There is no house closer to the sea than the cottage at Baugh, and this fact, coupled with its close proximity to The Reef, a vast orchid-rich grassland reserve famous for its large numbers of breeding wading birds, means that there is an abundance of wildlife throughout the year, especially in Spring and Summer.
The cottage has a growing bird list, with new species added annually, and I guess the highlight of 2008 would have to be the Hen Harrier that flew low over the garden wall in September 2008, whilst I was sunbathing in the back garden. I am not sure who was the more surprised! Hen Harriers are seen regularly from autumn onwards and throughout the winter months, hunting the wild moorland that is only a short distance from our cottage.
Merlin and Peregrines regularly fly across the headland in front of the cottage, hoping to take any unwary wader by surprise, and in the last couple of years, an immature Golden Eagle has been seen in the north of the island in the summer months.
Seabirds sometimes fly very close to the shore, especially with an onshore wind, and occasionally in late summer we observe vast movements of Manx Shearwaters, running into thousands. We also frequently see both Arctic and Great Skuas, the latter especially, as this species is looking to start breeding on Tiree. Wading birds breed in significant numbers on Tiree, and parties of Redshank, Turnstone and Ringed Plovers regularly forage amongst the pebbles and sand at low tide. Whimbrel occurs in small flocks in May, en route for their northern breeding grounds. I suppose Tiree is most notable for its Corncrake population which is of national importance, with the island now boasting over 300 pairs annually, largely as a result of the excellent co-operation between local crofters and the RSPB warden, John Bowler. In early spring and summer, if we leave the bedroom windows open at night, we can hear the rasping Corncrake call from across the inlet, and in 2011 we obtained some lovely pictures of the male that breeds in the marshy ground just a hundred yards from the cottage.
Otters also breed very close to the cottage, and in 2008 we were very lucky to have extended views of a mother otter and her two cubs frolicking in the seaweed from our back garden. They returned again in 2009, and in subsequent years have been seen regularly running along the ruined pier at Baugh – a relic of a time when the port was used to bring in coal for the islanders in the old steam “puffers”.
Hares are plentiful in the flora rich machair and they graze in the machair just beyond the front and back garden walls, as well as in the front garden.
In the summer months large numbers of Basking Sharks migrate north to feed in the plankton rich waters of the Inner Hebrides, and on one morning in 2008 whilst looking out from the back garden, we were astonished to see no less than 38 ploughing slowly back and forth across the bay, their tall triangular dorsal fins clearly visible above the surface of the sea. They can be seen from April onwards, but their date of arrival is usually timed to coincide with the time of the plankton bloom.
The undoubted highlight of 2007 was when a visitor to the cottage watched a large Loggerhead Turtle surface feeding, whilst she was sitting on the rocks just over the back garden wall. In December 2011, one of the rarest turtles in the world, a Kemp’s Ridley turtle was washed up on the beach below the house, a victim of the heavy storms that lash the rugged coastline in the winter months. So, you will appreciate that situated where we are, the house is perfectly situated for anyone who has a keen interest in natural history.
We have rather become used to seeing seals in the inlet, as in the summer months, large numbers of Grey, and smaller numbers of Common Seals lounge on the rocky islets just offshore from the inlet, and their plaintive wailing is clearly audible on still nights.
In 2009, a visitor saw a Grey Seal giving birth on the rocky islet, which is quite visible from the back garden. There is an ever growing colony of Grey Seals that lounges on the rocks which are clearly visible from the back garden, and in 2011 the numbers grew to over 20.
The highlight of our annual two weeks’ visit in June 2009 was the appearance of a mirage after a period of hot weather which followed a spell of cool mist, when the islands to the south of the cottage appeared to be inverted; and then a lighthouse which is not normally visible, being well below the horizon, suddenly appeared upside down, with the rocky island on which it is built on top! The visibility that afternoon was excellent, and with a telescope, we saw four Minke Whales coming up for air between Tiree and the Treshnish Isles. That was an evening to remember.
The house has a small collection of books on birds and sea life, as well as other fiction and non fiction books, which guests are free to use should they so wish.
Superb adult male Snow Bunting foraging for insects along the shoreline below the cottage – see Gallery for photo.
Several Glaucous Gulls in early 2018, including one superb near adult bird on the rocky promontory across the inlet.
In early April 2018, a White-tailed Eagle flew low over the back garden on a foray from nearby Coll.
It is now late May 2018 and this week a total of TWENTY Basking Sharks have been visible from our back garden.