Leading long-range optic specialists, SWAROVSKI OPTIK, has teamed up with David Lambie and Paul Sharman of SKYEFARI, a specialist wildlife watching tour operator based on the Isle of Skye, to offer top tips for spotting five of the UK’s most elusive wildlife species whilst on a staycation in Scotland this year.
Holidays in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland give visitors the chance to spot many of the UK’s most iconic wildlife species living amongst the UK’s most dramatic and beautiful mountain and coastal scenery. These include the Golden Eagle, Red Deer, Otters, the White-Tailed Eagle and Seals which SKYEFARI has dubbed the ‘Skye Five’ and are the main targets of its wildlife tours.
David and Paul’s top tips on spotting and identifying these species are as follows:
1. Keep your eyes on the skies when looking for a Golden Eagle
The sight of a Golden Eagle soaring high over a mountain or along a glen, is the quintessential wildlife experience that many nature enthusiasts hope to see in Scotland. Keep your eyes on the skies for the best chance at spotting this wonderful species as Golden Eagles are most likely to be seen soaring high in the sky, near hills or mountains. Be careful not to fall into the trap of mistaking a Golden Eagle sighting for what we call a ‘tourist eagle’ – a Buzzard. In general, Golden Eagles have a larger wingspan of 6 -7 feet and long broad wings with a longer tail, as well as more obvious ‘fingers’ at the ends. A pair of Swarovski Optik binoculars or spotting scope will help avid birders scan along rocky ridges and the glens for this eagle much more effectively.
2. Head out at dusk for a chance to see Red Deer
Despite their size, Red Deer can be surprisingly hard to spot as they are an animal of the mountains. In summertime they tend to move up into the higher mountain areas where they blend in against the heather and bracken but descend to lower elevations and into the glens once winter returns. No matter the time of year, dusk offers the best time to spot Red Deer because herds become more active and bolder as the relative safety of darkness approaches. Red Deer on Skye often head towards the lower hillsides and the grassy pastures down along the riverbanks to feed.
3. Hide and seek playful Otters
Otters are a wonderful animal to see and watch thanks to their playful nature and Skye is one of the best places to find them due to its abundance of rugged coastline, freshwater streams and lochs. Otters tend to frequent favourite areas and like most wildlife, have keen eyesight so the best way to spot them is from a distance where you can sit quietly against a bank, rock or tree to hide your shape and wait for them to appear. Hides offer great places to spot Otters from and nature lovers visiting Skye should be sure to check out the well-known hide at Kylerhea that looks down over the Narrows across the beautiful Highlands. Don’t forget when following coastal roads, it is worth stopping now and then to scan the water as you may catch a glimpse of an Otter hunting for fish.
4. Spot a White-Tailed Sea Eagle during a trip along Skye’s coast
If you thought the Golden Eagle was the king of the skies then think again! Since the successful reintroduction of White-Tailed Sea Eagles to Scotland this species has several territories spread across the island of Skye. Visitors can spot the UK’s largest bird of prey throughout the day as these birds roam far and wide, effortlessly soaring to save energy. An adult White-Tailed Sea Eagle has a wingspan of 8-feet, as well as a distinctive white tail, pale head and rectangular profile when flying. Keep a watch out on rocks and in tall trees along Skye’s coast as they can often be seen perching near the sea. Or travellers can head to Skye’s popular Otter hide at Kylerhea where White-Tailed Sea Eagles are known to turn up. Should you get the chance to see one close up, you can’t but fail to be impressed.
5. Watch out along Skye’s coastlines to see Seals sunning themselves
Grey and Common Seals (also known as Harbour Seals) are the easiest animals to find during a Scottish staycation due to their love of sunning themselves on Skye’s rocks, remote beaches and coves known as haul-out sites. Some even frequent local harbours looking for an easy meal from fishing boats. Travellers looking out to sea for signs of seals will be able to spot a head bobbing about – a behaviour called bottling and one of the ways seals sleep. Luckily, the seals’ heads give wildlife watchers the best chance of identifying and telling the two species apart. The larger Grey Seals have a long snout with eyes set back at a distance, whereas Common Seals have a much more rounded face with the eyes and nose closer together. They have an obvious forehead which the Grey Seal lacks and ‘V’-shaped nostrils.
The world belongs to those who can see beauty.
Experience the moment!
SEE THE UNSEEN.
Image 1: Otter resting on seaweed-covered rocks. Photo Credit: Muriel Hallé.
Image 2: White-Tailed Sea Eagle taking off from a heather-clad cliffside. Photo Credit: Paul Sharman.
Image 3: Common Seal hauled out on a quiet beach. Photo Credit: Paul Sharman.
ABOUT SWAROVSKI OPTIK
SWAROVSKI OPTIK, headquartered in Absam, Tyrol, is part of the Swarovski group of companies. Founded in 1949, the Austrian company specialises in the development and manufacturing of long-range optical instruments of the highest precision in the premium segment of the market. The binoculars, spotting scopes, rifle scopes, and optronic instruments are products of choice for demanding users. The company’s success is based on its innovative strength, the quality and intrinsic value of its products, and their functional and esthetic design. The appreciation of nature is an essential part of its company philosophy and is reflected commendably in its environment-friendly production and its long-term commitment to selected nature conservation projects. The turnover in 2020 was 163.5 million euros (2019: 158.7 million euros), with an export ratio of 91%. The company has around 1,000 employees.
ABOUT PAUL SHARMAN, DAVID LAMBIE AND SKYEFARI
Paul Sharman is the Business Development Manager for SKYEFARI, a specialist wildlife-watching tour operator based on the Isle of Skye, which offers both full-day and 3-hour night safaris around the island. It’s a natural fit as Paul has also been a published freelance outdoor photographer and writer for over 20 years with wildlife always being a core interest, and a deep love for the Highlands of Scotland where a great many childhood holidays were spent. Originally from Sussex, he now lives near Inverness within easy reach of wildlife hotspots such as the Moray Firth, the West Coast Highlands & Islands like Skye, as well as the Cairngorms to the south.
David Lambie is the owner and wildlife guide at SKYEFARI but also owns and operates the long-established company Stagfire Ecological Surveys for the last 15 years, as well as Hebridean Adventures, a whale and dolphin watching cruise and tour company based in Stornoway. Brought up in the Highlands and Perthshire, there is virtually no corner of the Highlands he has not been to or been in search of birds and mammals, having worked in deer management, conservation and commercial ecology.
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