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  • Photograph of Corn Crake

    Corn Crake on North Uist, by Jon Hornbuckle.

    OUTER HEBRIDES

    Best Wildlife in the Outer Hebrides

    Mammals
    (Eurasian) Otter, Common and Grey Seals, and Red Deer. Also, the Shiant Islands are the only place in the British Isles where Black Rat still occurs, apart from one to two small islands in the Firth of Forth.

    Birds
    The species listed here are usually present during the northern summer.

    Specialities
    White-tailed Eagle, Corn Crake, Black Guillemot and ‘real’ Rock Dove. Also a chance of White-billed Diver (appears to be a regular spring migrant, at least off the island of Lewis), Red-necked Phalarope, and, while seawatching in suitable conditions (a change of wind direction after wet weather fronts, from south/southwest to west/northwest), Manx Shearwater, (European) Storm and Leach’s (Storm) Petrels, and Long-tailed and Pomarine Skuas (skua numbers usually peak during mid-May).

    Others
    Whooper Swan, ‘real’ Greylag Goose, Common Eider, Red-breasted Merganser, Red-throated Diver, (Northern) Gannet, Hen Harrier, Golden Eagle, Merlin, (European) Golden Plover, (Northern) Lapwing, (Eurasian) Curlew, Redshank, (Common) Snipe, Dunlin, Arctic and Little Terns, Arctic Skua, Short-eared Owl, (Northern) Wheatear, Corn Bunting and Twite. Also a chance of Long-tailed Duck, Red (Willow) Grouse, Red (Willow) Grouse, Black-throated and Great Northern Divers, Greenshank and Great Skua. For all the latest news on birds and other wildlife see Western Isles Wildlife.

    Plants
    The flora includes that of the machair; wind-blown shell sand mixed with peat, which is cultivated and sown with oats and potatoes in places, but full of many wild flowers elsewhere. Here and in other habitats such as bog and moor the plants include Early Marsh, Hebridean Marsh, Northern Marsh, Heath Spotted and Lesser Butterfly Orchids, and Common Twayblade.

    Best Sites for Wildlife in the Outer Hebrides

    South of South Uist lie the islands of Eriskay, Barra, Mingulay and Berneray, where similar species occur, and rarities are regular, especially on Barra.

    Best Times for Wildlife in the Outer Hebrides

    May and especially June is the best time to be in the Outer Hebrides. Corn Crakes usually arrive from late April, mostly from mid-May and are much more difficult to see after June. The first half of June is usually the time when the flower-rich machair of the Outer Hebrides is at its best.

    Recommended Books etc. for the Outer Hebrides

    Collins Bird Guide by L Svensson et al. Collins, 2010 (Second Edition).

    RSPB Handbook of Scottish Birds by P Holden and S Housden. Featherstone Education, due May 2016 (Second Revised Edition).

    Birds of Europe by L Jonsson. Helm, 1999.

    Where to Watch Birds in Scotland by M Madders and J Welstead. Helm, 2002 (Fourth Edition).

    Mammals of Europe, North Africa and the Middle East by S Aulagnier et al. Helm, 2009.

    The Butterflies of Britain and Ireland by J Thomas and R Lewington. British Wildlife Publications, 2014 (Third Edition).

    Wild Flowers of Britain and Ireland by M Blamey, R Fitter and A Fitter. Bloomsbury, 2013 (Second Edition).


    Apps etc.

    Collins Bird Guide.

    RSPB eGuide to British Birds.

    iBird UK & Ireland Guide to Birds.

    Birds of Britain and Ireland.

    Bird Id - British Birds.

    Birder - Guide to Birds of Britain and Ireland.

    Where to watch birds in Europe & Russia by N Wheatley. Helm, 2000.

    Don’t know which country/countries/regions to visit in Europe? Then it may be worth considering taking a look at this book, written by this website’s author. It is many years old of course but it still provides a starting point, an overview and a guiding light to the best birds and the best places to look for them in the region, and could save hours of searching for similar information on the internet. However, it is important to check more up-to-date sources for sites which have been opened up, sites and species which have been discovered, lodges that have been built etc. since the book was published.

    Trip Reports for the Outer Hebrides

    Many trip reports, some for the Outer Hebrides, are posted on the websites listed here. On some of these websites some reports are independent and some are posted by tour companies who organize tours to the Outer Hebrides. These tour companies and others also post their own reports on their websites, which are listed under 'Some Organized Tours to the Outer Hebrides' below.

    Local Guides and Tours in the Outer Hebrides

    The costs of organized tours partly reflect the quality of the tour leaders. Some leaders are certainly better than others and many companies claim their leaders are the best but even the best rely at least to some extent on the exceptional skills of the local guides they employ. If you are travelling independently, employing such local guides will greatly increase your chances of seeing the wildlife you wish to see.

    Accommodation in the Outer Hebrides

    Some Organized Tours to the Outer Hebrides

    There are many tour companies who organize tours to see mammals, birds, other wildlife and other natural wonders. The cost of these tours vary considerably according to such variables as the airlines used, the number of days the tours last, the number of sites visited, the number of people in the group (an important consideration if you wish to see such wildlife as rainforest mammals and birds), the number of tour leaders, the standard of accommodation and transport, and the percentage profit the company hopes to make. Generally, where the number of days tours last and the number of sites visited are similar, the cheapest tours are those that use the cheapest airlines, accommodation and local transport, that have the largest groups with the least number of leaders, and that make the least amount of profit. The most expensive tours tend to be those which are exceptionally long, use the most expensive accommodation (ridiculously lavish in some cases, even for single nights) and which make the most profit. Some tour costs partly reflect the quality of the tour leaders. Some leaders are certainly better than others and many companies claim their leaders are the best but even the best rely at least to some extent on the exceptional skills of the local guides they employ.

    While tour companies organize tours with set itineraries many also organize custom tours for individuals and private groups who instead of taking a tour with a set itinerary want to follow their own itinerary to suit their own personal tastes, whether it be mammals, birds, other wildlife, other natural wonders or even man-made attractions, or a mixture of them all. Many organized tours with set itineraries are also fast-paced and target as many species as possible, whether they are mammals, birds or other wildlife or everything, which usually leaves little time to enjoy the best sites and individual species, but on a custom tour those taking part can specify the pace and the sites and species they wish to concentrate on. Custom tours also suit people who like to travel with people they already know, rather than with a group of strangers, and they are popular with people with partners with different interests. Individuals, partners and small groups will almost certainly have to pay more for a custom tour than an organized tour with a set itinerary but a large group of friends may be able to travel for less than the price quoted for a set tour.

    Tour companies who run organized tours to the Outer Hebrides include the following. Many of these also offer custom tours.