Transfixed! Author Bruce Kendrick explores the mystery and magic of birding in the Outer Hebrides

FROM a birdwatcher's  perspective, Bruce Kendrick has perhaps saved the best till last in his new book.

The final two chapters  consist of an 'in-the-field'  interview with dawn-to-dusk  bird finder Bruce Taylor. 

As they wander the southern Hebridean island of Barra, to which Taylor moved from inland  Somerset, they chat about their shared passion for birding and some of the star species that have lit up their lives.

Taylor is one of  the select band of enthusiasts to have recorded a first - a ruby-crowned kinglet - for Britain. This tiny bird spent eight days on Barra during November, 2020.

In an article for his local newspaper, he wrote thus. "It is likely to have arrived here after having been caught up in an intense weather system off the eastern seaboard of Canada while it was migrating.

"This system hit Barra 24 hours later.

"The fact that this tiny gem of a bird, weighing he same as a two pence piece, survived a non stop flight across the Atlantic in  terrible weather, arriving seemingly none the worse for it is nothing short of remarkable.

"Birds are far tougher and more resilient than we give them credit for." 

This is all fascinating stuff as, earlier in the book, are the author’s delightful photographs of such  birds as great skua, white-tailed eagle, red-throated diver,  golden plover and red-necked phalarope, not to mention his vividly-recalled description  of his own special moments with rare birds.

Perhaps the highlight is his out-of-the-blue encounter with a snowy owl which he reckons to be he 'pinnacle' to date of his birding career.

"Why am I so transfixed?" he asks. "Is it the success, at last, after so many birding days when hope and optimism are rarely rewarded?"

But as the title indicates, this splendid 232-page paperback is also about the arts, crafts and history and folklore of these hauntingly beautiful islands that lie to the west of the Scottish mainland.

We meet, for instance, painter Rhod Evans, poet Pauline Prior-Pitt, ceramic artist Kirsty O'Connor and fisherman-photographer Lewis MacKenzie.

The author's narrative  purrs along in a smoothly oiled conservational tone which is most engaging - so much so that it seems a shame that, no doubt through personal modesty, he refrains from revealing anything about himself. 

Where is he from, what is his career background, does he have a family? Perhaps all will be revealed in some future book.

Art and Nature in The Outer Hebrides is published at £18.99 by go-ahead Caithness-based firm Whittles Publishing. (