Saturday, 20 January 2018

Bananabill in the Square!!!

I'd just finished work for the morning and was halfway through my lunch (a Pot Noodle, food of the gods...) when my boss rang, saying that my 'fanclub' was on site and asking for me. My fanclub consists of Nick and Martin, both local naturalists. Anyway, turns out it was Martin. He shouted up to me from the car park, "Grab your bins and camera and come with me!" Needless to say, I ran. I didn't even finish the Pot Noodle, this better be good!

Jumping into his car I threw a barrage of questions at him - what, where, when, in my square type stuff. "You haven't found another Ivory Gull have you?" I asked. "Um no, but not far off" was the exciting reply. We drove down Cuil Road and pulled up at a layby. Shit, it WAS in my square - whatever it was. I scanned, finding the usual suspects, a few divers, Eider and Black Guillemots and turned to Martin for a clue. "White-billed Diver, was with a couple of Great Northerns earlier. I'd been watching it for half an hour and thought I ought to come and get you" Shit a brick!!! Fkkn right he ought to come get me! I immediately resumed scanning and soon found a likely culprit, though we needed Martin's scope to confirm things. Yup, I was looking at a winter plumaged White-billed Diver, slowly motoring around the bay and gradually coming closer and closer. Excellent!!! I tried taking pics through Martin's scope but it was too shaky and I couldn't get anything in focus. So I sped off, found a fencepost and rested my bins on that, hand-holding the camera to the eyepiece. 

Just to warn you, the distance was too great to result in anything other than massively cropped, out of focus images. These are, believe it or not, the best out of (very many) bad ones. Maybe pop a headache pill before squinting at this lot. 

HUGELY cropped final image, but just look at the banana on that! 
Pretty duff set of images, I agree. But hopefully good enough to satisfy the Highland Bird Recorder. I looked up to see an adult Iceland Gull flying across the bay, we watched it settle in the river mouth where it quickly started to wash and preen. Sweet, it's the very first adult I've seen here. 

Martin had to shoot off again, I thanked him once more for coming to fetch me. One final scan, all divers had disappeared with the arrival of the incoming ferry, and I quit the scene. 

This is the second White-billed Diver in Uig Bay that Martin has found (he also found the Ivory Gull) and the first one hung around for a couple of weeks. The theory is that they move into the waters around the Western Isles to moult, then head north during April and May. Be amazing to think they may be regular migrants to Uig Bay. Must get a boat out there sometime soon and have a proper exploration.

White-billed Diver is species number 297 for the square so far this year. I've only ever seen three of them before from Skigersta, Lewis (two breeding plumage adults, self-found at a known location whist pissing off a clifftop (!), April 2006) and an immature bird in Cornwall (twitched, March 2007) so it's been a good while since I last clapped eyes on one!

There was only ever going to be one song to follow up today's star bird. Please, enjoy.


  1. Replies
    1. Well it needs to re-appear and allow me to grab some better images, results so far have come back as "inconclusive", but that's just the local recorder. Fingers crossed....