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Towlersonsafari

Big Flappy things and where to see them on The Isle of Skye

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Forgive the impertinence as I am sure there are splendid folk who know far more about wildlife spotting on Skye and indeed Mull and the Outer Hebrides than I do, but ever since my brother and I, fresh from passing my driving test and buying a second hand mini 1275GT, decided that as part of our Scottish holiday we would go to Skye, (nothing to do with Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull buying as estate there honest) over 30 years ago ,at least once a year I have visited Scotland and mostly that has been to the West Coast.

Compared to Mull, the best place in the UK to see wildlife, you do have to work hard on Skye. It is much bigger, ( it takes longer than you think to travel anywhere) the roads don’t always follow the coast and it is  much busier. While Mull has embraced its  Eagles and wildlife,, and shouted about them, Skye seems to shrug its shoulders and let them get on with it. Having said that there are boat trips from Portree that specialise in providing fish for the White Tailed Eagles (although I will and do call them Sea Eagles)s so you can get close up views or photos. Pretty much every photo you see of a Sea  Eagle grabbing a fish is from either those boats or the one on Mull. Also I must reccomend the Aqua-Explore rib boat trips and especially the one to Canna and passing by Rum-a good chance of marine mammals and there are both Eagles on both Islands

I also recommend the very hard working and friendly wildlife guide www.skyewildlife.com  3  of the places below are down to him.so, here goes;

Sea Eagles

You can see them anywhere of course-there are now 30 pairs on Skye, but here are 3 places that are not obvious that have yielded different views.

Loch Eynort

 

From the A863 Dunvegan to Sligachan road, turn off towards Carbost, and then turn left again signposted to Talisker and Eynort.Take the Eynort turning, all single track. Drive down the road as far as it goes and park in the obvious car park. Take the right hand ( as you look to the loch) track-or follow the shore-along the coast, past the ruined church and to a run-down  building that used to be a fishing station, about 10-15 minutes but you can see where you are heading. Its a lovely spot with coniferous trees on the opposite  shore and looking closely, at least a pair of White tailed Eagles based there. This June we saw three birds and although they did not fly, when they do you should get splendid views.

GlenMore/Mugeary

Take the B885 single track road from Portree to Struan. Take the first left-signposted to Glenmore/Mugeary if anything an even smaller single track road right to the end-just after some houses there is a disused quarry where you can park overlooking a wide river valley flood plain with slight hills .It is like a secret valley and again beautiful. Before the clearances it supported a population of over 200.  Immature Sea Eagles seem to like lounging about on those hills and according to the guide he has seen them walking about the valley floor. We saw them on both occasions we looked, but you do need a telescope for good views .If the wind is right look out for eagles coming off the hill behind you as well.

And talking of wind, when faced with mountains and hills everywhere, remember that birds of prey love flying into the wind Your chances are much increased looking at hills or cliffs or indeed any likely spot with this in mind. Always  check the wind direction!

Raasay

The isle of Raasay is well worth a visit anyway, and is a good place to look for otters, but take the road out from Inverarish-where the ferry lands-and head north.The Inver Bay( a small signpost marks the start of the walk)s is a very good Sea  Eagle and indeed otter spot but the walk down is very slippery when it has been raining. (Breaks in bad weather are often the best times to see birds of prey, as they are almost forced to fly in between the rain). In June, for example, we saw a pair of Sea Eagles hanging in a strong wind before one stooped low over the sea hugging the coast –hunting- when a coalition of common gulls oystercatchers hooded crows etc forced it off then the other soared over Raasay allowing us to watch it for about 15 minutes. By the way apologies if you know this but when looking for Eagles in Scotland-keep a look out for the Hoodies and ravens-if there is one about, they will be off to mob it and then you are in for a treat

 

Golden Eagles

My favourite-and more difficult to see than the Sea Eagles. The reason for this –and the reason why they hung on whilst the Sea Eagles  were exterminated, is that they are more nervous, nest in more remote areas, and are more prone to disturbance. There are now 31 pairs of golden Eagles on Skye-there has been a recent new pair carving out a new territory. The number of pairs has stayed at about 30 inspite of the dramatic and wonderful rise from 0 to 30 of Sea Eagles in about 30-35 years

Loch Harport

Remember the B885? Well there is a pair near the end of that road looking across the valley, as you approach  the Struan end but apparently recent forestry planting has disrupted the rabbit supply and they are now trickier to see. But from there, travel along the A863 towards Sligachan, but turn right to Carbost as if heading to the Talisker distillery .DONT go to the distillery, even though it makes the finest single malt, but just after you turn off  the main A863 you are looking for a small road to the right leading to a cemetery next to the shore and a sandyish bay. Park in the carpark and scan across the hill in front of you.This is where the new pair live and they gave excellent view both times we visted.This was a new spot for us but we spent about 15 minutes with one bird the first time, just flying into the wind just off the headland seemingly for the fun of it. The second time, Jane, chief spotter of big flappy things, see something in the air-we stop and not one but 2 Sea Eagles suddenly cruised into view, and came down the valley by the side of the hills getting closer. Then the 2 golden eagles appeared and made it clear in no uncertain terms that the others were not invited-they chased one Eagle down the valley escorting it form their territory with mock dives. Don’t you just love it when that happens? An inconspicuous spot that you might easily just drive by

 

Talisker Bay

Continuing along the road to Carbost, but before the distillery, there is a sign post to Talisker Bay.This is well worth a visit for the half mile walk to a dark sandy beach and impressive sea stack. But there is no doubt that this is the best place for close up views of Golden Eagles anywhere on Skye, and perhaps even anywhere at all. Year after year we have come here and either over the cliffs, or circling around  the big lump of Preshal Mor 9 the Eagles not us) we have had great views. This last trip?  We were walking from Talisker bay to Fiskavaig  ( a good place for cuckoos and Hen Harriers) and had only just started when a Golden eagle flew off the hill in front of us, swung round chased by a Hoodie, when a quick barrel roll later, it appeared above and behind the poor hoodie the crow quickly decided it needed to leave!

 

Conclusions

 

Just  our favourite, and a couple of new spots for Eagles on Skye. Hen Harriers and Short Eared Owls can be tricky, though with the Harriers the Waternish peninsula is a good bet , especially near the junction with the main Portree-Dunvegan road. Good web resources are

 www.skye-birds.com

www.glendaleskye.com

www.walkhighlands.com

 

It is a beautiful island, and the Cuillin mountains are magnificent. Have fun!

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Excellent information share, many thanks. You make me want to jump in the car and drive there right away! 

 

Talking of Ian Anderson, I was only commenting to my o/h Claire when she returned from shopping this morning how the price of salmon has shot up in the last year or so. I wonder why?

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it's a sign, @Dave Williams go to the Hebrides go to the Hebrides.In fact Ina Anderson sold his estate at a very reasonable price when his son did not want to take it on-to the John Muir Trust. One can walk to Dun Ringhill singing very badly!!!

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@Towlersonsafari Maybe that's why the price of salmon went up as he sold out or am I imagining it and just Living in the Past .:rolleyes:

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This Was only to be expected I suppose, @Dave Williams   but I am happy that you are able to Stand Up and Benefit from some very fine music-no idea how we can fit in Aqualung though!

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@Towlersonsafari my friend, don't start away uneasy  (I'm sure you'll figure out how to work it in).

 

@Dave Williams - I hope you see a Cheap Day Return for your Salmon.

 

 

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@Towlersonsafari

 

I can't contribute to the song titles I'm afraid  - but thank you for the very interesting info on Skye.

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Thanks a ton @Towlersonsafari as above detailed info will be so useful in about a month from today :)! I would need more time on Skye ... but there is always the next trip possible, isn't it?!

 

Funny enough, Jethro Tull and Ian Anderson was the first concert I have attend to, many many years ago. I still remember him vividly standing on one leg and playing that magical flute.

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Posted (edited)

Your trip will be splendid @xelas  just keep a look out for the midges! Jethro Full were the first gig I want to and the live version of the first side of Thick as a Brick remains the finest piece of music ever!!!!

Edited by Towlersonsafari
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