Happy New Year and here's to a good birding year.
A bit of a late start being the 4th January and getting back to the Outer Hebrides around mid-day today in the drizzle wasn't particularly a promising prospect; whilst the demands of work meant I would have to spend the rest of the day in the office without a chance of exploring.
As the ferry approached Lochmaddy a lone Guillemot flew past the bow and so became the first on my Outer Hebrides list this year. I like to keep track of just how many species I see in the islands during a year although it's not a serious list. It's not the sort of manic, hear-tearing obsession that's going to see me hurtling up and down the islands in an attempt to amass as many birds as I can whilst handing over all my hard earned cash to our beloved Calmac and fuel providers; it's more for posterity so that I can look back and say that was a good year. 2012 wasn't particularly brilliant number wise with my own list reaching a meagre 195 species although there was some quality birds with Semipalmated Plover and Great Sandplover being particularly notable. The most I've ever had during my 8 years in the Outer Hebrides was 212 species (well maybe 211) a few years ago which is going to take some beating.
As the ferry slipped into the mouth of Lochmaddy Bay no less than 3 White-tailed Eagles hung in the strong southerly wind over the hills to the north. This in turn encouraged a mass of gulls that had been feeding around a fish farm to take to the air and allow me to add 2, 1st winter Iceland Gulls to my yearly tally which by the end of the day was teetering at a lofty 19 species.