THE WILDLIFE OF LISMORE

Lismore Sept 2014 046

I spent four glorious days nature-spotting on the Scottish island of Lismore last week, and the location lived up to its reputation for being a hidden gem for wildlife.  Situated in the Inner Hebrides on the west coast of Scotland, with Mull to the south-west and the Isle of Jura to the south, it has a very fertile, lush landscape which hosts a surprising level of bio-diversity, given that it covers little more than nine square miles.  You’ll find evidence of this in some of my photos below.

The habitats available are equally varied, ranging from sheltered coastal coves, steep cliffs and pebble beaches, to rugged hill farms and boggy moor-land, dense pockets of deciduous forest and sheltered furrows of field and meadow.  My main aim was to get close-up photos and remote camera footage of the resident otters and visiting sea eagles, which fly over from their nests on Mull.  The latter proved elusive, but the otters came out to greet us as soon as we arrived at our secluded cottage close to the water’s edge in a sheltered cove.

Having just dropped our luggage on the doorstep, we looked out over the bay to see two otters swimming together, and they were heading in our direction!  I grabbed the camera and stumbled over the uneven grass and limestone to where the field jutted out slightly above the craters of rock-pools below.  A few rushed snaps later on my stomach and it looked like they had caught something and were coming ashore.  They swam out of sight, but I guessed they were in the inlet just to the left of me, judging by the faint squeaks I could hear.  Luck was on my side and as I crawled up to the small cliff edge once more, I finally got a close encounter with two wild otters, as they munched their way through a couple of crabs and sniffed the jaggy, seaweed-covered slate shore.

They soon sensed my presence after the first click of the shutter and the juvenile male dived back into the sea, whereas what we think was his mother proceeded to stare at me for five seconds before doing the same.  They both continued to look over their shoulder as they made their speedy getaway, reminding me how curious these creatures are.  Unfortunately, despite my best attempts with the remote trail camera and a few hours spent perched at the shore, we didn’t see them again.  However, the remote camera is still there, so fingers crossed it captures them at some point.

We had to wait much longer to see the white-tailed eagles, despite hearing them numerous times over the hillside behind us.  When we did eventually spot them, there were three circling in the blue sky ahead of us.  One broke away and flew right over us.  They are becoming a more common sight over Lismore and have been a real reintroduction success story following fruitful breeding programmes.

Other fauna highlights included sporadic sightings of enquiring common seals, enticed closer by our voices, groups of porpoises, a frog that nearly made its way into the cottage, a baby toad found on the roadside, a vast array of bird life, including shags, stonechats, herons and a curlew; and a few butterflies, grasshoppers and caterpillars.  I had hoped to attract hedgehogs, but the only signs of them were road- kill, although their numbers appear strong here compared with much of the mainland.

So a productive few days and somewhere I will definitely be back to visit.  Hopefully I will have some remote camera footage from there soon.

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