The Western Isles is home to some of the most spectacular wildlife in Europe. Golden eagles, white tailed sea eagles, basking sharks, corncrakes, machair, Atlantic salmon, black throated divers, freshwater pearl mussels, the Lewis peatlands … for a chain of small islands the variety and importance of its natural history is quite astonishing.
Curracag (the Gaelic for lapwing) is the Western Isles Natural History Society. Although it has operated in the past in Lewis and Harris, for many years now its activities have been restricted to the Uists. Now a new branch has been formed, aimed at anyone interested in the wildlife of Lewis and Harris.
Mick Blunt, Area Manager for the John Muir Trust, and one of the people behind the new group, is keen to stress that you don’t need to be a boffin to join. “We’ve set up this Lewis and Harris branch of Curracag because we know how many islanders are fascinated by our wildlife. We want to provide an organisation where anyone, whether renowned expert or complete beginner, can come along, share their knowledge and find out more about our amazing natural world.”
Mick is enthusiastic about the group’s potential: “Our wildlife really is world class, it’s incredibly popular with visitors and yet, until now, there has been no local group on Lewis and Harris helping people to find out about our natural world. Our aim is to develop a friendly and active group where people of all ages can learn more about our wildlife, share the considerable ecological expertise that already exists on the islands, and above all, get out and have fun experiencing our stunning natural environment.”
The group has just launched its spring programme of talks, field trips and events. With activities including a Spring Migration Watch, introductions to machair flowers and the plants & birdlife of the Lewis Peatlands, along with opportunities to learn about and get involved with biological recording on the islands, the programme should appeal to anyone interested in our natural history.
The inaugural event will be a presentation by Robin Reid of the RSPB titled ‘The Return of the Sea Eagle to the Western Isles’. The talk, at 7.30pm on Thursday 7th March at the Bridge Centre, Stornoway, will be a great introduction to this magnificent bird, which is slowly increasing its range around our coasts. Robin has unrivalled knowledge of the island eagle populations, having studied them for many years, and has entertained many in his past role of North Harris Trust ranger with his popular Eagle Walks in the Harris hills.