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A WEEK IN THE HEBRIDES

Back from a week on Lewis in the Outer Hebrides. It was a family holiday, but my kind wife and daughter allowed me much indulgence to watch birds. And there were plenty of great birds to watch. The rarest was a male Red-necked Phalarope, seen in windy conditions on a small freshwater lake close to the sea. The most spectacular unsurprisingly was a Golden Eagle, being mobbed by gulls as it flew over the road we were driving along. Yet the highlight, my star birds, were a pair of Black-throated Diver on the 'lochan' only metres away from the holiday cottage where we were staying. What truly beautiful birds.

The actual number of species seen was limited - less than 60. So many garden and woodland birds we take for granted were absent. No Blue Tits or any other member of the tit family. No Robins, no Dunnocks, no Mistle Thushes. Neither Magpies nor Jackdaws, although Ravens were plentiful. By contrast, I did well for some waders, notably Common Sandpipers and noisy Greenshanks which seemed to be holding territories on every stretch of water. As I expected, seabirds were also common including scores of Black Guillemot. But I did not expect to find one small bird everywhere I looked. Adult and juvenile Wheatears were numerous and all over the place - from the hilltops to the sandy beaches. Indeed, it seems on Lewis that Wheatears can be 'garden' birds too.

Mark Winter


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