Season 2004

2004 – Another fantastic season

on the West Coast of Scotland

As usual there are a lot of images on this page, if you are fortunate enough to be on broadband they won’t take long to download. If like me you are still on slow band, (not any more – June 2006!!!)  then please be patient – I hope you will find the wait for the page to load will be worthwhile.


Yet again I would like to send my sincere thanks to all the people who joined us on board Guideliner to explore the wonderful islands and seas of the Hebrides this year. It really is the great people that we get on board that make this job so enjoyable. The wildlife was as usual fantastic and the scenery superb although the weather was rather mixed – but in general very good. At least we missed all the torrential downpours that affected so much of the UK, and we were lucky enough to get our share of sunny days on every trip.

So what was special this year?

It’s a long list so lets start: –


On the very first trip to St Kilda in May we had fantastic views of pomerine skuas as they passed up the Minch on their way to their breeding areas to the north. They came swooping across the quite turbulent waves, gliding in a graceful group of fourteen with their superb colouration gleaming in the occasional shaft of sunlight.

Later on that trip we were even more surprised by two visitors who joined us as we were in the Atlantic having left the shelter of the Sound of Barra and were heading for St Kilda. Both were so exhausted after flying unknown distances over the sea they had lost all sense of fear and were quite content to sat with us as we travelled.

This meadow pipit arrived first and quietly rested on the deck but it was soon joined by………

this beautiful but very aggressive wheatear – it would not tolerate the meadow pipit and soon sent it off! The wheatear was much friendlier and was happy to sit on Frank’s foot before hopping onto the seat to sit next to Julie. Both birds would take the occasional flight around the boat and then come back on board to rest until finally when we had Hirta clearly in view, they took off towards the islands.

Still, when we got to St Kilda – it was as fabulous as ever – the light at Boreray was stunning. I was able to go fishing and catch some Pollack which were delicious when we had them for dinner.

More of Kilda later, but on this trip we left the archipelago and visited Vatersay next where I hoped to see some interesting birds – in fact we had exceptional sighting of corncrakes – really exciting. Because it was so early, the machair grasses and herbs were still very low and the birds were unable to be as elusive as we normally expect. We were all able to get within twenty feet of two birds feeding in a field however I had left my camera on board Guideliner and had to hurry back and get it. When I returned it was to find the birds had moved off some distance and I had to settle for images of corncrake heads peeking over the grass.

We also saw a sea eagle which flew over the south beach and lots of machair birds including corn buntings, pipits, and several species of waders. The flowers were just beginning to appear but most obvious were the bright splashes of yellow covering some of the fields from all the primroses that were to be seen. They covered some areas in total splendour, the numbers greater than I can remember seeing for some years

However on the next trip we had another exceptional occurrence. Passing through the Sound of Gunna, we spotted a single male bottle nosed dolphin who came and played with us for some time, twisting and diving in the bow wave and occasionally coming alongside to take a look at us. Lots of photos were taken and when he appeared to leave us we were well pleased with the sighting.

However when we went into Breachacha (Loch of the fields of bright flowers) on Coll, we had no sooner dropped the anchor when the dolphin (now called Fred by all on board) came alongside to see what we were up to. I quickly put on a wetsuit and joined him in the water!