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Corncrake and Phalaropes
(now includes a short boat trip)
Dates: 29th May - 3rd June 2017
The main aim of this trip is to enjoy good views of both Corncrake and Red-necked Phalarope although its also a good time of year for Short-eared Owl when many can be found hunting during the day as they try to feed their ever hungry, young broods. We'll also take a short boat excursion around the island of Ronay which often allows us to get good views of divers and White-tailed Eagle.
Corncrake’s are in full voice at this time of year with many of the males disputing territories. There is often little height to the vegetation still in late May so birds concentrate in the iris beds. This means that with a little patience there’s an excellent chance of seeing them as the cover is very much in demand and Corncrakes can be seen scurrying around between the iris beds or even crossing the road. In some years, tame males arrive and can be seen calling in the open with little fear of people although this is by no means a regular event.
The other star is the Red-necked Phalarope which has a toe-hold as a breeding species in the UK with only a couple of pairs nesting in any given year in the Outer Hebrides. The southern isles (Uist and Benbecula) provide you with the best chance of catching up with them and the last week of May and first of June is when most birds are normally present. Once the brighter females have mated they will often move on leaving the drabber males to incubate the eggs and guard any young. Being a single parent with lots of predators means you have to be secretive to survive and the males are scarcely seen once the females have left.
There’s a rich supporting cast too with 8 resident birds of prey including both eagle species, Hen Harrier, Merlin and Peregrine as well as Short-eared Owls; the latter is commonly seen hunting during the day in early June. Once the owls' chicks have hatched they spend long hours hunting, making them a regular sight throughout the morning and late afternoon. Other regulars include 3 species of diver. Both Red-throated and Black-throated Diver nest in the islands whilst Great Northern Divers can be seen in their superb summer plumage before heading north with small numbers over-summering. Other birds often hanging on from winter include a few Whooper Swans, that have occasionally bred whilst more likely wildfowl include Eider, Gadwall, Shoveler and possibly Garganey. Small birds are generally limited to those of open country such as Meadow Pipit and Skylark whilst Corn Bunting still cling on although their numbers have much diminished over the last decade. Occasionally late May and early June can also be a time when unusual spring migrant warblers and flycatchers turn up and have included such rarities at Bluethroat, Red-backed Shrike and even an Iberian Chiffchaff in 2009 although these are more the exception than the norm. It’s a great time of year to be in the islands and you just never know what you might see.
The itinerary below is a rough guide as we'll make the most of the weather conditions to maximise our chances of catching up with as many species as possible.
Short list of species: Whooper Swan, Eider, Gadwall, Garganey, Whimbrel, Black-tailed Godwit, Golden Plover, Red-necked Phalarope, Purple Sandpiper, Glaucous Gull, Great Skua, Arctic Skua, Arctic Tern, Little Tern, Corncrake, Short-eared Owl, Golden Eagle, White-tailed Eagle, Hen Harrier, Peregrine, Merlin, Red-throated, Black-throated and Great Northern Divers. Manx Shearwater, Black Guillemot, Corn Bunting, Twite, plus many more. Red Deer, Grey and Common Seals, Otters. If the weather’s calm enough we will set a moth trap to have a peek at some of the local night life.
Dates: 29th May - 3rd June 2017
Tour duration: 5 nights / 6 days on the islands.
Cost: £700 per person
Accommodation is provided in some of the best local guesthouses for 5 nights.
All meals are provided with evening meals taken in local hotels. If you have special dietary requirements please let us know when booking.
Group size: 8 (maximum)
Booking: Please email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Where to meet: The tour begins and ends in Uist. If you arrive by plane or as a foot passenger off the ferry we will be there to meet you and take you to your accommodation. If you arrive early and are already in the islands on the first day then you'll be picked up in the morning and we'll explore local habitats and wildlife whilst others arrive during the morning. On the last day we'll continue to search for wildlife until everyone has departed on their various flight / ferry connections.
Getting here: It is possible to reach the islands by both air and ferry. Flybe operate regular flights from Glasgow to Benbecula although the earlier you book the cheaper the fare. Alternatively Calmac operate ferries between Uig, Skye - Lochmaddy, North Uist and from Oban - Lochboisdale, South Uist. Once on the islands I will be there to meet you and take you to your accommodation before we head into the field.