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Looking east across Strathaird to Loch Slapin from Am Màm (June 2010) [© Steve Marshall/Wild Future]

Wildlife and Wild Places, Strathaird & Elgol

 

Landscape

Overlaying the limestone and sandstones that form most of Strathaird, including its rocky coast, heather moorland is the dominant cover over much of the peninsula, with areas of blanket bog along the southeast coastal strip, coniferous woodland long the northeast coast and scattered acid grassland. There are several small crofting communities in the south.

 

Species Highlights

Otter • White-tailed Eagle • Golden Eagle • Greenshank • Red Deer • seals • seabirds • cetaceans

Otter

Although there is always a chance of spotting an otter at any point on Strathaird's coast, there are a couple of places around the peninsula where they are regularly seen:

• The coastal path north from Elgol is our favourite; our team had success here in June 2010, watching three otters come up to a presumed holt and, returning again, saw a single otter within an hour, swimming in with a large crab which it promptly ate! We suggest the section under Ben Cleat, 2km north of Elgol (NG519153).

• The rocks around the base of Rubha na h-Easgainne (aka Strathaird Point, NG529111), the most southerly point of the peninsula, is another regular spot.

photo by William Warby under Creative Commons

 

White-tailed Eagle

Whilst the White-tailed Eagle is seen in flight over Strathaird on rare occasions, they are more commonly seen out over the lochs, especially Loch Scavaig, hunting for fish and waterbirds. Although they do breed on Skye - 11 territories in 2007 - none are on Strathaird.

• The coastal path north from Elgol probably offers the best chance of viewing a White-tailed Eagle on Strathaird, out over Loch Scavaig. The team struck lucky with a view of an adult here in June 2010.

• The boat trips from Elgol out to the Small Isles offer good opportunities, with the birds breeding on both Rum and Canna.

photo by Hilary Chambers under Creative Commons

 

Golden Eagle

Most likely to be seen in the north and west of Strathaird over higher ground - the area around Blà Bheinn (Blaven) offers the best chance. However, they may also be seen circling high on thermals over a wider area on still, sunny days.

•  Park on the west side of Loch Slapin (NG561216) and walking up the eastern slopes of Blaven alongside the Allt na Dunaiche waterfalls offers a good walk and possible opportunities.

• Walking from Camasunary up to Loch na Creitheach (NG515211) and beyond may provide opportunities to see Golden Eagles as well as being in the heart of some stunning scenery.

Photo by Tony Hisgett under Creative Commons

 

Greenshank

This elegant wading bird can be seen at the head of Loch Slapin all year round, usually singles in winter but occasionally more during the breeding season. Greenshank breed on dry areas around boggy moorland and peaty pools.

• Park at the loch head (NG563225) and scan the margins with your binoculars. Other waders present may include Oystercatcher and Ruddy Turnstone.

• Listen for the Greenshank's call as you walk over higher ground in the north of the peninsula.

Photo by Hilary Chambers under Creative Commons

 

Red Deer

There are around 230 Red Deer on Strathaird, a lower density than the mainland but still enough to bring good opportunities for seeing them. In recent years, the deer have been mainly concentrated in the east and south-east of the peninsula.

• A walk along the Drinan track, through the crofts and grazing, may bring success.

• Try a walk through Druim an Fhuarain (NG563192) or Ringill (NG561171). There is also a small population of Roe Deer in this area.

• Keep your eyes peeled when driving between Elgol and the head of Loch Slapin.

Photo by Stuart Bassil under Creative Commons

 

Seals

Both Grey Seals (right) and Common Seals can be seen around Strathaird. Common Seals are most likely to be seen close in-shore but the boat trips to Loch Coruisk offers an almost cast-iron guarantee of seeing Grey Seals at their colony in Loch Scavaig.

• The boat trips from Elgol out to the Small Isles offer good opportunities as both species have colonies in the area.

Photo by Johan J. Ingles-Le Nobel under Creative Commons

 

 

Breeding seabirds

Whilst most of the seabirds breed in the north and west of the island or offshore on the Small Isles, all the important local species can be found around the coast of Strathaird:

•  A summer walk around Rubha na h-Easgainne (aka Strathaird Point, NG529111), the most southerly point of the peninsula, will find small colonies of Shags, Black Guillemots and Fulmar on the cliffs and on the offshore stack Eilean na h-Airde.

• Late summer and autumn brings large numbers of several species - Kittiwake, Guillemot and Manx Shearwater - around Strathaird Point.

• The boat trips to the Small Isles offer fantastic views of the Guillemot, Razorbill and Puffin colonies on Canna, with large numbers also of Fulmar, Kittiwake, Shag and Herring Gull.

Photo by Jörg Hempel under Creative Commons

 

Cetaceans

Whilst cetaceans are uncommon close inshore around Strathaird, they are regularly seen around the Small Isles.

• Take a boat trip out to the Small Isles and, whilst seals are almost guaranteed, you may be lucky and see Harbour Porpoise, Common Dolphin, Minke Whale or Basking Shark. The Wild Future team struck lucky on our voyage, seeing a Basking Shark in Canna Sound in June 2010.

Photo by Hilary Chambers under Creative Commons

 

Key Sites

There are two protected areas in Strathaird: the Elgol Coast SSSI, protected for geological and palaeontological reasons (Loch Scavaig is one of the few sites in the world where mammal remains of Middle Jurassic age have been found), and the Cuillins SSSI, one of the UK's most outstanding mountain areas for glacial geomorphology, and notable also for its varied upland habitats and its assemblage of mosses and liverworts.

More general information on the island's wildlife can be in the regional pages.


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