Because of its wide range of habitats, lack of pollution and humans, together with its place on a number of migration routes, Skye offers a wealth of opportunities to view and enjoy wildlife. From passing sea mammals to rare and unusual birds to stunning (but often overlooked) arrays of mosses and lichens, there is something for everyone.
Take a bit of time if you are at Meadow Cottage to have a look at the stream side plants that are on the bank side next to the garden, or head out to the nearby forestry paths where there are the occasional eagles soaring overhead (both White Tailed and Golden) and a range of small birds (including the exotic looking Crossbills, Redpolls and Bullfinches) flitting through the trees.
From the Cabin, there are eagles again, a range of seabirds, and the occasional Hen Harrier. The relic flora along the wooded cliffs and ravine dates from just after the ice age includes rare orchids and lichens. And then there are the precious views of whales and dolphins during calm weather in late spring and summer.
Before the mechanisation of farming, Corncrakes were heard across Britain. Now they are mostly restricted to the Northwest fringes of the UK, and in particular, the Hebrides. The RSPB and Scottish Natural Heritage have been supporting Corncrake conservation on Skye, and the bird’s curious grating call (a bit like a finger nail across a plastic comb!) can be heard – especially at night - around Trotternish & Waternish - and often from the Cabin. They are extremely secretive, and so a glimpse of one is a rare ....and perhaps a slightly disappointing experience. They are small and a streaked brown colour to blend in with the grass and rushes, rather than a more exotic appearance that their call might suggest.
In a few corners of Skye & Rasaay lurk reminders of wildlife from a rather different era. As Scottish Geology says ....
"Fossilised footprints and bone remains found on the Isle of Skye show that rarely-preserved Middle Jurassic dinosaurs once roamed there. With 15% of all mid-Jurassic discoveries worldwide made on Skye, Scotland’s ‘Dinosaur Isle’ has become an important geological heritage site in recent years. 165 million years ago, the island was part of the huge landmass of Laurentia, which also included North America. In fact, footprint evidence that matches the dinosaur species discovered on Skye have also been found in Wyoming." - (source)
So why not visit the fossils and dinosaur foot prints on the sandstone pavements at Staffin on the North East corner of Skye. There is also a small museum near the road. The Museum is usually open on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays between 10.30 and 13.30, but not in the winter.
You will find the Scottish Fossil Code in this last link - A good guide when searching for fossils.
Jurassic sandstone and limestone patches poke out from beneath the ancient lava in other areas on Skye. A small cliff is visible where the stream meets the sea at Lochbay on Waternish, fairly near to the Cabin. Other Jurassic fossils, including Ammonites are found around Broadford. Another interesting site is at Duntulm, just to the north of Staffin. In 2015, there was a major discovery of fossilised dinosaur footprints on the shore (near NG410738 on the Ordnance Survey map of North Skye) and just south of Duntulm Castle. These prints, visible only at low tide, make up the biggest trackway in Scotland. The prints were made by sauropods, a group of huge, long-necked dinosaurs and so, obviously, are quite large.
Both Meadow Cottage and the Cabin contain a good range of wildlife guides and identification books – some of them specific to Scotland or the Hebrides. There are also OS maps of the Island – waterproof so you can take them out and about. A note book is there for you to record what you have seen, where & when, to enable and inform, and impress others.
If you are interested in a particular aspect of wildlife or wish to see something specific then please just let us know.
Additional information & background reading
There is a very informative local website for birdwatchers, Skyebirds run by Bob MacMillan - http://www.skye-birds.com
He has also produced an excellent book – ‘Skye birds’ that is a useful accompaniment for anyone interested in birds & visiting Skye.
For the serious botanist ....’The Botanist on Skye’ is a detailed & annotated checklist by C.W. Murray & H.J.B. Birks.
The book New Naturalist Hebrides by Boyd & Boyd is one of the best books for an overall naturalist’s picture of the area. Possibly a bit expensive, but your lovely local library may be able to help.
Boat trips focusing on wildlife run from Stein (Divers Eye http://www.divers-eye.co.uk/ ) just over the hill from the Cabin, Portree (Brigadoon Boat Trips http://www.portree-boat-trips.co.uk ), and Carbost (Wild Skye Boat trips http://wildskye.co.uk ).