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Croft Wildlife

My croft includes a stretch of shoreline, which means that I can bird-watch while still observing all the social distancing rules. On a clear day you can see all the way across The Minch to the mainland mountains. There is an abundance of colour and life to observe; the resident birds never fail to bring joy but at this time of year there is always the exciting prospect of spotting the first migrant birds coming from Africa and the Antarctic to breed on the island. Even on a dull day there is always interesting light on the water, and there is always the ubiquitous Oystercatcher somewhere along the shore.

Croft shoreline
Croft shoreline
Croft shoreline
Scottish Mainland Mountain view from the croft

The view across The Minch to the mainland mountains changes constantly depending on cloud and light.

Sea view from the croft
Scottish Mainland Mountain view from the croft
Scottish Mainland Mountain view from the croft
Raven at the foot of the croft

There are some birds you are guaranteed to see, regardless of weather or time of year. The croft ravens are always about and the gulls are ever-present. This particular gull is a greater blackback; it is the largest gull, with a six-foot wingspan, and has distinctive black feathers on its back and upper wings, and a bright red spot on its bill.

Blackback gull
Hooded crows on the croft

The croft attracts graylag geese, who come to graze uninvited; four geese eat as much grass as one sheep, so they are not the crofter's favourite. Fenceposts also provide useful perching posts for a great variety of birds. The disreputable looking specimens above are hoodie crows, which are particular to the Highland & Islands of Scotland. They have grey bodies, black tails, wings and heads, which distinguishes them from the black crows further south.

Geese over the croft
Geese over the croft
Croft in sunlight
Heron on the shoreline

Herons and Shags constantly fish the shoreline. Our herons are highly alert and will fly off with the slightest movement, but the shags are far less bothered, especially when they dry off their wings in their typically heraldic pose.

Shag on the shoreline
Heron over the shoreline
Shags on the shoreline
Young seal on the shoreline

We have a large colony of inquisitive grey and common seals living on broad crags called the Sgeir Leathann, just off the shoreline. They are very curious about all human activity and will often follow you up and down the edge of the croft as you walk, just like this common seal pup who was very interested in the camera. Far more elusive are the gannets. They are not a daily visitor to the bay, but on early mornings and evenings when conditions are right you can watch them diving from a good vantage point along the shore.

Gannet on the wing
Buzzard on the croft

Our garden birds are never far away. We have a resident buzzard in the trees, and goldfinches have just started noisily courting and nesting. They are fast and flighty but I managed to get a few shots as they darted about.

Goldfinch in the garden
Goldfinch in the garden
Goldfinch in the garden