Monday, 17 September 2018

Lindisfarne...Birds, Butterflies and a Body!

 15th Sept.  With it being a Saturday and the tides giving the opportunity of a full day on the island we ought not to have been surprised at how busy the road was leading to the causeway, and we found the car-park almost full on arrival.  Sam and I had spotted a few birds on the journey north including Lapwings, Kestrel and on approaching the causeway, Common Buzzard.  Our plan to park at the start of the causeway was thwarted as we found the parking area is now out of bounds and the entrance blocked by a large rock, and other space was already taken up.  Nevertheless, we enjoyed the drive over to the island despite little sign of birdlife.  The sun was now breaking through the cloud giving that ethereal feel to the area that often exists and it is unsurprising that many folk feel a spiritual air to the whole area of Lindisfarne.   Once we were striding out on the island we found despite a southerly wind, the autumnal atmosphere was chilled and I was glad to have put on that thicker jumper before leaving home.

Painted Lady and Red Admiral Butterfly

As always it was easy to get away from the crowd who in the main seemed to be heading in the direction of the castle, which certainly looks grand again now that the scaffolding has been removed.  We headed for one of our favourite viewing areas and had it all to ourselves the entire time we spent there.  A Willow Warbler was soon found.  Grey Seals were laid out on the sands in two very large clusters, with other scattered around and land and in the water, some of them tussling together in pairs.  I don’t think I have ever heard the calling of the Grey Seals so well as I did today.  The wolfish, haunting and melancholic sounding song filled the chilled air and made for an unusual atmosphere.  It is little wonder that the ‘selkie’ is the subject of so much myth and legend.  Adding to the atmosphere was a skein of between 50 to 60 calling Pink footed Geese flying in perfect aerodynamic formation above our heads.  There were also the calls from many waders in the bay which included Oystercatcher, Ringed Plover, Dunlin, Turnstone, Redshank, Curlew and Bar-tailed Godwit.  Two Golden Plover flew from behind our backs to join them.  Bar-tailed Godwit were about in very good numbers.  Through the telescope we were able to pick up hundreds of Brent Geese at distance towards Fenham Flats.  Swallows and Sand Martins flew in small numbers and there were several Red breasted Mergansers and Eider Duck on the water, the latter very appropriately swimming across from the area of St Cuthbert’s Island.

Red Admiral Butterfly

Painted Lady Butterfly

As we moved on having seen not a single fellow human in the area I couldn’t help but wonder how many of the many visitors to the island today would hear the Grey Seals calling, or perhaps even see them!

Red Admiral Butterfly

Red Admiral Butterfly

We wandered through the village towards the ‘Vicar’s’ Garden where we found only a singing Robin, before we took the path over the Heugh towards the harbour.  From this point onwards, we were to find little in the way of birdlife on the island!  We took a slight diversion to look at the ongoing archaeological dig near the Priory.  I found later that there is quite a bit of information about this dig on the web and it’s though that the findings are possibly/probably the remains of the original Lindisfarne Priory, the present one dating back to the Norman Period.  We found that two of the diggers were presently cleaning down human skeletal remains.  The skull, femur and I think, what was part of the rib cage, were clearly seen.  I found it quite mind blowing to think that this skeleton may be from the Anglo-Saxon Period and we could be standing on the exact spot where the Lindisfarne Gospels were written.  I’m mindful that the skeleton was once a human being with dreams just like ourselves and I wonder what he (we are sure it was a ‘he’) would make of us all now?  Whatever the final decision as to age of the skeleton is, there are many years of history between it and ourselves, but I always feel it is easier to feel closer to the past than it is the future.

Painted Lady and Red Admiral Butterfly

Having walked to the harbour and finding a few waders, but nothing new apart from at some point finding a White Wagtail, we adjourned for lunch in the village pub before continuing our walk, this time along the lonnen.  The lonnen was extremely quiet as was the rest of the walk past the pool and hide.  We barely saw a bird until we were up to the dunes and found a male Stonechat and watched a Kestrel at some distance.  The pool held Little Grebe, Moorhen and Mute Swans and we were able to get closer to the Kestrel.  The highlight of the walk was another skein of Pink footed Geese flying south down the coastline.  It occurred to us that it was possible that they had not long left Iceland.  Looking across to the Farne Islands we found the light made it look as though each island was floating on a bed of nothingness. There was of course the usual exciting view down the coast with ‘castles in the air’.

Small White Butterfly

The afternoons walk was simply not about birds, but some very nice butterflies made up for this.  A particular patch on the lonnen held 10+ Red Admiral Butterflies and a Painted Lady Butterfly which looked as though they were feeding before migrating as they seemed to be intoxicated (they were intoxicating to watchers) from the flowers and pretty much unaware of our presence allowing a good photographic opportunity.  I find that it isn’t that often that you get such opportunities in this part of the world.  Along with them were Small White, Peacock and Small Tortoiseshell Butterflies.  We spoke to several passers-by who all stopped to take a close look.  I was quite surprised to find that no one knew the species of butterfly that they were looking at.  They will now!  Our most interesting chat of the day was to a lady visitor from Australia who’s grand-father left Newcastle, I think she said in 1919, and set up a farm in Australia.  The lady explained he had left because of lack of work in the Northeast of England at the time and it had been very tough work beginning farming on rough 
ground.  I was perspiring at the thought of it.  I really was perspiring by now!

Small Tortoiseshell Butterfly

When we left the island, we found the area on both sides of the causeway lacked birds.  Our stop at Budle Bay didn’t provide the rewards that we had found last week as the tide today was so far out, but we did find many Pink footed Geese in the distance.
Well, a quiet day regarding birds but an interesting and really enjoyable day in any event.  Lindisfarne never disappoints.

Sunday, 9 September 2018

On an Incoming Tide

Time and Tide Wait for No Man (ancient proverb)

8th Sept.  It was sometime after 11:00am when we arrived at Budle Bay, Northumberland and found that our initial impression was of a deserted inner bay.  The tide appeared far out as did many of the birds and the light at times was far from good in the cloudy conditions.  Time was on our side on this occasion, so we waited. There was no shortage of Redshanks, Oystercatchers and gulls as we began to scan the area.  We did think of moving on a few occasions, but happily we decided against.

The tide appeared to be incoming at some pace and it was clearly bringing birds along with it.  A large flock of Teal flew over the bay and this was followed by a smaller flock of the same species.  Wigeon were counted and numbers of Shelduck remained more distant.  A lone Whooper Swan was in between two Mute Swans in a nearby channel and we wondered if this was a stay over.  Three or four Pintails were counted, at least one of them a male in moult, the faint white neck marking just about visible now that the light was beginning to improve.  Knot, Dunlin and Goosander were seen.  Long tailed Tits could be heard calling from the hedge at our backs and Sam is certain that he heard a Fieldfare fly overhead.  A very early one.  Sam had listened to Redwings arriving prior to leaving Scotland yesterday.


Quite quickly the pool of sea water in the bay began to expand, but the distant sand and silt bars could still be easily seen as the sea encroached upon them whilst moving the mass of waterfowl further inland.  A mass of birds suddenly lifted, and a Grey Heron appeared overhead of where they had been.  I’m fond of Grey Herons, but had hoped on this occasion that the Peregrine Falcon was hunting.  It wasn’t to be.  Both Black-tailed and Bar-tailed Godwits were seen well.  It wasn’t long before we were watching a Spotted Redshank, now lit very well by the available light, then another Spotted Redshank appeared.  Greenshank was the next species to be found and it wasn’t long before ewe had picked up at least four of these, their very distinctive feeding habits making them quite easy to pick out.  We had earlier seen two distant Little Egrets quite far out in the bay but these birds began to appear much closer now and one of them flew past at short distance.  They seemed to pick their spot on the edge of the farmland, as the bay now began to fill with seawater.


Time had seemed to pass very quickly, although it doesn’t take long for the bay to fill.  The incoming tide had now given a very different look and feel to the area and most of the birds had quickly disappeared.  The car park now held a number a ‘watchers’ and I hadn’t even noticed their arrival apart from the couple next to us who we had chatted to.  We had chosen our time to visit very well, if by sheer chance.  It was now time for fish and chips at Seahouses, my first visit to a fish and chip restraunt for months!

After lunch we paid a quick visit to Stag Rock, Bamburgh where we watched numbers of Shag, Eider, Fulmer, Guillemot and the odd Razorbill.  Afterwards we made a stop at Monk House Pool where we found numbers of Lapwing, Black-tailed Godwit, a Ruff and Snipe.  There was rain falling by the time we reached Low Newton and we didn’t feel like getting wet, so we didn’t stay but moved onto Amble where we failed to find the Caspian Gull once again, so we just enjoyed the walk and an ice cream, oh and of course the gulls that we did see along with more Goosander and Eider.

Exmoor Ponies at the dried up pools

Southern Hawker Dragonfly at Druridge Pools

Southern Hawker Dragonfly

Recent visits to Druridge have been largely unproductive with Druridge Pools in particular, drying out, so we very nearly didn’t bother stopping at Creswell, but I’m pleased we did in the end as we had very good sightings of Mediterranean Gulls.  In the distance skeins of geese were flying and we put them down to Greylag.    A pleasant short stop here ended what had been a very good day.  Thankfully I live within easy travelling distance to the sea as it would be a great miss if I didn't.

Sunday, 19 August 2018

Spiders and 'Flies

Having struggled to get half way through the New Naturalists Slugs and Snails, it’s quite a slog, as I was reading about the sex lives of snails my eye was taken to some action in the garden.  For some time now, during the dry weather there has been a very large and finely built spiders web not far from the window and the action was taking place there.  I initially thought that the (garden) spider was attempting to eat some captured prey, but it turned out to be some courtship manoeuvring going on.  I was able to get a front seat view of this without any apparent disturbance of the pair of spiders who both seemed to have other things on their mind.  It did take me a while to grasp what was going on, in fact as the female appeared curled up tightly in the web I did think on first looking that this was dead prey.


Garden Spider Embrace!

Having watched for a few minutes I noticed that the male was approaching along the web, what turned out to be the female.  After much stretching and leg movement towards the female the male would then back off and disappear.  This happened at least three times before he eventually made a more ardent approach and appeared to stroke the female with two legs whilst holding the web with at least two legs.  The male then made a grab for the female and they formed a curled ball like coupling for at least 20 seconds.  I watched the process take place three times and in each case it ended with the same coupling after which the male would quickly disappear for a short time along the strands of the web.  It was all very interesting to watch in close-up and certainly more interesting than the book, a book I would only recommend if you’re really keen on Slugs and Snails and have at least some basic knowledge of them.  As I say, the read is quite a slog and I never did complete my reading of the entire book.

Male courts female

Female awaits her mate

My attempts at macro photography failed for the most part on this occasion and I blame light, lots of movement and lack of photographic skill on my behalf, but I will include a couple of images to give an idea of the event.

Painted Lady Butterfly

Painted Lady Butterfly

It’s been a good season for Butterflies and once again I have had Holly Blues in the garden, as I have over the past few years.  This time over a course of a few weeks.  I’m assuming possibly laying eggs on the Holly Trees although I need to do some reading up again on this species.  Being very flighty when ever approached I gave up causing disturbance but did on one or two occasions get an excellent sighting.  The images of Butterflies I include here are of more common species but no less worthwhile for that.  Also in the garden.  I did notice this year I had a Ringlet in the garden which I have never recorded before.

Peacock Butterfly

Peacock Butterfly

My birding time has been very limited recently, but I have managed a couple of visits to a very dry Druridge Bay.  Little owl provided a good sighting once again.  The dry weather seems to have helped in earlier weeks to provide a very special botanical display.

Speckled Wood Butterfly

Green Veined White Butterfly

Small White Butterfly

I hope to be back to Druridge soon and will provide a more ‘birdy’ report.

Sunday, 1 July 2018

Hebridean & St Kilda Odyssey..Pt6..Harris & Homeward Bound

3rd June.  We needed cash today and began to realise it might not be that easy to get!  I suspect the cashpoint in Tarbet hasn’t paid out since Bjorn left with his Viking friends!  Getting cash involved a journey to Stornoway, not a thriving metropolis on a Sunday, so an 80+ mile round journey was involved.

Harris

Anyway, our journey allowed us to check out the mountains again en-route and we were not without some decent bird sightings.  There were no new birds for the list today, but we were happy to see once again birds such as Red Throated Diver, Grey Heron, Common Buzzard, Hen Harrier, Great Skua, Arctic Tern, Cuckoo, Wheatear, Hooded Crow, Raven, and Twite, to name but a few.  Early morning mist had quickly cleared so we viewed the mountains again in sunshine and good light.
The bustling pub where we ate a late lunch in Tarbet didn’t seem to be affected by the observance of Sunday as a Holy Day!  When we visited Scalpay an island now connected to Harris by a road bridge, we did see just how seriously religion is taken on the islands as the church car-parks were full and the narrow twisting roads jammed when all went home.  Scalpay retains an appearance of a close working community and I’d like to explore the area much more in the future.  It has the oldest lighthouse on Western Isles

We returned to Spinners Cottage to find that Karen had prepared some treats for us.  In my case a plate of strawberries and meringue which I cleared off rather quickly!  We enjoyed a good chat and views over the bay on what was our last evening on the Outer Hebrides.  We had a very early start in the morning in order to catch the ferry from Tarbet to Uig, Skye.

Approaching Skye

4th June.  We were off after a very early breakfast having said goodbye to Karen and Mac.  Of all our accommodation during this trip Spinners Cottage was the most welcoming and comfortable, so it was hard to say goodbye, especially as we were now on a homeward path.   The ferry crossing to Uig, Skye was done under a rather murky sky and I thought rain was on the way.  I remember a very good sighting of a Great Skua in front of the ferry.  As it happens we completed our trip without seeing a drop of rain.  The sun was back by afternoon, but in truth we were cream crackered and glad of a rest at the hotel.  We did add Mistle Thrush to our trip list today and had a drive over the Skye Bridge.  We noted the Gavin Maxwell museum, but gave it a miss as neither of us are great fans of his.  We also noted that one of the small islands used to support the bridge was where Gavin Maxwell’s last home was.  He would not be happy to see it now!  I’m told that there are many wonderful spots on Skye, but time and tiredness ensured that we did not see them, although we had good views of the Cuillins.

Approaching the mainland 

5th June.  If I remember nothing else of Skye, I shall remember Grumpy George and his parrot.  Grumpy George has a shop at the Armadale ferry port, Skye, yes you’ve guessed, called Grumpy George’s.  We looked inside, spent some cash and met George (who wasn’t at all grumpy) and his 40 years old parrot.  The parrot had broken her leg 20 years ago so was a bit shaky on it.  George was a real character, swore quite a bit but in a manner that you had to smile at, and had some stunning photographs of birds taken on Skye.  We looked at some of the images on George’s laptop and had a chat before saying goodbye and making for the ferry.   The short crossing to Mallaig brought us sightings of several Harbour Porpoise and the odd Bottle-nosed Dolphin.   Common Buzzard flew along the Skye shore.

We were soon driving away from Mallaig on the ‘Road to the Isles’, only we were driving away from them.  A wonderfully scenic route was enjoyed as we headed towards Fort William, eventually having great views of Ben Nevis in the sunshine.  We stopped for a bite to eat at the monument commemorating the Jacobite uprising and took walk to look at the view of the viaduct on the Fort William to Mallaig steam railway line.  Harry potter fans won’t need telling about it.  Long -tailed Tit was added to our trip list at some point.

Jacobite monument and Loch Shiel

Ben Nevis

We only stopped at Fort William for petrol before heading towards the road taking us through Glencoe and Rannoch Moor which must be one of the most exciting drives in Britain.  We stopped for photos in what was now real heat.  A few clouds drifted across the area making it for stunning views under great lighting conditions.  I could have photographed along this route all day.  We eventually arrived at our accommodation at Strachur overlooking Loch Fyne by late afternoon.  I found I could look over the loch from my bed and even whilst in the shower.  Midges were numerous by evening.





Glencoe

6th June.  We added Sparrowhawk to the trip list on the drive home via Loch Lomond, Glasgow and Carlisle.  Yes, the trip had ended, but the sun still shone!

Tired and travelled, but still not without our vital spark

On reflection, I feel this trip to have been one of the best I’ve ever undertaken, and I now understand why folk are so drawn to the Outer Hebrides.  We’d learned much about the islands and their history.  We covered over 1,600 miles by car and with added boat and ferry journeys circa 2.000 miles in total, visited 13 islands with many more seen in passing and ended with a bird list of 111 species (we didn’t count an uncertain Pomarine Skua sighting) and mammal list of 10 species.  Someone commented to me whilst on South Uist that we were a bit late for the birds.  Not entirely sure what he meant, but perhaps he thought us ‘twitchers’, we aren’t.   Some standout highlights for me were the St Kilda experience, the visit to Mingulay and evenings at the foot of the mountains on South Uist.  Too many bird highlights to mention, but the Golden Eagle experience, the Red-necked Phalaropes and the breeding plumaged Red-throated Divers and Great Northern Divers are up there among the best.  My thanks go to everyone we met and talked to, and who helped make this trip such a wonderful experience.  Of course, special thanks to Sam, my travel companion and great friend.

I hope all who have stayed with the odyssey have enjoyed it.

Wednesday, 27 June 2018

Hebridean & St Kilda Odyssey..Pt 5..St Kilda

'Whatever he studies, the future observer of St Kilda will be haunted the rest of his life by the place, and tantalised by the impossibility of describing it, to those who have not seen it.' James Fisher, Naturalist. (1947)

 
St Kilda Wren Troglodytes troglodytes hirtensis. Courtesy of Samuel Hood

2nd June.  Sam and I had booked our trip to St Kilda with Sea Harris in February and even at that time we weren’t soon enough to get onto the priority list so were put onto the standby list.  That meant we were dependant upon there being two days of good enough conditions to allow two trips to run on consecutive days.  In these circumstances and bearing in mind the difficulties involved in getting to St Kilda we hadn’t built our hopes up only for them be sadly downed.  We’d convinced ourselves that our trip to the Outer Hebrides would in any event be a great one and so it was, so a trip to St Kilda would be a bonus.   As it happens, we hit a period of great weather for our trip to the Outer Hebrides and so the standby trip did run.  What follows is an account of our adventure with images that can speak volumes as to how exciting this trip is.

We were up for breakfast before 6:00am. Looked out of the window and saw little because of mist!  I wasn’t downhearted as it was still early, and in any event one of my all time top experiences has been out at sea on the Pacific coast of Canada in thick mist which was burnt off by the sun in time for us to see amazing wildlife and scenery.  We were down to the harbour at Leverburgh in plenty of time to meet up with the crew of our boat The Enchanted Isle and we were soon to learn that young guys Darren and Iain had been brought up on the Outer Hebrides and were keen to share their knowledge.  Once into our lifejackets we were off on what was to be just over a 2.5-hour sea crossing of the 44 miles to St Kilda.  It might make good reading to say we faced high winds, that we were buffeted by a giant swell and that we faced the biting cold and trauma with stout hearts.  In fact, the Atlantic was like a mill pond, there was no wind what so ever and we felt quite warm even out on deck of the small craft.  It was ideal conditions for watching seabirds despite the mist which on occasions cleared to show the sun breaking through only for it to disappear again and mist to once again descend.  It was peaceful, dramatic and so good to be out there on the ocean.

Great Skua.  Courtesy of Samuel Hood

Sam and I spent most of the time on the outer deck, despite our comfortable airline styled seats inside.  About half way out we watched 5 or 6 Rock Doves following the boat, with one making several aborted attempts to land on the boat.  We guessed they may be lost in the mist and the crew said they had never seen Rock Doves out here before.  Sam commented that he now had some idea how crews in mist and under attack during the war must have felt.  I knew exactly what he meant.  Every now and then we would enter an area where the mist had lifted, and sun light broke through, only for us to enter the mist again.  Birds would fly away and just disappear into the mist.  We had some good bird sightings including several Storm Petrels which where seen lifting from the ocean.  Other birds included numerous Fulmar, Gannet, Shag, Eider, Kittiwake and other gulls, Arctic Tern, Black Guillemot, Guillemot, Puffin and Razorbill and then nearer to St Kilda Great and Arctic Skua.  We eventually saw the island of Hirta emerge from the mist, and we were nearly at our destination.

After some problems with the motor of the dinghy which was to take us ashore, we eventually landed at Hirta with help from guys from another boat and their dinghy, where we were met by Ciaran the Seabird Ranger.  Someone mentioned the mist spoiling the view and Ciaran suggested that had there been wind it may have shifted the mist but could have spelt rough seas and seasickness so the view then would also have been spoilt in such circumstances!  That killed off further comment and we got on and enjoyed our hours on Hirta!  I have now seen a report which suggests a couple of weeks beforehand a ranger had to deal with a difficult case of all aboard being severely seasick, bruised and battered during a quite horrific incident where the nurse had to be sent for.  I’m glad I read that after our trip and not before.  I didn’t feel the mist (which was lifting by now) spoilt the experience anyway, rather it added much to the dramatic effect and atmosphere.  Sam knew Ciaran from his time spent on Fair Isle, so we got the chance to photograph Ciaran’s Snowy Owl pellet, although we never saw or expected to see the Snowy Owl that was currently on Hirta, but keeping out of the way of the skuas high up in the hills.

Snowy Owl Pellet.  Enlarge the image and see the bones more clearly.

Fulmar

Sam managed to capture an image of the St Kilda Wren Troglodytes troglodytes hirtensis and there were several of this sub species singing as we explored the village remains.  I was only vaguely aware of the history of the St Kilda community and my intention is to educate myself about the details and the book St Kilda- The Last and Outmost Isle is due for delivery as I type, as is a CD of music inspired by old St Kilda songs.  Interestingly we heard a Cuckoo on the island and later Ciaran confirmed that they are rarely recorded at St Kilda.  There were plenty of wild/feral Soay Sheep too.  There is some evidence to suggest that this ancient breed of sheep arrived with the first settlers on St Kilda around 4,000 years ago.  We walked high above the village which gave a good view point on the remains of the village and it was here that we ate our very nice packed lunches.  Sam later encouraged me up the area called ‘The Gap’ where we rested, I needed to by then, and watched birds including Great Skuas and Arctic Skuas.  The mist rolled in at times and as it hit the sheer cliff where it tended to rise before us, giving a very interesting ghostly effect.  It would not have been safe to walk to the very top of the cliffs as mist kept falling, that’s my excuse anyway.  We had been warned by Ciaran not to attempt such a walk as the area is treacherous in misty conditions.  I began to wonder how many people had fallen off these sheer and vertiginous cliffs.  Before we had reached the top of the gap we had found the situation quite surreal as we heard a Geordie accent coming from afar and listened to the bleeping of a reversing truck in the village area where there was work being done on the army post.  We didn’t allow this to spoil our experience.  I spoke with the Geordie voice later when I bumped into a bloke from South Shields.  I mean, you go to the Islands of St Kilda and there is another Geordie there!



Village remains


Interesting structures high above village that I need to research

I'd made it and had a sheer drop off the cliff behind me!

We took another look around the village including the graveyard and the museum and even had a quick look in the shop.  I was hoping to buy myself a St Kilda hat or something similar.  I was disappointed with the hats, they were awful and in tones of light blue and pink and every bit of clothing had a Puffin on it which made me think I was in Seahouses!  Not sure why they don’t use St Kilda Wren or at least a Fulmar or Skua.  They got no money from me although I’m sure they wouldn’t care as one bloke seemed to purchase half the shop.  He either liked Puffins, had lots of money or perhaps both.

Oystercatchers on the village walls

Over four hours on Hirta flew over and we were then treated to a slice of homemade ginger cake and a mug of coffee on board the boat before the best part of the trip, a slow boat trip around the islands and stacks with a very interesting commentary at times from Iain.  One minute we were looking at stacks in mist, then suddenly in sun.  I have to say such an adventure will take some beating as these cliffs and stacks are an amazing sight.


Hirta

We saw thousands of Gannets, Fulmars and auks and numbers of Great and Arctic Skuas at close range.  By now the mist had lifted somewhat but there was still enough to give a real atmosphere.  We had spoken to a couple visiting from New England and they were greatly impressed and said they had been mindful of Game of Thrones as they went past the cliffs and stacks.  I had earlier mentioned a Lord of the Rings atmosphere, so we had been thinking along similar lines.





During this part of the trip and on the journey back to Leverburgh we had wonderful sightings of birds, their flight reflected on the ocean in stunning lighting conditions, as once again the sun at times shone through mist.  Sam and I were out on the open deck for most of the return trip across the ‘mill pond’.



 Gannet. Courtesy of Samuel Hood



It had been an amazing adventure and I’m pleased we had chosen Harris Sea Tours to take us as everything was so well organised and the boat and crew excellent.  We were buzzing when we arrived in the harbour and quickly sorted ourselves out before we went for dinner in the local restraunt.  It was an OK meal and we got talking to the couple on the next table to us, Linda and Charles (hope I remember the names correctly) from Burton on Trent.  They invited us to join them and we ended the evening chatting away as if we had known each other for years.  I don’t think either Charles or Linda had any great desire to go to St Kilda, but their love of the Outer Hebrides shone through everything they said, and they explained that it was a regular trip that they made.  They certainly understood our excitement about our visit today.  Charles had recently faced a very serious medical operation and they had not known whether they would make this trip at all.  Thankfully they did, and I do hope they are able to return many times in the future.  They were lovely sincere people and our meeting of them added greatly to today’s experience.





As we drove back to Spinners Cottage we watched a Short-Eared Owl and once back to Geocrab watched the Otter again in the bay before completing our days bird list.  And so, to bed, hardly believing we had been to St Kilda.  Sam has dreamt of going since he was a ‘wee’ lad and as for me, I just didn’t think I’d ever get there.  Now I have had time to reflect, today’s trip has entered my top ten list of ‘experiences’ with the natural world.