Following a long and very busy season in 2013, the New Year has got off to a very strange start as we recover from our house being struck by lightning. Although the Outer Hebrides has not had the torrential rain or heavy snow that has affected other parts of the British Isles, we certainly did see a lot of lightning and hail showers during December 2013.

With a generally mild winter so far, I have not seen the large numbers of migrant birds that we would normally see coming through. Some of our usual visitors are here in small numbers at present with Red Breasted Merganser and Golden Eye Duck on the loch just outside our house and no shortage of Greylag Geese everywhere.

One wildlife sighting no one wants to see close to home is becoming a more common sight since the demise of the Mink and that is the Brown Rat. Up until two years ago it was very rare to see a rat on Great Bernera, but with the Mink eradication project taking effect on the non-native and much hated Mink, a niche has re-opened for the Brown Rat.

A week ago I was having a walk on the shoreline at Shawbost on the Westside of Lewis and was able to observe a small flock of Turnstone and Oystercatcher on the beach along with some Ringed Plover that were foraging a little further along. Normally at this time of the year there would be quite a few Whooper Swans on the Lochs of the Westside, but numbers have been very low so far this winter.

An indication of how mild the weather has been lately is that some of our Potentilla and Escallonia plants had started to come into leaf until the wind switched to a south easterly a few days ago. Today as I write this post the weather here in Bernera is bright, calm and cool.