South Uist in the Outer Hebrides
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The Isle of South Uist

Hebrides Wildlife

If you love nature then the Western Isles is a perfect place to visit. What follows is a tongue in cheek overview of the distinctive species of the Islands.

The peat lochs are full of the elusive, powerful and beautiful brown trout [Salmo Trutta] with no traces of course fish in the islands at all. Salmon and Sea Trout are increasing in numbers and are present in the many sea lochs and estuaries.

Brown trout have quite distinct markings, rather like a signature, in all of the lochs. Very dark skin with bright red markings signify a peaty loch inhabitant whereas machair fish tend to be paler. A fish from a Loch Caslub will differ to a fish from Loch Fada and so on.

Many years ago Rainbow Trout [Salmo Gairdneri] were introduced to a Loch in Benbecula, known affectionately to local boys as 'The Rainbow Trout Loch' or 'The Easy Loch'. Captain John Kennedy's famous tome '70 Lochs' will reveal its exact location.

It is hard to take a photo of a brown trout in the water, this poor chap fell foul to a 10g Toby lure.

Red Deer [Cervus elaphus] are common throughout the Uists, during the summer they graze in the moor land and in winter they can be seen venturing closer into the local townships in search of food.

An eerie sight when you are fishing alone in the moors, in fact this image was taken fairly recently on the banks of Loch Fada, Lochcarnan. There are more images in the photo gallery and another fantastic shot of a herd of deer at Rhuaghaishinish road end

The cute but troublesome Otter [Lutra lutra] lives, dwells and hunts in the many Lochs. His diet consists mainly of fish / mice and unfortunately he has devastated the brown trout numbers in many of the Lochs.

Some famous otters include 'Mij', starring in 'Ring of Bright Water' ~ 1969 and also 'Spade' who starred in 'Tarka the Otter' ~ 1979

An otter can dive up to 55 ft under water, can swim for a quarter of a mile with one breath and hold its breath for 2 minutes. Clever little fellows.

The Red Deer and the Otter are the only native mammals in the Uists, with the remainder being introduced by man.

Grey seals [Halichoerus grypus] are a common sight in the waters surrounding the Isles. On the rocky east shores of the Islands, they bask in the sunshine on rocks and they can look suprisingly human to the unfamiliar eye.

Males can weigh up to 230kg with females reaching 150kg.

As it is now legal for Grey seals to be killed when they damage fishermans nets, it is hardly surprising that they are now considered to be an endangered species.

The hedgehog [Erinaceus europaeus], introduced in 1970 to South Uist to control a local man's slug problem have now increased in numbers to around 5,000.

The hedgehogs having no natural predator on the Isles, has done nothing but breed and eat. An enviable easy life for some.

On emerging from hibernation they feed on the eggs of birds such as the Corncrake , Ringed Plover and Red Shank and have reduced their numbers dramatically over recent years.

By far the most impressive bird of prey is the Golden Eagle [Aquila chrysaetos]. The adult Golden Eagle has a wingspan of 150 - 210 cm and can weigh as much as 11 lb. Their diet consists mainly of rabbits and mice, only taking larger animals if they are injured.

Golden eagles remain with their partners for life and build eyries which can be up to 3 ft in height and as much as 7 ft in diameter.

Lastly, the most famous beasty of them all latin name [Culicoides] - the Midgie.

Now, I have been on the odd fishing trip on the mainland and I have experienced what I call the tame mainland midgie. For those of you out there, there is nothing more fierce than the Uist Midgie.

A word of advice, jungle formula does not work and swearing at them seems to make them worse - but the innocuous 'Avon Skin So Softly' cream is absolute kryptonite to our super midgies. Keeps the midges at bay whilst also giving you baby soft skin. What more could a rugged fisherman ask for. Here endeth the lesson.

On the moors, nobody can hear you scream.

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