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Scotland Western Isles
Relatively easier to cover for birders than the larger islands and has, for a number of years, been well covered by a team in the autumn. Unusual birds have turned up in small plantations and gardens all over the island. Unlike the rest of the Southern Isles there have only been a handful of rare ducks, waders and gulls but these have been Ring-necked Duck, American Golden Plover, Bairdís Sandpiper, Lesser Yellowlegs, and Laughing Gull. Also a Redhead although at the time of writing all records of this species are undergoing a review by BBRC. It is the rare passerines that have been found that have put this island in the spotlight. Three have been from North America, Hermit Thrush, Yellow Warbler and Rose-breasted Grosbeak. The first two were first records for the Outer Hebrides and the grosbeak the second. Other first records have been Paddyfield and Booted Warblers and Bee-eater. Some other notable records have been Olive-backed Pipit, Citrine Wagtail, Woodchat and Isabelline Shrikes (probably the same bird that was first seen on Lewis), Arctic Redpoll, and Black-headed and Little Buntings. Also a host of Ďlesserí rarities such as Barred and Yellow-browed Warblers (possibly as many as ten in one autumn), Red-breasted Flycatcher, Golden Oriole, Rose-coloured Starling and Common Rosefinch.
Benbecula lochsSatellite View
These hold good numbers of breeding wildfowl including Wigeon and Shoveler. Up to three Lesser Scaup have occurred and (on the appropriately locally named Coot Loch) an American Coot. Also there has been an over-wintering Greater Yellowlegs and an exceptionally early spring Whiskered Tern (a first record for the Outer Hebrides). Red-necked Phalaropes can be seen from the road bisecting Loch MÚr and Loch Fada in summer. In nearby fields there has been a spring Laughing Gull and autumn American Golden Plover, Buff-breasted Sandpiper and the much rarer Upland Sandpiper while a Buff-bellied Pipit was found on the adjacent shore.
Harris - BorveSatellite View
Generally Harris receives much less attention by birders than other islands. Borve and nearby Horgabost appear to be two areas worthy of more. A Common Rosefinch and a Two-barred Crossbill were isolated reports.
Harris - Sound of TaransaySatellite View
Along with Broad Bay supports the largest number of Common Scoters in the Outer Hebrides. Noted for regular sightings of up to four Surf Scoters.
Lewis - Brue/Loch BarvasSatellite View
An area notable for a number of unusual birds, most having been found by the resident RSPB Conservation Officer. These have included a regular Snowy Owl (probably the same one as the bird seen regularly in the Mangersta area), a Ring-billed Gull, an Alpine Swift, a Whiteís Thrush and an Isabelline Shrike (relocated on Barra as it moved south). A potential first record for Scotland was a Northern Harrier (Marsh Hawk),
Lewis - LabostSatellite View
A seawatching site with the highlights being over 40 Great Shearwaters in the great influx, a Wilsonís Petrel and a Zinoís/Feaís Petrel.
Lewis - Loch na Muilne Nature ReserveFor a long while the presence of Red-necked Phalaropes here was a closely guarded secret but now visitors are encouraged to visit and to enjoy the facilities at the RSPB reserve. A surprise visitor one early June day was a Bufflehead.
Lewis - Ness areaSatellite View
One of the highlights was an unprecedented influx of Great Shearwaters when over 8,000 passed the Butt in two days one September (the last similar influx to British waters was over 40 years previously but this was much further to the south). A single Coryís Shearwater was also seen along with a record passage of Sooty Shearwaters. In recent years observers have discovered a small pre-migration gathering of White-billed Divers off the east side of Lewis. Up to seven together have occurred with the Port of Ness or nearby Skigersta being favoured watch points (records also come from further south from Tolsta Head to Tiumpan Head). Visitors from North America have been an American Wigeon, several American Golden Plovers and Pectoral and Buff-breasted Sandpipers along with single Killdeer, Bairdís and Least Sandpipers (the last a first record for the Outer Hebrides). Rare gulls have been Bonaparteís (one from the west side dropped in to Loch Stiapavat one May day) and Laughing (part of an exceptional national influx at the time). There have been two Gyr Falcons while other notable records concern Bee-eater, a couple of Red-rumped Swallows, an Olive-backed Pipit (another first record) and a Woodchat Shrike. Not forgetting of course the first Purple Martin for the Western Palearctic one early September.
Lewis - Point (Eye Peninsular)Satellite View
Tiumpan Head hosts the occasional White-billed Diver in spring (see under Ness area). Unusual birds have been Laughing Gull, White-winged Black Tern and Richardís Pipit.
Lewis - Stornoway areaSatellite View
Stornoway woods hold a small number of woodland species that are rare or mainly absent from the Southern Isles. There is a record of a Red-eyed Vireo. In a Waxwing year the town is the most reliable site to connect with them. The harbour holds good numbers of Iceland Gulls in some winters. Other gulls seen have been Bonaparteís, American Herring and Ivory. Just outside the town the area of Steinish/Laxdale estuary has hosted a Cattle Egret and a grey-morph Gyr Falcon (the falcon generated much debate as non-white morphs are said to be surprisingly rare). Other unusual birds have been a Black Kite (at the landfill site), a Crane and a couple of Red-rumped Swallows. A Harlequin Duck although some distance from the town at Coll and Gress is worth a mention as is also a Bonaparteís Gull at Coll. Broad Bay can be viewed from this road or from Melbost on the other side of the bay and holds good numbers of divers and sea-duck in winter. On Loch Branahuie (just before the Eye Peninsular) there is an impressive build-up of Long-tailed Ducks in the spring. On one occasion, a Bufflehead, presumably the same bird that flew north off the North Uist coast some days before, was seen.
North Ronaldsay Bird ObservatorySatellite View
The occasional trip visits this remote outcrop including an annual island cruise. Despite the short time ashore scarce migrants are often recorded and there was even a Trumpeter Finch one late spring day.
North Uist - BaleshareSatellite View
Wildfowl in winter have included a fairly regular Green-winged Teal and there have been two Lesser Scaup. The whole area is subjected to heavy shooting pressure in the autumn and winter. It is worth checking the fields in the autumn for North American waders as there have been a couple of American Golden Plovers, several Buff-breasted and Pectoral Sandpipers and a Long-billed Dowitcher. There have also been a couple of Snowy Owls (probably the same birds being seen elsewhere on North Uist). Although not on Baleshare but just the other side of the causeway at Carnach it is worth mentioning the second Scottish record of Mourning Dove (only a short distance away from the first, at Carinish, eight years before).
North Uist - Balranald Nature ReserveSatellite View
The spring skua passage at Aird an Rýnair has already been mentioned in the introduction. Unusual birds in spring have included Bufflehead (a flyby that later turned up on the east side of Lewis), a Gyr Falcon, a Killdeer, two Semipalmated Sandpipers (in two consecutive years although one was in summer), a Long-billed Dowitcher, and two White-winged Black Terns. There have been also regular sightings of a Snowy Owl and trips of Dotterel. Autumn seawatching is generally not as good as at Griminish Point but can still be productive. Just south of the reserve is Loch Paible, a tidal loch, which holds good numbers of waders. Pectoral, White-rumped and Bairdís Sandpipers have all been seen as well as a spring Broad-billed Sandpiper. Also in the same spring there was a Gyr Falcon.
North Uist - Clachan FarmSatellite View
The small plantation here was devastated by the exceptional storm of 2005 but still attracts unusual visitors, Red-backed Shrike, Bluethroat and Golden Oriole being among them. A Black Stork that had been ringed in Hungary was seen in one spring (also reported from several other places in Scotland with the last sighting on the Shetland Isles) and a Gyr Falcon in another. Nearby Oban Trumisgarry is worth a mention for a record of a Hooded Merganser. A species with a chequered history with the British List this bird was eventually admitted to Category A as the first record for Britain.
North Uist - Claddach-vallay and Ben Risary plantationSatellite View
The large plantation supports a small number of breeding Hen Harriers and Short-eared Owls with Greenshank nearby. There has even been a Brown Shrike (the first for the Outer Hebrides). Later it was in a Claddach-vallay garden where another shrike, this time a Woodchat, appeared a few years later. In a nearby burn one spring a Night Heron was discovered. Hoopoe has also occurred here.
North Uist - Grenitote areaSatellite View
The area to the north and west of the township has hosted a regular Snowy Owl and a Gyr Falcon one early spring (later at Clachan Farm and Lochportain). A Golden Oriole in a small plantation in autumn was unusual (only the third at this time of the year) and a spring Subalpine Warbler was in a Grenitote garden.
North Uist - LangassSatellite View
The garden and small plantation by the hotel attract migrants in spring and autumn, Red-backed Shrike, Barred and Yellow-browed Warblers, Red-breasted Flycatcher, and Firecrest (a scarce bird this far north) being among them.
North Uist - LochmaddySatellite View
A number of gardens and small plantations are worthy of a look for migrants in spring and autumn. Sightings include a Rose-coloured Starling, a Golden Oriole, a couple of Common Rosefinches and an Arctic Redpoll.
North Uist - Scolpaig/Griminish PointSatellite View
Autumn seawatching at Griminish Point is best in strong westerly winds. A count of 74 Great Shearwaters was notable but a mere fraction of the numbers that passed the Butt of Lewis at the same time. In good winds there are small numbers of Leachís Petrels and Grey Phalaropes and a few Sabineís Gulls. This is the only Scottish west coast seawatching point where over 100 Pomarine Skuas have been recorded in one autumn day. Often there is a good passage of divers, geese/ducks and waders coming from Iceland. Red-throated and Great Northern Divers and Brent Geese are the most numerous species. A roost of over 300 Rock Doves use nearby Sloc Roe. The gorse bushes at Scolpaig are worth checking for migrants in spring and autumn. It should be noted that there is no vehicle access to this site and parking is a problem.
South Uist - Bornish to Rubha ArdvuleSatellite View
Returning to the coast and to another excellent birding site in the Southern Isles. From Loch Bornish to Rubha Ardvule the machair abounds with waders, gulls and passerines. Highlights have been both American and Pacific Golden Plovers and yet another addition to the Outer Hebrides list, a Hudsonian Whimbrel. Seawatching in spring at Rubha Ardvule is generally not as productive as at Aird an Rýnair, especially for Pomarine and Long-tailed Skuas. It is in the autumn that this site is best known for seawatching especially in SW winds. The long-leading coastline obviously helps compared to sites on North Uist although watchers largely missed out on the exceptional Great Shearwater passage. More Sabineís Gulls are seen here than at any other site in the Outer Hebrides. The bays on each side of the headland hold good numbers of waders and gulls highlights being Stilt Sandpiper and Wilsonís Phalarope (both first records for the Outer Hebrides). Also there have been Pectoral, Bairdís and Buff-breasted Sandpipers, Lesser Yellowlegs and two Bonaparteís Gulls. Gardens at Bornish are worth looking at, Barred and Yellow-browed Warblers, Red-breasted Flycatcher and Golden Oriole all having been recorded.
South Uist - Howmore/Howmore RiverSatellite View
This area really hit the headlines in the late autumn of 2000 with the discovery of a Long-tailed Shrike, the first for Britain. Another first was of three Blue-winged Teal together one autumn day. Other rarities have been Long-billed Dowitcher and Bonaparteís Gull. The last was also seen at nearby Peninerine. All along this stretch of coast there is often interchange of birds between Ardivachar to the N of the Howmore River and Rubha Ardvule to the S.
South Uist - Loch Druidibeag Nature ReserveSatellite View
Although birds such as Black-throated Diver can be seen in summer and Golden Eagle and other birds of prey over the hills the area is perhaps more notable for unusual passerines. The garden at the crossroads on the N side of the loch and the small plantation on the Lochskipport road both being particular productive for attracting good birds. The trees around nearby Grogarry Lodge are also worthy of a look in spring and autumn. Rarest visitors have been Hermit Thrush (quickly following a bird on Barra) and Arctic and Blackpoll Warblers.
South Uist - North LocheynortSatellite View
Leaving the coast for a completely different habitat on the E side we find a well-established plantation at the road end. White-tailed Eagles are often over the hills. Along the road leading to North Locheynort there have been records of Ring-necked Duck and Great White Egret (a very mobile bird that also visited several places on North Uist). It is the plantation however that most birders are attracted to for the chance of scarcities such as Yellow-browed Warbler or Common Rosefinch in the autumn or even something rarer. There has been a Pallasís Warbler (surprisingly a first record for the Outer Hebrides), two Red-eyed Vireos (maybe the first time that two have occurred together in Scotland) and an Arctic Redpoll.
South Uist - South Ford and Loch BeeSatellite View
Together with Bornish/Rubha Ardvule are excellent birding areas in the Southern Isles, especially for wildfowl, waders and gulls. There are a number of viewing points from the minor roads leading to Balgarva, North Bay and Ardivachar. Also parts of Loch Bee although an easier viewing area is in the SW corner (accessed by a track through the Range and complex or from the main road through West Gerinish. Obviously the Range is out of bounds if the red flags are flying! The largest flock of Greenland White-fronted Geese in the Outer Hebrides can usually be seen in winter along the west side of the loch. American Wigeon and Green-winged Teal occur with some regularity. Throughout the area there has been an impressive number of North American waders with several American Golden Plovers, Pectoral and Buff-breasted Sandpipers as well as Semipalmated, Bairdís and White-rumped Sandpipers, Long-billed Dowitcher, Lesser Yellowlegs, and Wilsonís Phalarope. There has also been a Pacific Golden Plover.
Amongst the gulls have been several Bonaparteís, a couple of Ring-billed and single Laughing and American Herring. An American Black Tern in North Bay one November day was a first Scottish record. Gull-billed Tern has also been recorded. Large flocks of Twite and mixed flocks of Skylarks and Snow Buntings are to be found on the machair in winter and occasionally good numbers of Lapland Buntings in the autumn. Two Snowy Owls have occurred and a Yellow-billed Cuckoo was found dead one early November day.
South Uist - South GlendaleSatellite View
Another area that has seen a steep upsurge in records of unusual birds due to there being a resident birder in the township. Outstanding was an Iberian Chiffchaff one late spring day (another first record). Also notable have been Red-breasted Flycatcher in the spring and Little Bunting in the autumn.
St KildaSatellite View
The ultimate site for breeding seabirds holding the largest colonies in the UK of Fulmars and Gannets, most of the UK population of Leachís Petrels as well as large colonies of Storm Petrels and Puffins. Research here has included a PhD study to examine the interactions between Leachís Petrels and Great Skuas (thought to kill almost 15,000 petrels annually). Outstanding rarities have been a male Harlequin Duck (the first record in Britain in this plumage for over 40 years), Black-browed Albatross, Solitary Sandpiper, Buff-bellied Pipit, Eyebrowed Thrush, Blackburnian Warbler (the third British record), Pallasís Grasshopper Warbler and Dark-eyed Junco (both firsts for the Outer Hebrides) and Yellow-breasted Bunting. Also present at the same time as the Blackburnian Warbler was a possible Northern Harrier or Marsh Hawk also from North America. Some other unusual visitors have included American Wigeon, Little Bittern (another first record), Night Heron, Gyr Falcon, a handful of North American waders (American Golden Plover and Pectoral, White-rumped and Buff-breasted Sandpipers), Laughing Gull, Short-toed Lark, Red-throated Pipit, Citrine Wagtail, Subalpine Warbler, and Ortolan and Little Buntings. Also an impressive number of Snowy Owls with six different in one year followed by three or four in the following two years.
Sula SgeirOn Sula Sgeir 2,000 Gannet chicks (Ďgugasí) are harvested annually for human consumption. During the 2005 harvest a Black-browed Albatross was discovered and many birders were able to catch up with this species in British waters by specially chartered trips during the following two years.
Outer Hebrides Bird Reports (1997-2007)Outer Hebrides Bird Reports 1997-2007 (except 2000 Ė no copies now available). From County Recorder
Where to Watch Birds in ScotlandMike Madders and Julia Welstead - 297 pages, b/w illus, maps - Christopher Helm
Buy this book from NHBS.com
Shiants Auk RG. David Steventon, Welland House, 207 Hurdsfield Road, Macclesfield, Cheshire SK10 2PX 01625 421936
2002 [June] - Outer HebridesReport
These wonderful, remote islands always provide a wealth of wildlife, but to see them at their best you need fine weather. Sadly, and unusually, we were denied that on a number of days this year...
2002 [March] - IslayReport
Looking offshore just by the hotel we found summer-plumaged Red-throated Divers, more wintry Great Northern Divers, plus Guillemot, Razorbill and two superb Purple Sandpipers, seen remarkably well in the scope...
2003 [June] - Phil Read - Outer HebridesReport
...We soon had to stop however as a huge female White-tailed Eagle flew along the road towards and eventually over the minibus. If that wasn`t exciting enough she was then seen off by a Golden Eagle protecting his territory on a nearby hill...
2008 [June] - Gordon McAdamReport
...We arrived in Ullapool in good time to fill up on the excellent fish and chips before embarking. The ferry trip itself didn't produce many birds with only a few rafts of Guillemots, a few Razorbills, a Puffin and a single Red Throated Diver while we were within the confines of Loch Broom...
2009 [May] - Mark FinnReport
...Near the harbour we located Northern Gannet, Northern Fulmar and Black Guillemots. The ferry crossing was good for seabirds with sightings of Manx Shearwater, Great Northern and Red-throated Divers, Black-legged Kittiwake, Common Guillemot, Razorbill, Atlantic Puffin, Great and Arctic Skuas and Arctic Terns. Arrived in Lochmaddy on time and travelled along the back road of North Uist..
2009 [May] - Simon Warford - Uists & BarraReport
An overnight drive saw us pick up Wood Warbler, Cuckoo, Black Throated Diver, Greenshank, nesting Common Scoters, Mealy Redpoll and an Otter before we had even arrived at Uig for the 9.30am ferry. On the 2 hour ferry crossing we managed to see 2 Great Skua, 40+ Manx Shearwater, Great Northern Diver and several Puffins amongst the many commoner seabirds...
2010 [May] - Mark FinnReport
This was our second tour to the Western Isles in May visiting North and South Uist, Benbecula, Lewis and Harris. Many highlands occurred during the week including the first Red-necked Phalaropes of the spring and Whooper Swans with cygnets one of the few places where they breed in Britain. The iris beds held good numbers of Corncrakes although poor weather made them less vocal than normal...
2011 [May] - Dennis Atherton - North & South UistReport
Our crazy few days on the Uists, a trip arranged by the Bolton RSPB with great thanks to Steve Settle who did a lot of planning and thanks to Simon Warford for tips passed on to help us on our way. To be honest the weather wasn't on our side but that wasn't going to dampen our spirits...
Local birders willing to show visiting birders around their area...
Guideliner Wildlife Cruises
Wildlife Cruises around the Western Isles, Hebrides and St Kilda. During the day we try to land in isolated areas to enjoy the wildlife, mixing sailing with exploration throughout the trip. As well as fantastic scenery, the birding is great, with excellent opportunities for photography. Tel 01470 532393
Hebridean Whale CruisesCruises
Hebridean Whale Cruises out of Gairloch (Highlands) will be starting full day pelagic chumming trips next year (late April to June and late August to October). This service will be targeting the North Minch...
Sea Harris invite you to experience the breathtaking beauty & serenity of some the most fascinating Islands in the Outer Hebrides aboard the 'Enchanted Isle'... For anyone with an interest in nature, ecology and preservation, rare wildlife, and in particular, bird watching, a trip to the islands that 'Sea Harris' specialises in, is a must.
Walking & Wildlife HolidaysTour Operator
The contrasts, from the unexpectedly hilly Harris and eastern seaboard of South Uist, to the long sweeps of glistening white sand and the colourful grasslands of the machair that form the western coast, and not forgetting the magical island of Eriskay, are something to be seen to be believed...
Western Isles WildlifeTour Operator
A ompany based in the Outer Hebrides with all the most up to date information on all aspects of the natural history from birds to bees. We offer specially customised tours from 1 - 5 days or all inclusive packages of 5 days in length, led by very knowledgeable and experienced local naturalist. A range of tours run throughout the year featuring the most impressive wildlife spectacle depending on the season...
12 Ardroil, Uig [Self-catering Cottage] - Isle of LewisAccommodation
There is much to see in Uig - including moor, sea, sand and mountains. For the bird watcher there are many varieties of sea-birds and moor-birds. The sand stretches for miles and for the energetic there are many places to walk or climb. For the historian there is the site where the Viking Chessmen were discovered, the Callanish Stones and many other snippets of historical interest can be researched.
Doune Braes Hotel - LewisAccommodation
...This landscape comes to a dramatic climax at the Butt of Lewis where the spectacular cliffs are home to several species of seabird including Fulmar Petrel, Kittiwake, Shag and Black Guillemot. Add to this the spectacle of hundreds of foraging Gannets and passing cetaceans, and you have one of the best wildlife watching areas in the Western Isles... Has an accessible room
We are a newly refurbished hotel in the Outer Hebrides. We have close links with St Kilda Cruises and Sea Harris...
Birds of the Shiant Islands, Outer HebridesWebsite
This paper attempts to bring these together, and add the observations of two Cambridge University parties which visited the islands from 20 June to 8 July 1970 and from 19 June to 3 July 1971. In 1970 the primary aim was to count the seabirds for Operation Seafarer, since the Shiants were missed in the main year of the survey, 1969. In 1971, further counts and observations were made on the auks. In the case of the Puffin Fratercula arctica this work has been published separately (Brooke 1972)...
Hebrides Birds is an informal birding page for sharing birding interests. Includes a downloadable version of the Outer Hebrides Birds Checklist prepared by former Bird Recorder Andrew Stevenson, which details the 372 bird species reliably recorded in the area...
Seabirds formed a major part of the St Kildan diet, especially gannets, fulmars and puffins. At one time it was estimated that each person on St Kilda ate 115 fulmars every year. In 1876 it was said that the islanders took 89,600 puffins for food and feathers.
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This site was last updated on Monday, 2nd December 2013.
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