Transfers to and from the island are dominated by the ferry schedules and so we were on the road well before 0600 hours. Sadly both ferry terminals are at "opposite ends" of the island to my home location so both departures and arrivals have an extra leg of necessary travelling. Our birding had not quite finished though as, shortly after setting off, we had a single Woodcock tower away at the periphery of our headlights. Previous to leaving we'd spent a few rather chilly minutes simply looking at the night sky and enjoying the absolute silence. Given the wind direction not even any sounds were emanating from the nearby coastline! The only light pollution came from the occasional sweep of the lighthouse beam at Portnahaven, which was somewhat faint given hill land in between.
At various points of the first part of our journey we encountered both Roe and Red Deer, indeed I'm really beginning to wonder how many of the latter there are confined within the Rhinns conifer plantations! Whilst crossing roads and clearing fence lines don't usually present them with a problem , one hind had somehow managed to become "perched" on top of of a stone wall!! This was as ridiculous as it was entertaining as she swayed too and fro whilst maintaining her balance. Shortly afterwards two Barn Owls showed well along the hillside north of the farm that no doubt served as home.
Eventually we reached Port Askaig as tankers, lorries and a few cars were being loaded below the arc lights. The first glimmer of light began to rise in the east as a couple of Robins sang in the background. Goodbyes and boarding completed the boat then left within a few minutes and made its way down the Sound in the diminishing darkness.
The return journey showed more frost than I'd appreciated previously, but the emerging weather promised such conditions would be short lived. Whilst little of any exception appeared I was impressed with a large flock of 120+ Common Gulls systematically feeding across a field at the farm north of the house. Even before I'd made it inside home for my second breakfast, a party of 8 Choughs flew past me, tumbling and crying out as if in celebration. An apt conclusion to what had been a rewarding and enjoyable few days.
Later I went out locally for a while and was again struck by the presence of Stonechats in various places. They appear to have made a good comeback after suffering from the prolonged winter conditions of a couple of winters or so ago. We'd seen quite a few over the past days, including equal numbers on Jura. They appear to abandon the most exposed moorland areas and make use of more coastal locations at the very height of winter.
As a commentary on what can be achieved, and how "small" our busy world has become, the journey to Sheffield takes little more than seven hours, so even eagles, Choughs and much more are within easy reach given weather, ferries, and road conditions are kind!! Long weekends are feasible , but you probably need to add on an extra day to recover after all the excitement!!!
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