Wings over Skye

June 19, 2013



The two young White-tailed Sea Eagles were heading North with a purpose, and for a very good reason.  Young, and a little naive, they’d inadvertently drifted into a Golden Eagle territory, and the residents weren’t happy! 

The male Golden Eagle appeared suddenly from behind the brow of the hill and gave chase.  Luckily for them the young Sea Eagles had a slight advantage in height.  Using the updrafts they started circling, keeping just out of reach of their pursuer, who was frantically trying to keep up using powerful wing beats. Sufficient height reached, they made a bee line to the forest. The Golden Eagle pulled up – job-done – for the forest marked the boundary of his territory and he was now happy just to circle and show off his dominance. As the two youngsters crossed back into no man’s land, four of their compatriots rose up off the skyline to meet them, the six Sea Eagles riding the thermals together as they drifted out of sight.

It sounds like the script for a nature documentary doesn’t it!  But there was no narration voiced over this spectacle, and instead of being played out on a television screen, it was there live in front of our group, here on the Isle of Skye.

Wildlife in Scotland

Scotland has a wealth of wildlife to delight and amaze visitors, from seabird colonies on the coasts to the hidden depths of ancient woodlands, from the rich diversity of the sea to the tops of the highest mountains, from moorland to machair.

white tailed eagle scotland

There is one particular place that should be on every wildlife enthusiast’s itinerary, the Isle of Skye.  But we are forgotten as a wildlife destination, actually I’ll rephrase that: Skye is not really known for its wildlife …. It would be easy to blame Flora MacDonald and Bonnie Prince Charlie for the historical aura that surrounds the island.  Also the stunning Trotternish ridge alongside the world famous Old Man of Storr, The Quiraing, The Needle and The Prison!  I’ll also point out the draw of the Cuillins, undoubtedly Scotland’s most dramatic mountain range. With so much to offer it’s hardly surprising the wildlife here has been overlooked!  I’d like to redress the balance a little.

“I’m off to the Outer Hebrides,” the birdwatcher announced, “I really want to see a Golden Eagle and there’s supposed to be a good place to get a sighting  that I’ve heard about.” Skye it seemed was just a stop off on his quest to see these magnificent birds. Probably prompted by my slightly quizzical look he continued, “Do you ever see any here on Skye?”. I paused to recall my recent sightings. “I’ve seen 42 in the last two weeks,” I replied. The phrase “you could have knocked him over with a feather” sprang to mind!

It wasn’t a boast, simply a matter of fact.  You see, Skye is probably the best place in Scotland to see its most iconic bird.  We have one of the densest populations here, and better still you don’t even need to hike for miles into the mountains.  All my sightings come from the roadside or are just a short stroll along a well trodden path.  And the best thing about that of course, is there is no disturbance at all to the birds.  Living in harmony with nature is the key, and using the experience of the many tour operators and boat trips that operate throughout Scotland, is a great way to get that close up view of nature, to both your benefit and that of the wildlife.

whited tailed eagle

But it’s not just Golden Eagles, we have Scotland’s largest population of Sea Eagles here too. You can sit on the shore and watch Otters, Minke Whales, Dolphins, or take to the moors and look for Hen Harriers and Short-eared Owls. Visit the croft lands to seek out Corncrakes and Twite. And there’s much much more.

So instead of just watching wildlife documentaries on TV why not come to Scotland to experience the thrill of nature at first hand?  There are many famous destinations, Abernethy, the Cairngorms, Bass Rock, you can’t go wrong really. But why not add the Isle of Skye to your itinerary . . . yes I know it’s got a romantic history, stunning scenery, dramatic mountains, great accommodation, historic castles . . . but the wildlife’s not bad too!  Why even the Pine Martins saw the attraction and crossed the Skye Bridge to set up home.

Andy McLean

Andy runs Isle of Skye Wildlife Tours ( offering daily tours of Skye to see the magnificent resident, and migratory, wildlife. Facebook Page




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