So on the Friday we went to Handa Island a reserve run by the Scottish Wildlife Trust and staffed by a mix of volunteers and staff.To get there there is a short boat trip (you can see the island behind the boat in the pic below) which lands you at a perfect sandy beach. There is then a quick introductory talk from one of the volunteers and a chance to see the lovely nature table (upper right pic) and you are free to wander the island, as long as you stay on the path (ground nesting birds – skuas in the pics, very wet ground).
It was, despite the reputation of Scotland’s west coast, a lovely day – sunny with a light breeze and warm enough for t-shirts. The island is indescribably beautiful, a mix of Robinson Crusoe sands and towering Atlantic cliffs. And the noise, especially near the cliffs is unbelievable; the cries of the different nesting birds create a sound that somehow combines the torment of souls in hell, rutting dinosaurs and cute little fluffy chicks calling for their parents. Add this to the wails of seals, which are otherworldly but human in a disturbing way (or as the MWRLC put it, ‘the sound of wind over lycra’).
But back to the main event: PUFFINS. Fascinating to watch as they interact with each other a lot. They have that upright, bipedal posture that makes them just slightly human; having a Chaplinesque waddle and an apparent clumsiness that appears somewhere between comic and sad.
A fulmar and chick. Just to the right of the pic is the other parent, very awake and ready to spit.
The source of the otherworldly noise. They really do struggle to get onto this rock.
And guillemots very high on a cliff. Most of the noise was from the guillemots.
It was an absolutely perfect day, there were carnivorous plants aplenty and a fair few things we had to look up. And it was topped off by having a beer called Red Kite (how much better could anything in life get?) on the terrace of a bar overlooking the route to Handa.
Thanks to the MWRLC for the photo. And thanks to both of them and the Scottish Wildlife Trust for such a fantastic day.