The hurricane of February 3rd came and went but it did have an environmental impact (and knocked out power to most rural areas). Gusts over 100mph battered the islands with north Lewis bearing the brunt. Barvas beach shifted in the westerly rage and a few birds were deposited and displaced.
The day before an immature Golden Eagle was harried over Barvas dunes by a gang of Ravens. Coincidence or blown coastwards by the strong leading winds that day? Once a regular feature according to locals, when rabbits used to wreak havoc in the dunes, it is the first one I have actually seen perched in this area in six years.
The ‘morning after’ found 7 Goldfinches and a Snow Bunting on Barvas machair with 205 Golden Plover a very high count of late. On the shore 71 Curlew, 17 Purple Sandpipers and 1 Sanderling scurried about as a duo of Shelduck bobbed offshore. Bragar Bay was quiet except for a dozen Dunlin and Shawbost had 6 Sanderling too and an immature Glaucous Gull.
By Saturday the sea was still running very heavily off Ness encouraging a procession of Fulmars north west out of the Minch. Two hours logged 230 including 2 very pale, near white birds (‘double light’ phase). 15 Gannets were a touch unseasonal as was a steady stream of auks, many ditching offshore before tackling cornering the Butt itself. I hoped for Little Auk, but saw none, but did record a Puffin (probably rarer) among 90 Guillemots and Razorbills.
11 Sanderling and two Bar tailed Godwits at Europie and increased counts of Teal and Wigeon on Loch Stiapabhat were presumably due to the gales too. Perhaps they also accounted for the 4 single Pinkfeet I recorded down the west today. 440 Golden Plover by Sports Nis again being a high GP of late. Seems post storm all these birds regroup and form a large single flock.
Overall a similar species mix to the destructive January 2005 blow. Then Knot, Sanderling, Godwits, Barnacle Geese and Shelduck all got thrown north – but in much higher numbers to this occasion. It certainly seems these are the species most at risk of displacement to these freak storms.