Tales from Grey Haven - Part 1
Updated: Mar 26, 2020
Hebridean Adventures have recently taken on a house as our base in the Outer Hebrides at Aird, a small community towards the end of the Point peninsula north of Stornoway, and within sight of Tiumpan Head and its lighthouse. Our wildlife guide Muriel is resident there now, having returned from working the winter whale watching season in Norway, and is enjoying getting out now and discovering the variety of wildlife to be found in the area and further afield. Having named the house 'Grey Haven' (a nautical Lord of the Rings reference!), she is now starting a regular blog to share her discoveries, thoughts, artwork and photographs and we hope you will follow along.
This is a truly stunning place to live in! I woke up to an orange sea and purple mountains, my neighbours, the friendly ewes (female sheep), gathered around their feeding spot. I did the same thing and sat by my table and ate my breakfast. Sometimes I wonder if those ewes know how beautiful their home is, because every now and then I watch them looking out on the ocean. It is quite peaceful if one’s first thought of the day is how ewes see the world and if they feel beauty in the same way we do? With no answer but knowing that the weather will hold for a while, I decided to go out and see what wildlife I could find.
The cliffs that are only a couple of minutes walk away from the house, are home to so many animals and I was determined to find at least a couple of them. Shortly after I left the house I was surrounded by gulls. They were busy flying past me and I was happy to watch them fly so lightly over the waves. All of a sudden, I heard a commotion behind me and the gulls were shrieking and calling. As I turned around, I was quite impressed with the large shadow gliding past me, so close I could see his face. A juvenile white-tailed eagle! Quickly I started to take pictures, since I had no idea that the eagle was going to be there, my camera was not set to take pictures against the bright sky. I was happy that I at least got one picture to work with. As I saw him disappear behind the cliffs followed by a fleet of gulls, I had to pinch myself to believe that this actually happened. I took a deep breath of the ocean breeze and felt overly lucky to see this beauty so close to home, knowing of the struggles of so many around the world.
A call of a gull got me out of my thoughts, and she seemed to start to defend her home. Thankfully it was not me it called at intentionally as it harassed another gull flying by and escorted the intruder out of “its” territory. Within the same hour I had fulmars and gannets flying past, and on the water I saw the first razorbills and common guillemots that are slowly returning back to their nesting grounds. There was even a small duck that I had first seen in Norway - a long-tailed duck had made his way into the bay.
As the battery in my camera was going down and I had already pretty pictures of the day, I walked back to the house. Thankfully I decided to take the way along the cliffs to go home. Just when I thought the morning couldn’t get better, movement on the rocks caught my eye. I used the big lens on my camera to have a look and I couldn’t believe what I saw. An otter sitting on the rock, chewing on a fish tail and even close enough to take nice pictures. All of a sudden, the otter ducked down, but why? Behind a nearby rock a second otter had sneaked towards the other one. Will they fight over the fish tail or are they actually together? After a short sniff the two decided that a fight was not needed, and it seemed like they knew each other. Together they disappeared behind the rocks. Now that was something!
Quite overwhelmed with what I just saw, and very thankful for the short glimpse I got of their lives, I sat on the moss and just waited to see if that was it, or if they would return. There, one otter jumped back up and sniffed around. I took a few more pictures before two more jumped up and joined the first one! Three! I screamed inside. Silently I took as many pictures as I could, really it doesn’t get that much cuter! They whistled as otters do and ran along the rocks, swimming in little puddles along the way. As they disappeared, I was just sitting grinning on my patch of soft moss not caring how cold it actually was and so happy my heart could burst. Now my camera battery sign started to blink - for the ones who don’t have a camera, if the battery sign blinks, it’s almost empty and one only has minutes left. Just as I moved to stand up, mama otter jumped up and had a huge fish in her mouth! What is happening! Again only screaming in the inside. I was so baffled that the first few pictures turned out blurry. When I sat down again I was actually able to take some of my most amazing otter pictures ever!
Thank you universe, for this amazing morning! I really can’t quite put it in words how nice this day was but the need to share it felt more important than ever. Good and happy news is so rare these days, but much needed. May the otter story and my pictures cheer your day up a bit.
Stay safe and take care,
P.S. Here are a few more of my photographs of the birds I saw too - a gannet, oystercatchers and a fulmar.