The first morning dawned bright before a heavy fog engulfed the Island. Greenshanks appeared to be everywhere along side the edges of the gravel pits – 20 counted on one pit alone. Other waders making use of the pools were good numbers of Dunlin, Redshank and small numbers of Curlew and Turnstone. 3,000 Oystercatchers with a few Bar-tailed Godwit were out on the sands of the estuary. A few migrants were a passing through but most notable was a large movement of Swallows, 5,000+
Over two weeks in September I stayed on two vastly differing islands, for the first week it was Walney Island and the second week Iona. One well populated and in England, the other an island of pilgrimage in the Inner Hebrides. Two Islands – Two worlds.
Slimbridge is a place that I can never get tired of. It holds a special place in my memory as one of the first reserves where I can remember feeling that birds were going to be an important part of my life. We stopped there as a family on the way back from a holiday on the south coast. I was about 12 at the time and the bird I remember most was the Long-tailed Tit. I’d never set eyes on them before and seeing them working their way through the willows was a seminal experience for me.
In the last couple of weeks I’ve spent some time with the Purple Sandpipers that spend the winter on our rocky shores down here in South Wales, the wintering population of Britain is roughly estimated at about 16,000. They’re a bird that feeds and roosts in the littoral zone and often as close to the surf as possible, rarely venturing above the high tide line.
Keeping local on our last day we took the short walk down to Rhue Lighthouse, just north of Ullapool, before heading back to where it all started; the walk from Fisherman’s Cottage down to the edge of Loch Kanaird. The wind had in no way abated and we were treated to some wonderful and spectacular light and further intense squalls at both locations.
…. and so to the last full day up in the high north. With two days travelling to come and 600 miles to cover to get home to Wales we’d decided on a slower day. We felt we’d got so much done the previous days that we could afford a quieter morning. It was to be anything but!
Day five saw us heading out to Stoer lighthouse, on one of the most exposed headlands on the north west coast of Scotland. We took the quick route up, rather than on the ‘Mad wee Road’. So to Ledmore junction first, before swinging left up to Inchnadamph and then into Lochinver past Loch Assynt.
A little past Achiltibuie there’s a road on the left heading down towards the coast. This was our next port of call for an hour or so before moving back to Achnahaird Bay, where we had started the day, for the last of the light.
I’ll quote from my diary for today ‘The hardest day yet with heavy pulsing showers, but with that comes drama and interesting light’ We headed out on the ‘Mad wee road’ again and out to Achahaird Bay on the Rubha Mor peninsula.
Forty five minutes in the Stornoway terminal (you can’t actually stay on the ferry and must disembark and embark again) and we were once again on our way. A lone Guillemot was close to the shore by the terminal and gave really fine views of its winter plumage.
Mellon Udridgle holds some great memories of time spent with a couple of Red-throated Divers in the lochans on the peninsula behind the settlement. It was the middle of June then and now I was here in early November.
Our second day saw us heading towards Ardessie waterfalls on the south side of Little Loch Broom and taking in a couple of stops on the way. The autumn colours were spectacular and with the dull weather and rain, seemed to glow ever more brightly. We simply couldn’t drive past some of the trees along Strath Beag without giving them some time. Just by the turning towards Badrallach a particular rich area gave us a wonderful hours work and it was here that the rain started.
Checking the forecast on our first morning, it seemed best to walk from the cottage, which was on the shores of Loch Kanaird, a few miles north of Ullapool. Rain was forecast for the morning but with brighter skies in the afternoon.
I’ve spent a little while in the company of Whitethroats this spring. The Common Whitethroat can be a very confiding bird allowing close up views often sitting high on the top of hedgerow, bramble or shrubs as it belts out its rather scratchy song. Its cousin the Lesser Whitethroat however is a different kettle of fish.
Last year was the first time for over thirty years that I’d not managed to visit the iconic Welsh RSPB reserve, Dinas-Gwenffrwd. Covid19 put a very firm stop to that and we all suffered enormously. So it was with much relief and a lightness of heart that I made my first visit for a good while in late April this year, when all the migrants were back and claiming territory.