The Uists, and Outer Hebrides as a whole, are recognised internationally as being of global importance for its vast and varied rich habitats and wildlife presence. The archipelago is one of the last remaining true wildernesses in Scotland and is visited year round by those with specific interests in what have become rare species elsewhere in the UK. (Image: Steve Duffield)
The unique methods of ploughing, cropping, fertilising and grazing the land create a diverse patchwork of habitats, which in turn support a wide range of plants and animals. Traditionally, a mixed grazing regime, and cropped land worked on a two to three year cycle, and grazed over winter, has benefits for the rich machair flora and wildlife.
There is plenty of opportunity to explore the natural environment from Lionacleit Guesthouse and we can provide a booklet detailing routes for walks (or cycles/drives) we have enjoyed ourselves which give a sample of what there is to see. These walks range from 2 hour trips along the machair and beaches, to full day expeditions into some of the remotest areas, which offer the best chances of seeing some of the more glamorous wildlife (Golden eagles and sea eagles for instance).
We would also recommend that visitors who are interested in wildlife pursuits contact Steve Duffiled for a professional tour. Western Isles Wildlife Tours are the only company to be based in the islands throughout the year and are therefore in a unique position to provide the most excellent and up to date knowledge leading to the best tours you can get. Steve can offer either five day all inclusive excursions or, for those who would like to find their own accommodation, there are customised tours to fit your needs.
While out and about always keep your eyes peeled for the unexpected – otters crossing the roads or paddling in the shallow fords, seals laid up on rocks, and eagles perched on fence posts and telegraph poles surveying their hunting ground. Often you will see something when you least expect it, even while eating your breakfast in the morning from the dining room!
In the immediate vicinity of the Guesthouse you can hope to see those listed below;
Otters, sometimes can be seen in the sea loch and overflow burns opposite the main house. Mute Swans are resident most of the year in this loch. Red Deer can be regularly seen at the eastern end of the croft grazing around dusk and dawn.
Birds spotted during 2009 include;
- Short Eared Owl (Asio flammeus), Male and Female Hen Harrier (Circus cyaneus), Mature Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos), Corncrake (Crex crex), Grey Wagtail (Motacilla cinerea), Oystercatcher (Haematopus ostralegus), Sedge Warbler (Acrocephalus schoenobaenus), Snipe (Gallinago gallinago), Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus), Redwing (Turdus iliacus), Redshank (Tringa tetanus), Song Thrush (Turdus philomelos), Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea) and Greylag Goose (Anser anser), Scottish Crossbill (Loxia Scotia) and Wren (Troglodytes Troglodytes) (Image: Steve Duffield)
The telegraph poles and fence posts are often a good place to sport birds pausing for a rest in the low lying areas, near or on the machair. (Image: Pauline Greenhaugh)
Fulmars (Fulmarus glacialis), well known in the Hebrides for their association with St Kilda can be seen in many places with suitable cliff edges during the summer breeding season. Dont get too close though - they will spit at you!
We had a very rare sighting of a Red Eyed Vireo (Vireo olivaceus) at our croft on 1st October 2005. Native to the Americas, this species breeds from British Columbia, central Manitoba, central Ontario, southern Quebec, and the Maritimes, south to Florida, central Texas and northern Oregon. During the winter it migrates to South America. This one seemed to have been lost!
There has been another rare sighting nearby on the 4th October 2005 of an Upland Sandpiper at the Lionacleit Machair, opposite Borve Castle. Again, this birds seems to have become lost during migration as it normally is found in Kansas, NW Alaska and Argentina.
During May 2009 one of our guests recorded sighting 76 birds species in one day including all seven rapturs that can be found in the Uists. In June 2009 we were amazed to see a male Scottish Crossbill in our garden feeding on our dog rose bushes. It was considered that these had been an irruption from the North West Highlands of mainland Scotland to our unusual location crossbills.
The Uists have some of the most diverse landscapes in Scotland. For such a compact geographical area, the range of habitats is huge, which results in an equally vast range of flora and fauna. The Outer Hebrides as a whole contribute 53 sites of Special Scientific Interest as well as a World Heritage Site, 3 National Scenic Areas and 4 national Nature Reserves.