our short journey to Soller for the Snowy Owl, a few White-tailed Eagles showed well on our way there.  
We had a really good look around but no sign of the Owl. On the 1st of April a bunch of worthless photographers harassed the Owl until it flew off according to locals, who are very protective of there Elvis (as hes known) so understandably they were as pissed off as us.

Whilst looking for the owl we came across, Merlin, Twite, Golden Plover and a few commoner stuff.
We then moved onto the RSPB reserve at Balranald, a cracking reserve with loads of birds... 5 Corn Bunting, more Twite, loads of geese including Greenland Whitefronts.

Corn Bunting

Greenland Whitefronts

So we then made the long walk to the duck site on the beach and on the way an Iceland Gull flew over, then a Glaucous Gull landed in a ploughed field, bingo 2 great Juvenile birds with ease.
So we reached the beach and for the next god knows how many hours searched and searched and searched for the Harlequin duck with little success. Merlin, Great Northern Divers, waders including a color ringed Sanderling, loads of normal gulls and a few more geese.
We were on our way back to the car to check another bay when we got a call of our new friend Gus and his daughter Alex, we had met on other twitches and then on the ferry over, luckily swapped numbers as he had persevered and found the Duck on the rocks in the northern area of the bay... you beauty, so we rushed to find Gus and the Harlequin Duck, wow wow wow, what a bird good scope views just not good for photos. A year tick in the form of a Sandwich Tern flew over whilst we were there. Crap i no but it was distant! click to enlarge all the pictures.

Harlequin Duck
After our fill of this wonderful bird we had a drive around looking for Geese, we found a thousand or so but nothing out of the ordinary, just Barnacles, Greylags and more Greenland Whitefronts.
Returning to RSPB reserve at Balranald we located the female Ring necked Duck another cracking bird but again just too distant.

Female Ring-necked Duck

When we got back to the visitor center at RSPB reserve at Balranald Keith luckily talks to anyone, not like me ignorant fecker ;-) and we were pointed in the direction of a couple of Lapland Bunting and when we found them we saw a female and a cracking Male, never seen a male like this so was well pleased.

By now it was time for a second night camping so drove to the beach where we had watched the Harlequin Duck , Keith cooked dinner and we watched the duck from tonight's home with a few beers and great food.
A Juv Iceland Gull on the beach was again nice..

Next morning i was awoken by the Oystercatchers and the Eiders, but i couldnt find the Duck. A Wheatear was nice and more Great northern Divers and a couple of Red-throated Divers.



We had another scan through the few Geese that were now about but nothing new, an Iceland Gull was on one of the small lochs...

We had another really good look around for the Snowy Owl, again no luck but nice views of 2 Short-eared Owls, and 3 Hen Harriers, 2 Cracking males and a Female. Ended up with double figure White tailed Eagles.
We headed to a few other areas, and did a bit of site seeing and took a few pics of things we saw.



We then got the Ferry back to Skye and made our way to Aviemore. We arrived at Loch Garten and camped up in the car park ready for the Capper watch early morning. 
Next morning after another very very cold night in the snow! yes more snow and went on the Capper watch but was very disappointed to see no Cappers, seems there unreliable this year. Crested Tit of the feeders was a bonus though. We had a wander around the woods to see if we could find a Capper ourselfs, unfortunatly we failed, a Tawny Owl sat out in the open showing well as did a Woodcock, but neother of us had cameras at the ready, so we headed for home. Still a great trip with 950 miles covered. 


So we missed a couple of good birds but all in all we had a great time with great birds, company and great scenery