Today is Peter’s birthday and he opened the cards and presents from the family (including a splendid hand-painted one from Charlie and Lucy).


Weather was chilly but at least not raining as we met at 10am at the RSPB visitor centre just a few hundred yards away from the campsite here at Balranald.  There was to be a guided walk with one of their wardens around the Reserve.  There was already a sizeable crowd there – mostly oldies like us and all dressed in the uniform of birdwatchers (or indeed anyone who comes to the Hebrides at this time of the year) namely anoraks, sturdy shoes and woolly hats.  Oh, and some women with those ridiculous lightweight pairs of walking sticks which seem to be de rigeur these days in the southern counties.

Our guide was a pleasant Geordie who had been here for 20 years but had not lost his accent.  As we walked around the area, he explained the way things were managed out here.  The RSPB don’t actually own any of the land at all – they work in co-operation with the crofters and suggest ways in which the land can be managed to benefit all of the wildlife.  Crops are grown in a rotational system which involves two years cereal growing and two years fallow.  When it comes to harvest time, the crop is cut from the centre outwards.  This means that any wildlife can escape easily.  This is an important area for Corncrakes (heard but not seen by us so far) and some fields are left uncut so that they can hide in the vegetation.  Numbers of Corncrakes have improved in recent years thanks to this decision.  No pesticides are used – the reason that the fields in this part of the world are always covered in wild flowers – Field Pansies, Cranesbill, Birdsfoot Trefoil, Silverleaf etc.





As we walked, we saw Snipe and the usual Oyster Catchers, Lapwings, Redshank, Twite and Meadow Pipits.


Passing a red postbox, he explained that the unusual flap over the slot that you see in these parts is to stop starlings nesting in them!  At first, they tried putting a nestbox next to the postboxes but all that happened was that the starlings used both of them!  A flap was designed and now all postboxes have them.  Simples!


We walked along the beach (unfortunately rather wet – our walking boots are not water-proof!) and saw the usual waders and also some Eiders but we weren’t really close enough to take any decent pictures but I managed to get this shot of a couple of Bar-Tailed Godwits flying past.


DSC_7990 DSC_8031One nearby croft has a large herd of cows, many calves and a contented looking bull!



Walking in the wind was a bit exhausting and we were feeling hungry, having forgone breakfast, so we headed off for the Claddach Kirkebost café a few miles down the west coast.  We had read of its good food at reasonable prices.  It was a simple café with a great view of the Kirkebost Islands, just offshore, and we thoroughly enjoyed our ‘birthday’ lunch of homemade soup (Peter had Mushroom and Ginger while I had ham and lentil with a savoury scone) and smoked trout salad (me) and smoked salmon with baked potato (Peter).  The salmon was peat smoked and in huge chunks!  We were rather full up by this time so decided to drive around the lochs and return for slices of Capuccino Cake – delicious.

Some photos taken around the lochs and the port at Lochmaddy:

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The highlight of the day, wildlife-wise was the family of Greylag Geese with their newborn goslings – see featured image above.  In fact, I think there were probably two families.  We also spotted another Golden Eagle but only at a distance.

Sunset at the campsite hopefully foretells the good weather expected for tomorrow – we are keeping our fingers crossed!