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Wildlife watching on North Uist, Outer Hebrides

Posted on Jun 03, 2014 by Jonathan Willet

Our Guide to Wildlife Watching on North Uist, Outer Hebrides.

Wilderness Guide and Wildlife expert, Jonathan Willet shares some of his advice on the best Wildlife Watching in North Uist, Outer Hebrides.

Gannets

Gannets

The whole archipelago of the Western Isles is an amazing place for wildlife but my personal favourite location is the island of North Uist.

If you are arriving here you will be on the ferry from Uig on Skye. As you come in to Loch Maddy (named after the Madadh or dog rocks) you may see Golden or Sea Eagles soaring over Li a Tuath the hill to the south of the sea loch.

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Porpoises may also be seen. Look out for rafts of coo’ing Eider Ducks too. The road to Clachan (and its famous Clachan Stores) is a good place to look out for Red-throated Divers on the many lochs to the left and right. The mournful call of these birds in the evenings is not one to be forgotten quickly. Stopping at Barpa Langais a chambered cairn, and climbing up to it gives altitude to scan the moorland for all sports of birds.

If you fancy scaling North Uist’s highest hill, Eabhal (ay-val) then take the Loch Euphort (ee-fort) road along the coast looking out for Otters and then stop and walk through some remote moorland to the peak. It has amazing views of the land that seems about 90% water due to all the lochs and lochans.Back at Clachan turn right and head up to Balranald RSPB Nature Reserve.

Corncrakes have been seen but the reserve centre and are often heard. This area has some fantastic flower-rich machair. This habitat is only found in the islands of the Hebrides and offers a living for the crofters and a fantastic habitat for all kinds of wildlife.

In May the machair is dormant only coming into flower in July when the displays of flowers are amazing and it is abuzz with insects seeking pollen and nectar.

Abundant Birdlife

The numbers of wading birds here is a reminder of what it was like on the mainland 50 years ago.

Redshanks, Lapwing and Oystercatcher all call and scurry about with chicks in the summer. On the fenceposts you can hear the jangling keys song of the rare Corn Bunting. Along the coast walk to Aird an Runair you can see lots of terns, Gannets and Skuas offshore.

Continuing along the ring road look out for moorland birds such as:

  • Short-eared Owl
  • Hen Harrier
  • The Merlin (the most elusive of all the birds)

The Merlin is our smallest bird of prey, no bigger than a Blackbird. I have some of my best ever views of these species along this road or the moor road that heads south a few miles beyond Griminis (the s is sounded as sh).

At Trumaisgearraidh (trum-is-garry) you can take the road up to the Berneray ferry another good spot for Otter and Porpoise watching. Likewise the Lochportain road offers a great view over the north of Loch Maddy.

At the end of a long day I can recommend the food at the Langais Lodge and a sunset viewed from Baleshare, where you can gaze at the sun sinking into the Atlantic. A truly memorable site.

For more images and local information on the Outer Hebrides, check out our Location page here.

Fancy discovering Scotland’s rich and varied Wildlife on a Wilderness Adventure?

Check out some of our amazing specialist Wildlife Adventures.

Or if you want to witness some incredible nature on a more adrenaline fuelled adventure we offer a variety of different activities such as Sea Kayaking, Canoeing and Mountain Biking.

 

About the author

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Jonathan Willet

Jonathan has a wealth of experience in biodiversity, history and landscape. With degrees in zoology and ecology and 20+ years as a wildlife guide, his regular blogs are always packed full of informational gems.

Read more articles by Jonathan


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