Sunday 9 July 2023

Scotland May 2023 - North Uist and Mull

I show a small selection of the photos from this trip below, but for more of them go to my gallery of photos:

Photo Gallery

For larger versions of each of the photos below, click on the captions.

In May, we spent a couple of weeks on islands off the west coast of Scotland, with a week each on North Uist and then Mull. 

North Uist

Overall it was a better than expected trip photographically, especially on North Uist, where we were blessed by reasonable weather. In addition, there was an amazing rough road side field a few hundred metres from our rented house on the west coast, which had daily Short-eared Owls and, even better, the odd hunting male Hen Harrier. 

Almost daily morning visits to this field led to some memorable close encounters, as shown below. The best conditions were sunny, with the wind blowing from the east - so that the birds tended to be flying towards me.

Short-eared Owl close up. © Stephen Burch

Hen Harrier © Stephen Burch

Elsewhere on North Uist and its adjacent islands also produced some photo opportunities, including the machair of Berneray. Here I managed to use the car as a hide to photo waders that were feeding in a very wary flock just by the road.

Dunlin © Stephen Burch

Ringed Plover © Stephen Burch

There was another unexpected bonus in the form of some very confiding Twite at the end of the minor road along the south shore of Loch Euphort. A hunting male Hen Harrier also flew past, but not nearly as close as the one shown above!

Male Twite © Stephen Burch

More expected was a close encounter with a White-tailed Eagle from the Lady Anne boat trip that sails from a small harbour off Grimsay. Apparently last year, the birds weren't performing at all, but this year one was more obliging. This is the highlight of the boat trip which those running the trip seem to be surprisingly coy about, only announcing it to the other passengers just before it happened! Unlike on the Mull boat trip (see below), there were no other photographers on this tour. 

White-tailed Eagle © Stephen Burch


Well satisfied with the photo opportunities on North Uist, Mull turned out to be less productive. We did however have another great boat trip, on the Mull Charters Lady Jayne for White-tailed Eagle. Despite some camera issues, which caused me to miss several of the dives with a full buffer, I still got a fair selection of shots to process, including this one. See the gallery for more shots.

White-tailed Eagle © Stephen Burch

Shortly after we arrived on Mull, news of an American Wigeon on Loch na Keal came through. By using the car as a hide, I was again able to get some close shots as the bird came ashore and proceeded to walk towards us. 

American Wigeon © Stephen Burch

Elsewhere on Mull, I didn't find a great deal of note to photo, other than the odd snap shot such as this Oystercatcher on the southern shore of Loch Spelve at Croggan. This bird posed nicely in great late afternoon light.

Oystercatcher © Stephen Burch

We spent some time somewhat casually looking for Otters. Although we spotted a few, they were all distant and elusive. Indeed we encountered more otter watchers than otters! Many seemed disappointed and there were some suggestions the otters were being less obliging than previously.

It was very good to get back to Scotland after an absence of  several years, due to Covid and other issues. It is however a long way to drive, with our house on North Uist being 600 miles from southern Oxfordshire! 

Photo Gallery

Gallery of photos - click here to access

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