Barra & The Outer Hebrides - October 6th - 12th 2019

Published by Ken Reeves (kenreeves AT

Participants: Ken Reeves and four members of Burbagebirders.


Our outgoing Crossing was in good light with a small swell...... 40+ Common Dolphin. Return Crossing was in very good light with little or no swell... 50+ Common Dolphin.

Amazing views of European Storm Petrel, Great and Pomarine Skua plus an adult female White-tailed Sea Eagle over the boat from the direction of Mull.

Just to clear this up ......"Tysties" are of course, winter plumaged Black Guillemot.

Total Mileage covered 1,226 and the journey time, each way, with two stops was 9hrs.

Weather was very mixed with Monday, Tuesday and most of Wednesday very wet and windy with 65/ 95 MPH recorded.
Needless to say we spent these days searching through the locations on the sheltered east side of the island.

There were no boat sailings to or from Oban until late on Thursday, so the supplies at the only Co-op on the island
were getting worryingly thin.

Friday's boat from Oban to Barra should have taken 5 hrs but because of the poor weather and big seas, 5.8 metre waves, set a course to take cover from the heavy seas by going from island to island taking over 7.5 hrs to finally arrive in Castlebay.

The VW Sharan became an excellent hide and the fire, food and beer in the bar was well received by all.

In all, a great trip to witness what two small Outer Hebridean Islands offer and exactly what the islanders suffer in the dire winter months. Superb sightings of resident and migrating birds were enjoyed, particularly the very large number of wintering Black-throated Diver in Vatersay Sound that gives winter shelter to 18-20% of the world population.

I will definitely return to see it all again on Barra and Vatersay in the near future.

It was a real pleasure to be with two good birders who supported me really well and the very welcoming Barra residents.

Ever since my last stroke I am now beginning to learn my limitations. Three pints and a large Malt is about it!

Thanks to Nev Weston & Steve Lister and all those who helped me to make all the right decisions that made this trip a real birding adventure.

Thanks Ken R

How to get there!

Two flights a day from Glasgow, weather permitting, that land on the beach. Ring Loganair direct at Glasgow airport if you are a senior it's quite a bit cheaper. Otherwise it's the good old Cal-Mac ferry from Oban direct to Castlebay.

Where to stay !

We chose self catering, there are plenty of places to choose but be early booking,it's not that big.

Contact me anytime for help and advice at

Species List

N/C = Not counted, Some species counts are approximate.

Mute Swan 2, Whooper Swan 19, Light-bellied Brent Goose 3, Barnacle Goose 400 + migrating South, Canada Goose N/C , Greylag Goose N/C, Pink-footed Goose N/C, Common Eider N/C, Red-breasted Merganser N/C, Little Egret 1, Common Shelduck N/C, Ring-necked Duck 1 rare, Eurasian Wigeon 10+, Common Teal 4, Little Grebe 3,Rock Dove N/C, Wood Pigeon 1 of only two on Barra and Vatersay, Collared Dove N/C, Red-throated Diver 6 +, Black-throated Diver 20 +, Great Northern Diver 2+, Great Crested Grebe N/C, European Storm Petrel 20 +, Northern Fulmar N/C, Sooty Shearwater 30+, Manx Shearwater N/C, Grey Heron N/C, Northern Gannet N/C, European Shag N/C, Great Cormorant N/C, Eurasian Oystercatcher, Grey Plover 4+, Golden Plover 200+, Ringed Plover 100 +, Northern Lapwing N/C, Eurasian Curlew 200+, Bar-tailed Godwit 200+, Turnstone N/C, Sanderling N/C, Dunlin N/C, Common Snipe N/C, Common Sandpiper 10+, Common Redshank N/C, Greenshank 2, Black Guillemot 100+, Razorbill N/C, Common Guillemot N/C, Arctic Skua 6+, Pomarine Skua 8+, Great Skua 4, Kittiwake N/C, Black-headed Gull N/C, Mew Gull N/C, LBB 2, Herring Gull N/C, Iceland Gull 1, Great Black-backed Gull N/C, Golden Eagle 5+, Eurasian Sparrowhawk 5, White-tailed Sea Eagle 4+, Eurasian Buzzard N/C, Common Kestrel N/C, Merlin 2, Peregrine 3, Raven 30+, Hooded Crow N/C, Dunnock N/C, House Sparrow N/C, Meadow Pipit N/C, Rock Pipit N/C, Grey Wagtail 2, White Wagtail N/C, Common Chaffinch N/C, Brambling 4, Common Twite 400+, Common Linnet N/C, Common Redpoll 10+, Greenfinch 3, Goldfinch N/C, Reed Bunting 5, Little/Rustic Bunting fly over at recycling site North Bay, Blue Tit 1, Great Tit 1, Eurasian Skylark N/C, Willow Warbler 2, Common Chiffchaff 10+, Blackcap 5, Subalpine Warbler Species not known until DNA results return, Goldcrest N/C, Eurasian Wren N/C, Common Starling N/C, European Robin 10+, Stonechat N/C, Northern Wheatear 3, Mistle Thrush 2, Song Thrush N/C, Redwing 1000+, Blackbird N/C.

100 Species

The Subalpine DNA result returned on November 19th and confirmed it as a Western.