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17 September 2014
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Farmland - North Uist


North Uist

North Uist is a great island to for wildlife from birds of prey to waders and farmland birds.

Golden Eagles can be seen soaring all year round, whilst in the autumn wading birds and geese return.

North Uist - wilderness location with abundant wildlife.


The island is also abundant in small farmland birds and birds of prey such as Peregrine and Merlin.

Farmland birds

Twite c/o RSPB Images and MarshallThe Skylark, a small brown bird renowned for its display flight in spring and summer, loves lowland farming areas and stubble fields.

The Corn Bunting is another visitor which is largely dependent on cropped land with a particular liking for barley.

Twite form large flocks in late autumn and winter spending most of their time feeding on the ground - they love rough, unenclosed grazing land.

Look out for flocks of thousands of Twite on North Uists.

Two reasons to explain why farmland birds are doing relatively well on North Uist are crofting and machair.

What is machair?

MachairMachair is a fertile shell sand soil that runs along the west of the island.

In the autumn plant stubble - the remains of oats, rye and beer barley grown to feed cattle in winter - abounds and that's great for birds.

The machair is home to rare carpet flowers, such as Irish Lady's Tresses, Orchids, and Yellow Rattle.

The Hebridean machair is also the last stronghold of the Corncrake.

Twite, Dunlin, Redshank and Ringed Plover also thrive on the machair land.

There are over 17,000 pairs of waders breeding on the Uist and Barra machair alone - the most numerous being the Pee-wit or Lapwing.

Marram grass solidifies these mobile sands and encourages soil growth further back in the dune system.

Crofting traditions

Crofting is the traditional method of farming not so intensive as farming on mainland farming in strips and leaving other strips fallow for a couple of years and not using fertilisers.

In autumn and winter these stacks of corn, known as stooks locally, are great for farmland birds foraging for spilt seed.

Birds of prey hunt these farmland birds.

Balranald is an RSPB reserve on the west coast of North Uist which is rich in Golden Plover, Lapwing, Peregrine, Hen Harrier and Merlin.

Photo credits

Bird images copyright and courtesy of RSPB Images, Andy Gomersall and Tom Marshall.

 

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