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  • Writer's pictureStuart Housden

Ultimate Uists 3-11 June with Stuart Housden

“It is now officially spring and I am looking forward to leading our Ultimate Uists holiday to the wildlife rich landscape of these magical islands. We shall explore the coasts, mountains, rich machair and wetland habitats where waders nest in profusion and majestic birds of prey patrol the rugged hills and wide moorlands. The Uists are one of the best destinations in the UK in spring, for the wealth of wildlife they support. Our adventure really starts as we cross the Minch from Uig on Skye, a sea crossing twice as wide as the English Channel where dolphins, Harbour Porpoises and even Minke Whales are seen, as well as our first Puffins and other auks.

Machair in bloom Balranald RSPB Reserve
Machair in bloom Balranald RSPB Reserve (Stuart Housden)

Once on Uist we can unwind at our comfy hotel, which will be home for the next seven days. Each day we shall explore remote farm tracks, glorious sandy bays and reed fringed pools in search of the wildlife riches of the islands. The spring flowers, particularly the deep purple and wine red orchid ‘spikes‘ should be much in evidence, and from the iris beds we shall hear the distinctive rasping ‘song’ of the Corncrake, which of course we shall do our best to see! Wading birds such as Lapwing, Redshank, Dunlin and Snipe occur at some of the highest densities found anywhere in Europe and their calls and displays will accompany us wherever we go.

Corncrake calling in grass
Corncrake (Richard Stacey)
Endemic Hebridean Marsh Orchid
Endemic Hebridean Marsh Orchid (Roy Atkins)

Heading inland we’ll scan over moorland and peatland areas for hunting Short-eared Owls and Hen Harriers. On our last trip we had numerous sightings of both. Golden and White-tailed Eagles patrol the skies and sometimes fly directly overhead as we experienced last year! Along the wire fences little groups of Twite can be found, their buzzy calls will become a familiar sound. Add the Stonechats, Wheatears and the song of Skylarks and you understand the magic of the machair habitats! In sheltered dunes we can search for rare bees and watch Little Terns flying to their nesting colony.

Short-eared Owl in flight
Short-eared Owl )Richard Stacey)
White- tailed Eagle in flight
White-tailed Eagle (Jane Hope)

Every year a few pairs of Red-necked Phalaropes nest and we shall do our best to find them again. Migration to the high arctic is still happening with parties of dazzling summer-plumaged Turnstones and other waders on the kelp beds and sandy beaches, which are sometimes harried by Merlin or Peregrines! Offshore late Great Northern Divers linger and we shall keep a weather eye open for Otters, which are found on both freshwater and coastal sites. To cap it off we shall go on a 3-hour boat trip and explore sheltered bays for seals and seabirds including skuas and the chance too of more raptors.

Two Red-necked Phalaropes in reeds
Red-necked Phalaropes (Stuart Housden)
Otter on seaweed and rocks
Otter (Stuart Housden)

We have three spaces left and I look forward to meeting you and sharing another superb trip in these islands with you. More details can be found online here.”

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