I have not long returned from an amazing couple of weeks in Scotland. One of which was spent on the Uists of the Outer Hebrides.
We were based on North Uist at a campsite on the RSPB reserve at Balranald. What an amazing place it is. An abundance of wildlife and stunning scenery.
It has always been a dream of mine to visit the Machairs of the Outer Hebrides and they certainly didn't disappoint.
Machair is a Gaelic word meaning fertile low lying grassy plain. This is the name given to one of the rarest habitats in Europe which only occurs on exposed western coasts of Scotland and Ireland. Machair habitats in the Outer Hebrides run up the western shores of Uist, Harris and Lewis.
Here sand, largely made up of crushed shells, is regularly blown ashore by Atlantic gales. Over time the calcium rich shell sand and traditional Outer Hebrides crofting land practices have led to the development of a mosaic of fertile Scottish grassland habitats renowned for its Outer Hebrides wildflowers, Western Isles birds and insect life.
We saw Shorted Eared Owl and deer on the drive from the ferry to the campsite and a male Hen Harrier whilst I was filling up with fuel at the filling station on Benbecula! (of course I didn't have my camera handy).
Here are few images I took on our travels.
Eriskay (taken from Kilbride Bay, South Uist)
The two stunning (and when we were there deserted) beaches at Clachan Sands.
The wildlife was also amazing. I have never seen so many ground nesting birds before.....including :-
and even juvenile Lapwing
I live on the Powys/Shropshire border near to Oswestry and I haven't seen any Lapwings there for about 5 years. So to see them on the Machairs was fantastic.I realise that Crofting on the Outer Hebrides is totally different way of farming to the intensive farming in England/Wales and that farmers need to make a living but surely that must be some sort of happy medium possible. We just need to leave some space so our wildlife can live alongside of us. Not be driven it to extinction by us.
All of the pictures above have one other thing in common. There is wildflowers in each image. Wildflowers like I very rarely see on the mainland UK, and apparently I was even seeing the Machairs at their best. "You should have seen the wildflowers a fortnight ago" was what I heard more than once!!!
(It's amazing how often you hear that or a variation of that when it comes to looking for wildlife)
I also had the good fortune to see :-
and Short Eared Owl
and the amazingly feisty Arctic Tern who were also nesting on the Machairs.
Harbour Seal too.
What a truly amazing & inspiring place. I can't wait to go back and see a truly wild place.
Oh and I nearly forgot...I nice sunset at Eileen Donan Castle on the way home.