Hi and welcome to my Blog, my name is Paul Riddle and I live in south Leicestershire, UK. Back in August 2007 my quest began to locate as many local Little Owl territories as possible. The driving force was a reported decline in the uk numbers so I thought I would do my bit and conduct a study in my area. After 7 years and countless hours out in the field I have detected over 200 different sites. With a thirst for a greater understanding of the owls a more comprehensive monitoring and nest box programme then commenced. This also now includes monitoring the local and very sparse population of Barn Owls, please pop back occasionally and catch up with the life and times of my owls and any other wildlife that I come across. I hope you enjoy your visit!!!

Sunday, 28 June 2015

North Uist - Day 3

Yet again we were greeted with bad weather early morning, the wind and rain hadn't abated at all, in fact it was probably even worse than the day before? Because of the relative success we had with finding the sheltering owls yesterday we decided to employ the same tactics again. We drove slowly up and down the same area again but nothing was seen, we then realised the wind had swung around 90 degrees which had obviously made the owls shift position too. Therefore we moved to different area where the road ran from north to south rather than east to west, this tactic paid dividends almost immediately when another new Short Eared Owl was located. The owl seemed totally unfazed by the cars close proximity and just sat and watched us, it may give you an idea of how bad the weather was in this next image, the owl was soaked to the skin!   


After 20 minutes with the owl we moved on and continued to cruise around this new area, no other owls were seen but we did have our closest fly-by views of a Male and female Hen Harrier. A few distant images were captured but I'm not prepared to share them on here because they were bloody awful!

As the morning moved into afternoon the weather started to improve, well it had stopped raining but the wind was still as strong as ever. Because of this we agreed a return to the area where we'd earlier seen the Hen Harriers could be a good option. En-route we started to see more bird activity, a sure sign that now the rain had ceased it made for much better conditions for them. We were now starting to see our first Short Eared Owls on the wing, a great sight especially over the heath and heather. The odd owl was also seen perched up on post, they were making the most of this drying out period. We came across one particular area where we noted four different owls flying about, a lot of time was wasted waiting for one of them to come close enough for a fly-by image, but they didn't.

A little further along the road we witnessed another of our "must see whilst on Uist", a Snipe on a post.  This bird was displaying and calling with great enthusiasm, it was so engrossed in it's activities our presence was ignored, this worked to our advantages as we both bagged a hat full of images. 


After the Snipe experience we continued to make our way back to the Hen Harrier area, it was taking us ages to get there because every few hundred yards or so there was something else that captured our attention. The next distraction was a small flock of Twite, although they are apparently quite abundant on the islands this was our first sighting! We spent ages trying to get some closer views, initially we failed miserably so rather than trying to creep up onto them we stayed in one spot and eventually a single bird landed on the wire fence next to the car.  


Eventually we arrived back at the area where we'd previously had our best views of Hen Harrier, the road here dissected two completely different types of habitat. To our left was a huge flat plateau area with lots of grassy tussocks and in contrast to the right it was a hilly area that was covered in heather, we parked up where we had a good vantage over both areas and waited. 

Only a few minutes had passed when a distant movement caught my eye over on the grassy side of the road, a Short Eared Owl was quartering back and forth and was progressively getting nearer. Trying to obtain flight shots from within the confinements of the car is very difficult indeed, we knew that if we got out we could ruin the chance of the owl coming within distance but it was a risk that we took! We used the car as a shield and waited, I don't think we spooked the owl but it didn't come as close as we'd have liked, but it was the closest views so far. 


The owl then duly obliged and gave us another tick to our "island wish list", it landed on a post! It wasn't there for too long but at least we'd grabbed an image even though it was distant.


Another couple of owls were seen during the next hour or so, sadly they were too distant, again! But then things got interesting, a pair of Harriers came into view at the top of the heather covered hill, they drifted closer and closer, it was bloody frustrating as I just couldn't lock my focus onto the Hen bird as it came within 20-30 metres of us. The problem being there was just not enough contrast difference between the colour of the heather and the bird, it just blended into the background. From the fifty shots I rattled off, the two images below where the best I managed, oh it could have been so much better!



This was a fantastic opportunity to nail by far the best images of the trip so far, the bird actually flew with 10 metres of the car and I totally blew it! Since that moment I have gone over in my head time and time again on how I could have had my camera setting set up differently so as to have given me a better chance,  there was nothing wrong with the settings, it was purely down to operator error!

Later in the day we also had a Long Tailed Skua drift across the heathland, a lifer for me but it moved far too fast to have captured an image of it, mmmm operator error again I think?

On the way home we also had more waders on posts, this was becoming a regular sighting and quite a comical sight which I've never seen anywhere else apart from here on Uist. 



So for our third day on the islands the weather and consequently the bird viewing did improve, the forecast for day four was predicted to be the best yet, so we planned another early start with a few objectives in mind with our main targets being, Short Eared Owls in flight and on posts, Hen Harrier  images of any type and Corncrakes.

You'll have to pop back in a few days time to see how we got on with our day four objectives?

Catch up soon and thanks for stopping by...........

6 comments:

  1. The soaked shortie image is brilliant as are the flight shots. The Hen Harrier must've have been brilliant to see, it's the one bird when I had chance to photograph I wish I had done better but the excitement got the better of me.

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    1. The excitement got the better of me too Doug, it was once in a life time opportunity, unless of course I go back?

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  2. Love the header of the SEO, poor bird!great images as usual mate, see you Wednesday!!

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  3. Another great post, Paul, but the bedraggled SEO is definitely my favourite image. Of the other superb images, the Hen Harrier flight shots are at the top of the pile

    I don't know why waders like sitting on posts in Scotland - but they do! - particularly early in the morning (when I'm not usually about!).

    Best wishes - - - Richard

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    1. Thanks so much Richard, I am glad your old posts inspired me to visit Scotland, a great place!

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