Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Hebrides 24: Golden Eagles

The forecast was good for the day, so we decided either to go out on a boat or to visit the Golden Eagle Observatory and Luskentyre Beach.  The plan was to call in at the Ravenspoint hostel since they might be able to help us book a boat trip.  At the very least, they would have a telephone which worked!  The people at the hostel were very helpful, but unfortunately the boat owner was fully booked for the next two weeks.  (We were beginning to spot a pattern here, after our abortive attempt to get out on a boat from Lochboisdale the previous week.)

Since we couldn't go on the boat we went to the North Harris Eagle Observatory, which was supposedly a 2km walk up a track from the shore of a sea loch.  Our reaction was "that's a long 2km", and everyone else seemed to think so too.  Checking later on the map it was clear that the journey was more likely to be 2 miles rather than 2km...

The ranger (employed by the North Harris Trust) was incredibly helpful, and reported that golden eagles had been spotted earlier that morning.  It was simply a matter of waiting, constantly scanning the sky with binoculars.  After being eaten by midges for an hour or so, we saw some red deer stags high up on the hillside.  Shortly thereafter an eagle appeared overhead: an absolutely magnificent creature, which flew over where the stags were standing.  It was a very long way away, though, and a 400mm lens was simply not long enough to capture the scene properly - especially given the dull lighting conditions.  The second picture below is an uncropped version of the first in order to give some idea of how far away the action was!

It was well worth the wait for such a bird, though, and the stags on the hillside were an added bonus.

We waited for another half an hour or so, but since nothing else appeared we walked back to the car and headed into Tarbert to find some lunch.  Entertainment of sorts was provided by the rather sad sight of a VW camper van (of which there were many in the Hebrides) being taken away on a breakdown truck.

Suitably fortified by lunch at an excellent cafe in Tarbert, we set off for one of the "must see" locations on Harris: Luskentyre Beach.  Look out for the next thrilling instalment...