NATURE NOTES - A wealth of wildlife in Scotland

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WELL, we’ve just got back from a 1,600-mile Scottish wildlife safari and what a time we had!

The weather was absolutely glorious – nothing like you had here for the week, which family and friends kept informing us was ‘horrible’ with near enough continuous rain – up there it was sunshine every day!

We based ourselves pretty much as far north west as you can get – a little fishing village called Scourie More which is immediately across from Handa Island – it’s on this island that both Great and Arctic Skua have nesting colonies as well as its sea cliffs being packed with literally hundreds of thousands of nesting guillemots, razorbills, puffins (a great favourite with the girls who spent ages watching them through the scope) and assorted gulls.

So with all the birds ‘ticked’ that we wanted to see on the island we headed out to the Outer Hebrides to do some some serious whale watching whilst we were at sea. Unfortunately the low sea temps had kept the larger whales away as yet and the Orca pod that had been taking seals only a couple of weeks before had moved on.

We did get some fantastic views of common dolphins though as they bow rode the boat and launched themselves completely out of the water just for the fun of it - Marcus got some great photos of some of them ‘performing ‘ their Olympic synchronised swimming routines!

Leaving Harris (the sea crossing was a tad ‘choppy’ to say the least and several of the passengers (including two of our party – no names of course!) spent some time in the ‘heads’!

So it was off to the Lochs next where we found our target birds - Red and Black Throated Divers. Both Tanith and myself decided that the BT Diver we watched was the top bird of the trip.

The black and white patterning is just incredible and makes the bird look like it’s just been expertly painted by some talented fine artist. We were hoping to see a Great Northern Diver in one of the sea lochs but dipped on that.

Next we were told about a corncrake that had taken up residence in some rough pasture in the centre of the village – despite several late night and 4am vigils we heard no calling – but the rough pasture had a small herd of Highland Cattle whose antics kept us well amused!

On the Duke of Westminster’s estate we did have some great views of red deer – one, a magnificent stag who stood his ground just to show us who was boss - definitely him!

You can’t go to Scotland without seeing a Golden Eagle and after searching quite a few mountain glens we finally got some absolutely fantastic views of one as it slowly drifted over our heads. Seeing how enormous they are, they are not an easy bird to find and we only saw this one during our stay.

Good to see so much different wildlife – but it’s always good to get home too!