Outer Hebrides: Day Five

Back to the early mornings I decided I did not want to waste my time with owls when there was only the same shots to be taken so we started off with the Snipe but due to the incoming winds he was no where to be seen throughout the morning so we head back to where we first discovered the Stonechat nest. I had taken a shot on my iPhone I am pretty impressed with considering but wanted a macro version but after countless attempts at discovering the nest we only found one which was full of fluff and feathers to which we assumed predation, to our dismay and delight two fledglings joined the female Stonechat we were photographing. The wobbly legs and minimal flight gave us the impression they had only fledged this very morning; rotten luck for my macro but beautiful to see. I managed to capture a few images of both the juveniles and their mother but the male was timid and reluctant to be photographed. Next on our list was the migration of Pomarine Stercorarius pomarinus and Long-tailed skua Stercorarius longicaudus which fly from Africa to the edge of the Arctic circle in order to breed, not stopping but with the sting winds they are pushed inland and fly around the coast and to my luck this is happening during my time in Uist. As these high winds have only just hit we sat and looked out to sea for about half an hour and only saw a few Pomarine Squa in the distance but hopefully their will be more sightings before my time is over here but the winds may not be strong enough to push them all the way into shore. Whilst leaving the beach a chirpy male Corn bunting Emberiza calandra caught our attention as it perched gracefully on the dunes. Due to the drastic decline the Corn Bunting; the largest of the Buntings is now regarded as a red list specie, now restricted to only two main sites in the Outer Hebrides and no where else in the Scottish Ilse making this Uist population the most Northerly in the world. The decline is believed to be associated with farming practices as crops are harvested earlier in the year and minimal left as seed crop; leaving the food available to the birds with less quantity and ripe as they traditionally feed off the crop fed to cattle over winter and pesticides on chick food. During our time with this individual he took us all around his territory, leading us also to a female but she was a lot more timid. This population on Balranald is the only population of Corn Bunting to nest in dunes, to which I am yet to discover why.
Whilst everyone took the daily nap I gave it a miss and went on a run to get some time on my own to clear my head, which turned into more of an exploration of rock pools so I made the most by hardcore running back up the grassland and belting it home. One part of the Island I was keen to capture was the small inhabitants through macro photography, although I have missed the beautiful fungi I have been ensured there is a variety of beautiful plant life and lichen so we set off midday in search of some different subjects. With Dave as our guide Holly and I delved into macro, a change from our week so far.
Dog Lichen peltigera sp.
Made up of scales called ‘Thallus’ that expand during wet weather and store it until they dry as thin as paper. As a licensed fungi it is two organisms living in symbiosis with each other; a fungus and an algae, the algae supplies the fungus with food and the fungus provides the algae somewhere to live and a ready supply of water. Reproducing like a fungus the spores can travel for miles in the wind and grow on poor drained and compacted soil.
Butterwart Pinguicula vulgaris
An insectivorous plant which uses its leaves to excrete a sticky fluid which attracts unsuspecting insects which proceed to trap then slowly curl around their prey and digest it. This adaptation has formed to supplement its diet in the acidic bogs, fens and damp heaths as they do not provide enough nutrients. 


Louse wart Pedicularis Sylvatica 
Typically growing in acidic soil we used this specie to practice making a soft clean macro image, tidying the background and using various angles to create the perfect image.
Still on my quest for a wader photograph I am proud of I set off again into the water of Balranald to attempt my shot whilst the rest of the group went to photograph the local rabbits; shots which were more likely to turn out and still looked stunning but being the stubborn person I am I did not want to give up, but with the weather against me I had to so spent some time with the rabbits myself.

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