Beyond the machair came sea-rounded cobbles where ringed plover and common tern were breeding. Terns flew in with fish in their bills and didn’t like the intrusion of a man standing up on the cobbles watching them, so they shrieked at him and attacked. He ducked his head as they dived close, over and over they dived. It might have seemed voyeuristic to photograph it, and it was too rapid.
Close by the ruins of chapels at Howe Moor some Polish workers were using heather to give a traditional thatch to a crofting cottage. We passed a few smart holiday cottages, newly lime-washed and thatched. The hostel was in this style and a visitor just off the ferry invited us in to look.
I last visited the Outer Isles on 23 May – 7 June 2005. My friends Jane and Nigel had also been on that trip and had several weeks ago returned from another visit. We compared notes on birding. I love the skylark accompaniment to a walk through the machair where they seem abundant. Wheatear and stonechat were frequent. Our 2015 trip was rather later in the season and perhaps that accounts for it but we had only two good sightings of a trio of red-throated divers on Loch Duinn on Barra. And I have a memory of walking those fine beaches with terns diving and this was not our experience this year. Has there been a significant decline in numbers of seabirds on the Outer Hebrides in a decade?