Posted: Monday, 20 February 2006
I am not an expert on birds by any stretch of the imagination - I think it is already no mean feat that I am able to distinguish a blackbird from a song thrush. Nonetheless, there are a few birds that I've caught on camera and others that I have encountered on my numerous bogslogs which were too quick for me to snap.
In the moors, the shrike does just that - it takes off out of its hiding place with a heart stopping shriek. The grouse does pretty much the same when you come too close, whirring off with a inane cackling. One grouse near Airidh a'Bhruaich (Lochs) was injured and could not fly or run away. I could have a close look at it, 14 months ago, but didn't have a camera with me at the time. Higher up in the hills, you may encounter the golden eagle. One whooshed overhead, not 10 feet above me, one day whilst exploring the southwest of the Isle of Eigg. I have seen them from a greater distance whilst waiting for a bus at Balallan here in Lewis.
I know a little about seabirds. For years, I used to visit one of the largest wetlands in Europe, the Wadden Sea basin, which stretches from northern Holland as far as Esbjerg in Denmark. It is there that I learned about many different birds. Some of them I have encountered in the islands of Scotland. I have seen eider ducks, much maligned by mussel.farmers, at Gress. They probably migrate out of the Wadden Sea to the Hebrides, but ornithologists should have a more definite opinion on that. Sea gulls, in all sorts, shapes and sizes, not to forgot the bonxie. The great skua, the proper name for the bonxie, is a predator, a large, brown gull-like bird, which is an expert flyer. It can take a tern or a kittywake in mid-flight, and rip it apart. The only thing a tern has in common with a skua is its behaviour when humans approach its nesting site too closely. It will swoop down and attack your head. It's not just humans that suffer this treatment, I have seen a flock of sheep being hounded out of a ternery on Eigg once.
There is a reasonable variety of garden birds in Lewis. Here in Stornoway, I have seen blackbirds, thrushes, robins, starlings, doves, greenfinches, bullfinches, chafffinches. Hang a few birdfeeders out, and there is no end of variety. Provided those starlings don't take over by the dozen.
Out in the Newton Basin, there tend to be golden eye ducks in winter, and the colder / and or windier the better for them. Cormorants occasionally come to fish. I spent a few hours on a Saturday afternoon, watching a cormorant trying to swallow a fish that was a few sizes too large for it. At low tide herons will be fishing as well.
Posted on Arnish Lighthouse at 11:47