| An oystercatcher rises surreptitiously, suggesting that it has a nest nearby|
|The changing of the seasons has transformed the landscape. Where in winter there was an expanse of water complete with swans and wildfowl, now there is dry land. Both here and on the rest of the nearby machair an irregular patchwork of large pale rectangles reveal where the ploughs have been busy. So pale are these ploughed areas that their colour is barely distinguishable from that of the nearby beach, for the soil is largely composed of wind-blown shell sand that has accumulated over the years. A handful scooped from the surface trickles easily through the fingers to be caught by the morning's breeze.|
In the distance a tractor trundles the length of one of the sandy patches, then turns and makes its way back on a parallel course flinging out seed from the hopper trailing behind it. In a few brief weeks the landscape will be transformed again, this time by an abundance of corn. Despite its unlikely appearance the soil is very productive, as long as it has a little assistance. Twisted and blackened, brittle as old sticks, fragments of dried seaweed lie along the sharply incised margins of the prepared land – remnants of the well-rotted weed that has been ploughed into the soil to add vital nutrients.
While the corn is yet to come, the short turf of the untouched grassland is already full of flowers. Low-growing dandelions, their heads resting on the ground, are scattered throughout a carpet of daisies. Here and there are the pretty pale yellows of delicate wild pansies and less frequently the first purple pinks of cranesbills. From the flower-studded grass ahead of us an oystercatcher rises to its feet and scuttles off as surreptitiously as it is able, and by its very behaviour alerts us to the fact that it has a nest nearby. Treading carefully, keeping one eye on the place from where it seemed to rise, we find the eggs where they lie camouflaged among a pile of multi-coloured pebbles surrounded by daisies.