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Swallow singing in the Outer Hebrides

The birds, wildlife and flora and fauna of North Uist

Our cottage is situated on the west coast of North Uist, where the beaches are fringed with rare green Machair. The Machair formed here on the west of Uist because of the accumulation of white shell sand blown in from the Atlantic ocean. It has been preserved by the continued use of traditional crofting methods together with the use of organic fertiliser, mainly seaweed. The Machair provides a unique habitat for nesting birds such as Corncrake, Snipe, Lapwing, Corn Bunting, Skylark, Redshank, Oystercatchers, Dunlin, Plovers and Terns. In autumn migrant birds pass through and in winter Snow Buntings and Redwings arrive.

In summer, the Machair is a dense carpet of beautiful wildflowers including orchids and the sweet scent is gorgeous. Over 50 different species of birds have been seen from the house or the garden in the last year.  It is only a short stroll from the cottage to the small, unstaffed RSPB Balranald visitor centre, which is the starting point for Ranger led organised walks including Corncrake walks in spring.


Wildlife watching from the cottage and garden


Otters and wading birds can be seen and photographed from the garden.  The rare and secretive corncrake can also be photographed from the house and garden.  Golden Eagles have been seen from the lounge. A pair of Hen Harriers hunt locally both over the Machair and freshwater loch. Short Eared Owls can be seen hunting, particularly in the evenings. Great Northern Divers, Eider Ducks and Red Breasted Mergansers are regularly seen from the kitchen window.

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Raptors including Golden Eagles, Sea Eagles, Peregrine falcons, Buzzards and Hen Harriers

These magnificent birds are frequently seen from both the lounge and the kitchen. The Hen Harriers regularly pass the back door - gliding on the breeze. 

Walking on the beach and surrounding area you are likely to see Buzzards sitting on rocks watching the breeding waders or chasing them across the Machair. Eagles, Peregrines, Merlin and Harriers hunt over the RSPB reserve and the bay.

Watch the Otters fishing and playing below the garden

Keep a look out of the back door for Otters, particularly 2 hours before high tide or before sunset. With any luck you'll see them from the back step with a glass of wine like a previous guest

There is excellent birdwatching from the cottage and garden without the need to drive anywhere.  

Waders can be seen feeding on the shoreline below the garden and they nest throughout the reserve. In Spring the Snipe and Lapwings entertain with their breeding displays. At sunset you can hear the wonderful sound of the Snipe drumming from the garden.

Divers, Red Breasted Mergansers, Godwits, Wheatears, Stonechats, Whooper Swans, Plover, Turnstones, Corn Buntings, Meadow Pipits and Linnets are just some of the birds that can be seen around the cottage.

A great place for spotting migrant birds in Spring and Autumn

Every season has its birdwatching highlights. In winter Snow Buntings arrive and feed on the Machair. Other migrant birds which can be seen include the beautiful Redwings which feed in the garden. Check out the latest sightings on Western Isles wildlife sightings 

In summer the birds are breeding and you can see the young birds. Geese can be seen all year round - often in larger numbers in the winter. Previously Barnacle, Pink footed, White fronted and Greylag geese have been seen as well Canada geese.

An Outer Hebrides birdwatching highlight is the elusive Corncrake

These birds arrive at the end of April/beginning of May and are now rare in the UK. They breed in the Machair and are seen every year by guests in the garden.

Read more about Corncrakes in our blog post 

Both Common and Grey seals can be seen in the Western Isles.

They are often swimming in the bay and you can see them from the kitchen window. On Berneray they can be seen resting on the rocks.

In Autumn about The Monach Isles are home to about 10,000 Grey Seals which come ashore to have their pups. Boat trips can be arranged to visit the Monach Isles and for wildlife watching trips around the coast.

A local wildlife expert, Steve Duffield runs wildlife watching excursions. Please visit Western Isles Wildlife for details.

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