My first visit to the Outer Hebrides was courtesy of the University of East Anglia Environmental Sciences department of soil science on a field trip fro Norwich in April 1978; I recall a train journey from home to Glasgow, a slight fracas with the police on the station in a bit of student high jinx, another train to Oban where two first-winter Iceland Gulls where a new bird for me, and the long boat to Lochboisdale revealing 600+ Manx Shearwaters, Black Guillemots and another new bird when a pair of Peregrines were seen over Barra from the passing boat. The stay from the 15th – 20th consisted of luxury tented accommodation in the dunes at Howmore? – digging various holes in different soils and doing as much birding as possible with no transport and only a pair of bins; our tutor, David Dent, had already sussed out that a couple of us were more interested in birds than soil and he had already seen a few Golden Eagles over Hecla which became my third new bird of the trip. During escapes from hole digging in what I recall as being glorious hot, T-shirt weather, my notes revealed another two Iceland Gulls, finding three nests of Lapwings and Ringed Plovers on the Machair, 30 summer plumaged Long-tailed Ducks, 30 Great Northern Divers, 50 Hebridean Greylags, 3 Merlins, 434 Barnacle Geese, the first Cuckoo at Loch Druibeg on the 17th, 88 Rock Doves in one flock, 70 Twite on an old rye stack, 50+ Wheatears all in display, 4 Whoopers and several Redwings with one pair possibly breeding amongst other regular birds.
In the upper photo is the luxury accommodation in the dunes the only surviving photo from my trusted Zenit B on the trip – you can almost see the Steller’s Eider lurking behind the rocks to the right of the dunes – four years later I felt obliged to return for the eider, that we knew nothing about in 1974!, in a well travelled mini clubman and with much more up market accommodation at Clachan N Uist – the caravan we had is long gone but we passed the cottage last week --