Balranald Nature Reserve
The day started with lots of clouds and sprinkling rain so it didn’t look promising for our planned walk around Balranald Nature Reserve instead we went into Lochmaddy. The Museum/Cafe wasn’t yet open and it was bitterly cold. A number of people were standing on a viewing landing gazing out at the Little Minch (The ocean between the mainland and the Outer Hebrides) with binoculars and we presumed there was something special to be seen but as soon as the place opened they all came inside. Near the landing was a mosaic sculpture of a Mackerel, there was a Sculpture Trail advertised but the only other one I saw was something about high tide/low tide but it didn’t impress me at all. We had a warm up drink then headed out the road stopping at the Barpa Langass Cairn. It was quite a hike up the hill and there had been a collapse inside it so we couldn’t enter it but just seeing the size of it was worthwhile. There were some Standing Stones up on the next rise but we figured we’d already walked far enough. Alex hurt his Achilles tendon on his golfing jaunt and didn’t want to aggravate it and I just don’t like climbing Uppppp.
When we returned to Hougarry Alex and I went for a walk around the old cemetery. Many of the graves were covered with some kind of Moss which looked like grey/green hair and there were dozens of simple stone markers with no text. After the cemetery we set off for the circular walk around the Balranald Nature Reserve, a Mecca for birdwatchers. As we came out of the cemetery a bird shot across in front of us, making its call, then as we continued along the path we came face to face with a bevy of Twitchers, armed with binoculars and massive long lenses on their cameras. One was excitedly saying, “They heard one. I think I heard one.” Then they stopped for a little conflab before heading up to the ruin of the church beside the cemetery. We continued towards the start of the walk where someone stopped Alex and said, “Is there a Corncrake up there?” Alex had to honestly admit that we weren’t Birdwatchers and had no idea at all. Afterwards of course, we wondered if all the fuss was about the bird that had whizzed past us.
The walk was very enjoyable and the rain held off which was a nice surprise. Not being Birdwatchers we have very little idea of what we saw apart from Oystercatchers, Peewits, Gulls and some ducks but Alex called them all Corncrakes. We had to walk through a field with cows and a bull in it, the first time in my life I’ve ever done that and I was ready to jump off the sand dune and roll down to the beach if necessary. The map told us Otters could be seen at a couple of places but they didn’t put in an appearance for us. I had fun adding bright yellow buoys to the marker cairns to make “Belitia Beacons”. I’ve been stunned by the amount of flotsam littering places, so many old nets, lobster pots, buoys and plastic rubbish of all kinds. There must be fierce storms here judging by the distance from the water that rubbish has been beached.
When we arrived back after our 4.5mile circuit the Twitchers were all still camped by the church ruins, lenses primed!
Back at the B and B there were a couple of Birdwatchers in the Lounge & we chatted. ( The man chatted and we listened) Apparently a Harlequin Duck was seen recently and people have been making bookings here in the hope of seeing it. Naturally we were hoping the ones we’d been watching with total ignorance were Harlequin Ducks but it seems that they were Eider Ducks.
Tomorrow we get the ferry from Berneray to Leverborough on Harris. We’re not sure if there is WiFi in the cottage so there could be a break in blog entries.