Wildlife Walks on the Isle of Eigg

Under bright blue skies on the 29 May, the Scottish Wildlife Trust ranger, Norah Barnes, led a wildlife walk on the Isle of Eigg. Norah was joined by 13 enthusiastic people and four volunteers. They came to witness this special island, part of the Inner Hebrides, which offers a unique blend of natural beauty, rich history, and diverse wildlife. We explored Eigg’s enchanting forestry, the mysterious Giant’s Footprint, and the serene Laig Beach.

We started the walk at the old shop, as we do every Wednesday, with introductions to the island, its ecology, and the Scottish Wildlife Trust’s efforts for its conservation. At the start of the walk, we asked the people what they were most excited to see, and many said the eagles and harriers. Lo and behold, a rare and astonishing sighting: a pair of white-tailed eagles flew overhead to the awe and amazement of us all. These majestic birds, the UK’s largest bird of prey and a protected species, heralded the wonders we were about to encounter. We also saw a grey heron in flight over the woods across from us, one of the only pair nesting on the island currently. To make full use of our collective luck, we mentioned all the other species we’d like to see during this walk and continued!

We strolled to the start of the forestry, an ongoing project where residents are re-wilding an old conifer plantation into a more diverse woodland. At this time of year, the walk to the gate is scattered with special flowering plants significant to both pollinator species and Scottish heritage, like tormentil, heath bedstraw, silverweed, speedwell, and many more. As we led our group past the gate, through the recovered SSSI bog site, we were surrounded by a symphony of birdsong. The SSSI designation has helped improve the habitat since 2000, after the island gained community ownership in 1997. Norah pointed out various bird species, including blackcaps and willow warblers.

© Tannavi Kamur

After that, we followed the forestry path past the Eigg tree nursery, where the life of this woodland renews. The undergrowth teemed with life, the vibrant hues of wildflowers, heather, and sphagnum moss carpeting the floor added splashes of colour to our path. We then set up the scope Norah carried to search for the elusive hen harriers. We spotted them soaring majestically above the cliffs, their aerodynamic feats a sight to behold.

We continued over the forestry and found a perfect spot on top of the cliffs that exhibited the whole northern part of the island facing us. Overlooking this breath taking landscape, we sat down for one of the most picturesque lunch spots on the island.

© Tannavi Kamur

The reveal of a Giant’s Footprint
Emerging from the woodland area, we approached one of Eigg’s most intriguing natural formations: the Giant’s Footprint. This large, foot-shaped depression in the rock is steeped in local folklore, said to have been left by a giant who once roamed these lands. The footprint shaped lake is a product of ancient volcanic and ice-age activity that is a treasure of biodiversity, as Norah explained. Before seeing this geological wonder, we spotted a beautiful speckled yellow moth, which was only the beginning of the unique wildlife this habitat presents. The lake is an ideal place for many birds to nest, including mallard ducks, greylag geese, and a returning pair of little grebes. Although the little grebe is more common in other parts of the UK, this is the only pair seen on the Isle of Eigg, returning for some years. We used the scope one more time to try and spot the pair, and perhaps their chick if we were lucky. After scanning for some time, our sharp lookout Norah spotted the grebe wading between the beautiful bogbean and waterweed surrounding the small floating islands on the lake. As it dived and rose, dancing between the deep green of the bogbean stalks, it swam across reflections of the sky showing shades of blue and white, and passed the four-spot chaser dragonflies darting above.

© Tannavi Kamur

Serenity at Laig Beach
After leaving the little grebe, our destination was the tranquil Laig Beach, an expanse of dark sand and turquoise waters. This beach is also a haven for wildlife and a place of stunning beauty. Walking along the shoreline, we observed a variety of coastal birds such as oystercatchers, sandpipers, and ringed plovers that sometimes nest within its expanse. We also spotted many grey wagtails and rock pipits hopping merrily between the rocks and looking curiously our way. Over the streams that flow into Laig Bay at both ends of the beach, you can often see barn swallows and sand martins darting past at astonishing speeds. Looking above, we also caught sight of a bird of prey and hurriedly checked through our binoculars to find a large buzzard flying over the grassy fields of buttercups and hare above the beach.

© Tannavi Kamur

Throughout the walk, we shared insights about Eigg’s unique ecosystems and conservation efforts. The island is a pioneering example of sustainable living, with its community-owned status and renewable energy initiatives. This commitment to preserving natural heritage ensures that Eigg remains a sanctuary for both wildlife and visitors alike.
Assisting on this wildlife walk as a volunteer was an enriching experience, allowing me to connect deeply with nature and share that connection with others. The Isle of Eigg, with its captivating landscapes and vibrant wildlife, is a place of wonder that I was grateful to help others discover. For anyone seeking to connect deeply with nature, witness the intricate dance of wildlife, or have a tranquil respite from city life, a visit to the Isle of Eigg with the Scottish Wildlife Trust is an experience not to be missed.

Tannavi Kamur, Isle of Eigg volunteer

Guided walks on Eigg take place every Wednesday from May to August. Head over to our events page to find out more.

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Under bright blue skies on the 29 May, the Scottish Wildlife Trust ranger, Norah Barnes, led a wildlife walk on the Isle of Eigg. Norah was joined by 13 enthusiastic …

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