The islands of the Outer Hebrides offer the naturalist the chance to see and record a range of bird species many of which are considered iconic. They also provide time for visitors to reflect on the wildness and timeless nature of our unique landscape.
The changing seasons bring with them many opportunities to look for our visiting species, from spring migrants to winter visitors as well as birds on passage through. While our residents provide a year round variety from large birds of prey to waders and coastal species.
The Islands contain a number of Special Protection Areas and these areas are used by a significant number of internationally important migratory ground nesting birds. The remoteness, climate and variety of habitats within the Islands, coupled with few ground predators provide ideal nesting locations. These breeding opportunities have recently been enhanced by the reduction of introduced Mink, allowing some fragile species to re-establish themselves.
In spring our guided tours focus on a number of important migrants including the Corncrake, Red Necked Phalarope, Cuckoo's and some of our visiting sea birds including 4 types of Skua, Terns, as well as more familiar regulars including Auks and Manx Shearwater. Both Red and Black Throated Divers are found on the Islands, often making use of the myriad of fresh water lochans on the moors.
For those interested in the drama provided by large birds of prey, both Golden and Sea Eagles are to be found, along with the dashing Merlin hunting over the Lewis Peatlands. Harriers and Peregrine also feature, along with visits by other species.
Autumn sees many migrating birds on passage through the Islands, as well as others who will overwinter with us. Diver numbers are supplemented by new arrivals and Great Northern's join the other two species. Flocking Golden Plover along with Snow Buntings can make for an exciting encounter on the high tops, as they evade the new-comers to the Eagle population, attempting to establish territories for themselves.
During the short winter days we focus on looking for the unusual and in particular we are able to concentrate on some of our visiting Gulls, Ducks, and Waders.
Migratory Woodcock can provide good photo opportunities as can our resident Red Grouse, who by late December are looking to pair up and restart the annual cycle. We are able to provide unique close access to both species in the winter months.