Friday, 18 November 2011

MEGA ALERT: The VEERY on the Isle of Muck

Where there's Muck, there's class!
Photo by Adam Archer

As I sat there at work on Thursday afternoon aimlessly tapping away at my keyboard, I received a call from genuine Premiership twitcher Steve Nuttall asking if I was up for a trip to Scotland.  To be honest I had not even considered twitching the VEERY that had made landfall up on Muck but Steve is a hard chap to say no to.  After having a quick word with my understanding boss, before I knew it I had booked a place aboard a mystery charter boat.  What the hell was I doing?  We eventually set off north at 10.00pm from Belvide in Staffordshire and finally arrived in the small port of Mallaig just off the Isle of Skye at around 7.00am the next morning.  Our driver for the trip, Phil Andrews was like a birding cyborg, only stopping to lubricate his joints with a spot of WD40.

After a short wait in the early morning darkness our transport for the final leg of our journey arrived and without delay a lucky few of us were being whizzed across to one of the smaller inner Hebridean islands at pace.  Due to the speed of the catamaran Orion, not a great deal bird species were spotted on the crossing except for a few startled Razorbills and the odd fleeing Kittiwake.  The lack of birding opportunities from the craft however were soon forgotten as news filtered through that the bird was still present.  What a relief!
The view from Gallanach Farm, Isle of Muck.
Photo by Adam Archer

Just over a hour later we arrived on the wet, windswept Isle of Muck, disembarked the craft and promptly marched off in the direction of Gallanach Farm on the other side of the tiny island.  Along the way a few Hooded Crows were present along with the odd Raven and a marauding Peregrine.  Towards the end of the only road on Muck we arrived at the farm and were quickly hustled towards a steaming dung heap by a few of the farm workers.  Within a few seconds up popped a sweet, little VEERY, a diminutive thrush all the way from North America.  Within minutes all twelve of us were enjoying the bird as it picked its way around its temporary food source.

The famous VEERY dung heap... can you see the bird?
Photo by Adam Archer

The bird continued to show exceptionally well for the next few hours around the same place often down to just a few feet.  It did fly off into the nearby garden for a short while but with such a concentrated amount of food amongst the manure, the dung heap was way too much for it to resist.  A superb bird in a stunning location.  It just does not get any better.  Despite the fact that we were all soaked to the skin and covered in cattle excrement it was smiles all around as we made our way back to the harbour. 

VEERY - Isle of Muck, Highland.
Photos (above & below) kindly provided by Steve Nuttall

VEERY - Isle of Muck, Highland.
This is only the 10th record of this species for Great Britain. 

VEERY - Isle of Muck, Highland.
Photo kindly provided by Ashley Howe

Whilst we celebrated onboard the Orion with a welcome cup of hot coffee and a few Ginger Nut biscuits we noticed a few familiar faces from the West Midlands running towards us.  The CalMac ferry had already lifted its ramp to depart the island but this bunch of 'tick & run merchants' needed to get on it.  After a brief verbal exchange the ferry staff eventually agreed to lower the ramp again and the numpties who had spent no more than ten minutes of quality time with the VEERY made their escape with the tails between their legs.   

The Orion (left) - the fastest pleasure cruiser in the whole of Scotland!

With a hour of daylight remaining we then made our way back south zig-zagging our way through the dramatic Highland glens through to Fort William.  The base of Britain's highest mountain Ben Nevis was just about visible through the mist as we passed through the town.  After a brief stop for a fish supper in Callander and an even shorter stop to refuel I finally arrived home in North Warwickshire just before midnight on Friday night.  I was suffering from a terrible case of 'bird-lag' but I was extremely pleased that I had took the gamble and made the trip.  He who dares wins...... sometimes.


  1. Just out of interest, Adam, what was your total cost and was the car full?

    Glad u connected, looks a neat little sprite, i've seen a few Swainsons' and GCheeked on The Scillies back in the 80's when there were regular multiple-arrivals but not a Veery!

    Laurie -

  2. Hi Laurie,

    The total cost was £40.00 for the crossing plus £30.00 each for fuel. That was based on four of us in a smallish Peugeot. A bargain considering what it would cost in twitching bloody Shetland.