Thursday, 16 May 2013


My first Twite was pointed out to me by the late great Chris Mead. He was one of the guides on a holiday I went on around the northern isles just as I was getting into birding. 'Twiiiite!' he bellowed as one flew overhead, giving its onomatopoeic call.
Twite, Balranald
I have another memory of Chris on that trip sitting on the deck of the Professor Multanovky, wedged into a plastic cafeteria chair, sliding several yards from left to right with the swell, bins pinned to his face, occasionally howling 'Minke!' when a whale of that species surfaced in The Minch. No Minkes on my crossing of the same stretch of water last week, but a few Common Dolphin and some Harbour Porpoise were at least seen.
Twite - the other one of a pair at Balranald
Twite was one of my main targets to photograph on the Outer Hebrides. Strong winds and frequent showers made them harder to catch up with than I had hoped, and in two days the best views I had were of a pair perched briefly on the fence next to the visitor centre at Balranald.
But as I waited in the queue for the early morning ferry from Lochboisedale to Oban, in weather for which the word dreich was invented, a wheezy call gave away the presence of another pair feeding on dandelion seeds in the gutter.
Twite, Lochboisdale
Ditching the car in the ferry queue, there was just enough time to get a few shots through the drizzle. Given the low light and the high ISO rating needed I was quite pleased with how the camera coped, especially capturing the hint of pink on the rump of a bird perched on the kerb.
Gannet at sea
The ferry stopped off at Castlebay en route to Oban - Barra would have been an island tick for me had we disembarked - where another pair of Twite flew overhead. I didn't catch up with a White-tailed Eagle on North Uist, but was pretty confident I'd see one as we sailed down the Sound of Mull to Oban. Unfortunately, the weather was so poor I couldn't see Mull, let alone any eagles on it, so that put paid to that. Another dozen Great Northern Divers, half a dozen Bonxies at sea and a few more Manxies were a modest reward for the best part of seven hours on deck, but it was enjoyable nonetheless.
Kittiwake, Sound of Mull
I had just over an hour to kill in Oban before heading off for a special evening near Fort William (more on that later) but unfortunately the Black Guillemots which I had relied on to be close in to the harbour edge were all a bit too distant for photography. Thankfully another Oban staple, Hooded Crows on the beach, were a bit more obliging.
Hooded Crow, Oban

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