The Isle of Harris is a great place for wildlife on land and in the sea. Walking in the hills you may surprise a herd of red deer or a golden eagle, while on the seashore you will meet many interesting birds and sea creatures.
On the skyline above Shalom Cottage you will often see a buzzard gliding lazily along, and croaking ravens doing aerial stunts. You might even catch a glimpse of a peregrine falcon, but as they fly like bullets you’ll need to be quick! Other moorland birds include golden plover with their mournful piping cry, and snipe, which make an eerie sound at dusk by ‘drumming’ with their wings. Out to sea look out for gannets winging their way to and from their breeding colony on St Kilda. These tireless fliers can cover hundreds of miles in a day’s fishing trip, and if there are fish in the Sound you can watch them plummeting vertically into the water, one after the other. Cormorants, shags and divers can all be seen easily from the shore, and with the aid of binoculars on you should be able pick out many other species such as terns, auks, skuas and perhaps even a sea-eagle. Just back towards Leverburgh the tidal creeks at Carminish are home to a variety of waders including curlews, oystercatchers, redshanks and sandpipers.
Look out to sea from Shalom Cottage and you will often see grey seals fishing or just dozing: in still weather listen for the faint chorus of seal song which drifts in from the far skerries where they haul out to bask. The smaller common seals can sometimes be seen lying on the rocks below the road just before Leverburgh harbour. If the sea is smooth you also have a good chance of spotting an otter swimming along quite close to the shore making a V-shaped wake – perhaps the best place to look for otters is near the bridge at Annie’s ruined cottage (next to the Harris tweed plaque). Further out to see if you are really lucky you might see a school of porpoises or occasionally other cetaceans such as Risso’s dolphins or Minke whales.