12 May 2012

Ringing in Uigen

Uigen may sound like an exotic Scandinavian location to go ringing, but it is in fact a small village on the Valtos Peninsula on the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides.

The Isle of Lewis being the destination for this year's holiday.

Claire had always wanted to see the standing stones at Calanais (Callanish) so we decided that this year that is where we would head for. We couldn't get much closer to the site as we had booked a holiday cottage right next to the Calanais Visitors Centre.

The holiday cottage was once a farmhouse and is one of the most historically important buildings in the area with records indicating that it was occupied from as early as 1716. Over the years it has played a vital role in the life of Calanais providing a focal point for the community and a gathering place for important meetings almost up to the present day. In 1861 it was recorded as being used as an inn when a visitor was noted as saying ‘it was a queer place, the dirtiest little den it was ever my misfortune to locate’!!

In its time it has also been used as a post office and as accommodation for students doing archaeological working on the standing stones site.

So this was our base for the week.

Apart from visiting the standing stones and other archaeological sites, we explored most of Lewis and Harris notching up a list of 60 species of birds seen although the two birds we wanted to see, the White Tailed Sea Eagle and Golden Eagle eluded us apart from a couple of very distant sightings of something big.

During preparations for the the trip I contacted Chris Reynolds, a ringer based in a small village called Riof (Reef) also on the Valtos Peninsula, to see if it would be possible to do some ringing with him during the week.

Chris has a ringing site in a garden in the village of Uigen which is where I met up with him. The site is a sloping site with a mixture of deciduous and coniferous trees surrounded by fields on two sides, hills on one side and a sea loch on the fourth side.

I met up with Chris for two sessions, one on the Monday morning and the other on the Friday morning. We had 5 mist nets up and there was lots of bird activity in the trees.

The two sessions saw me ringing a Greenfinch and a Redwing, both species I have ringed before but new to the list were nine Meadow Pipits and a Redstart.

Male Redstart
Retraps were three Meadow Pipits, three Robins and a Dunnock.

There was also a Pied Flycatcher flitting amongst the trees but it managed to avoid all the mist nets.

Chris also took me on a tour of the peninsula and on our way round we spotted a Lapwing nest with four chicks so I was able to ring those as well.

Unfortunately we didn't get out to do some mist netting of waders, maybe another time.

A big thanks to Chris for having me along, I hope to come back sometime and do some more ringing.

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