If you're a fan of the BBC series Highlands – Scotland’s Wild Heart you might want to learn more about Handa Island, the amazing reserve that hosts the vast colonies of sea birds featured in the programme.
Handa Island is a nature reserve owned by the Scourie Estate and managed in partnership with the Scottish Wildlife Trust. It's formed from ancient Torridonian sandstone that provides stable ledges that host around 100,000 nesting birds each summer.
Our dedicated team of Rangers and volunteers are the stewards of the internationally reserve from April to August.
An important colony for breeding seabirds
Handa Islands features stunning coastal views and internationally important populations of seabirds.
Guillemots breed here in their thousands, with 56,000 recorded during the last count in 2010. These huge numbers make Handa one of the most important sites for the species in Europe.
Puffins are best seen around the 116 metre tall Great Stack from May to July. The island is also one of the most important sites in Scotland for breeding Arctic and great skuas.
The seabirds that breed on Handa, and the rest of Scotland, are dependent on the availability of food and habitat in the waters where they spend most of their year. This is one reason why the Trust is campaigning for Living Seas, with a network of protected areas that safeguard marine life.
Other wildlife highlights
The stone path around the island offers great views out to sea. There are lots of chances to see dolphins, whales and basking sharks off the coast.
During summer the island is abuzz with bumblebees, dragonflies and butterflies, as well as an exciting selection of ferns and flowers.
Lizards are often seen basking on the board walks, and frogs, toads and newts can be found in the lochs. If you are lucky you might see otters splashing off Boulder Bay.
People – past and present
The last full time inhabitants of Handa left the island for Nova Scotia in 1846.
Today the only residents are a dedicated team of Scottish Wildlife Trust Rangers and volunteers who stay in a small bothy between April and August. The team is led by Danni Thompson and Tom Ovenden.
They carry out vital work including bird surveys and path maintenance. Earlier this year they collected three boat loads of rubbish that had washed up on the island's south-west beaches.
The team welcomes 5,000 visitors to the island every year. They are on hand to make sure that people get the most of out their visit, and also make sure that visitors don't disturb the wildlife that inhabit this special wild place.