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      Uist and Benbecula News

      General News

Marine biologist Natalie Hamilton

The Outer Hebrides Wildlife Festival is taking place from June 22-29 , with a Fringe Festival continuing throughout July. 

A programme of more than 50 events and activities will see opportunities for local people and visitors alike.

Events include guided wildlife walks, boat tours, talks, surfing safaris, snorkelling adventures, gin tastings, panel discussions, multi-media presentations, creative workshops, art exhibitions and more.

Here’s a quick look at what’s on near you:

Lewis

  • Mark the summer solstice with a Guided Bat Walk around the Lews Castle grounds led by the newly formed Outer Hebrides Bat Group in our festival opening event on the evening of June 21 and again on June 22. Or join Cathryn Baillie from the Bat Conservation Trust on Saturday 22 June at An Lanntair to explore the wonderful world of bats!  Email for a free place This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Look out, too, for An Lanntair’s Out and About Batty Art Workshops throughout July at various community venues.
  • Discover the stories of Scotland’s coastal communities at the ‘Our Seas’ Coastal Testimonies Photographic Exhibition, hosted by An Lanntair from June 17-29 for powerful testimonies and portraits, and special events on June 28-29. Why not drop in and share your own testimony of the inshore seas. Admission is free!
  • Come along for a coffee and enjoy the works of local artists inspired by the incredible natural heritage of the Outer Hebrides in the Wildlife Art Exhibition in An Lanntair Café Foyer until June 29. 
  • Discover the cliff nesting seabirds of Ness with Atlantic58, learn about their ecology, and find out how you can contribute to conservation efforts on the island on Monday 24th June, 10am. Book your free place with This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
  • Why not join the free RSPB Guided Walk at Loch Stiapabhat Nature Reserve (Lionel, Ness) Tuesday 25 June, 10:30am to learn more about the working landscape, the flora and fauna and how the work of local crofters and RSPB helps preserve the diverse machair and moor which supports nature. Also on Thursday 27th June, 10:30am is a free RSPB Guided Walk to discover the Loch na Muilne reserve (Arnol). 
  • Come explore and discover seashore surprises within the hidden sea-life of the intertidal zone at Dalmore beach on Tuesday 25 June 3.30pm with University of Glasgow marine biologists and others. 
  • Share an afternoon at the home of the alpacas, making a ringed Hebridean felted pebble and see the flora and fauna on the croft which overlooks Coll shore with its abundant birdlife. Monday 24 & Tuesday 25 June, 2pm. Please book online via: https://booking.bookinghound.com/fe/book?og=5f4e3594-950a-4085-a4f6-e33026153af2&mode=a&uniqueId=7
  • For those who want to get closer to our seas and wildlife, why not book a Whale and Dolphin Tour with Immerse Hebrides. This offers a 2 hour exhilarating open-RIB boat tour departing the Inner Marina Harbour, Stornoway on Tuesday 25 June 7pm. Please book via this link: https://bookeo.com/immersehebrides?devent=221T73LCN18D41204511_2024-06-25_2OInuDfLV9

Harris & Scalpay 

  • Join local children’s author Louisa MacDougall for Niseaboist Nature: Scribble and Scrawl on Tuesday 25 June at 1pm for a stroll through the machair and shoreline at Niseaboist, followed by an informal creative writing (drawing if you prefer) free workshop, inspired by the wildlife we encounter. 
  • Explore the enchanting underwater world of marine life in Harris seas at Huisinis Beach. Book your snorkelwith snorkel leader and marine biologist Daryll Brown on 26 June at 10.30am. 
  • In Scalpay, join author Louisa MacDougall and illustrator Joceline Hildrey on Friday 28 June at 2pm to celebrate the release of their new children's picture book about one of Scotland's last great auks . The Great Auk's Great Escape is based on the true story of a rare seabird which was captured on St Kilda and brought to Scalpay en route to an Edinburgh Museum. Find out how the clever bird escaped its captors and learn more about this remarkable species and its legacy. This free event will include games, crafts and storytelling. 
  • In Harris and Scalpay, North Harris Trust is offering a range of walks and talks including a ‘Shorewatch’ at Eilean Glas Lighthouse, eagle watching at Gleann Mhiabhaig home to the Eagle Observatory, discovering rich biodiverse habitats around Luskentyre at Àird Grothadanais and talks about the history of whaling in Harris (Gaelic medium talk on Thursday 27th June).  
  • Get crafty with Birds and Beasties at Holmasaig Gallery on 3 July, with local artist Margarita Williams who will introduce you to Needle-felting using Harris tweed, dyed fleece, wooden threads to create artwork with Birds and Beasties as the theme.
  • To discover more about bumblebees and the flowers they need to survive and thrive, join in a fun Bumblebee Safari at the beautiful Northton machair with University of Glasgow in the last week of July (20th, 22nd, 23rd, 24th July, at 11am).

 

Uist & Benbecula

  • How do we listen and look(out) for whales? Join Marine Biologist and National Geographic Explorer Dr Natalie Sinclair at Taigh Chearsabhagh on Wednesday 26 June to find out more about the songs of humpback whales recorded off the coast of the Outer Hebrides while artist Sam Gare and musician Alex South are introducing upcoming work about the mass stranding of pilot whales at North Tolsta last year. The talks will be followed by a Q&A. Free. Booking essential.
  • Guided Walk at Balranald Nature Reserve, on Tuesday 25 June 10am, home to many species of wildlife including corncrakes, lapwings and other waders.
  • Land of Otters Guided Walk on Wednesday 26 June 10am with Martyn Jamieson exploring around some otter areas to learn more about these fascinating animals and where they call home.  
  • Cuairt Cainnt na h-Eoin / RSPB The Language of Birds Walk Tuesday 25th June, 10am around Daliburgh machair, South Uist for a spot of birdwatching while also learning more about the Gaelic names of birds.  
  • Land of Eagles Guided Walk at Loch Druidibeag Nature Reserve, South Uist on Thursday 27th June, 10am. Learn more about golden eagles, white-tailed eagles, hen harriers and other birds of prey that have made their home here. Loch Druidibeg is one of the best places in Uist to see both golden and sea eagles, alongside hen harriers, short-eared owls, merlin and rare divers as well as a wonderfully rich variety of plants.  
  • In the afternoons between Monday 24 June and Friday 28 June, book a place with wildlife photographer and filmmaker Eleanor Hamilton for an afternoon photography and film workshop on her favourite nature reserve Balranald. Eleanor has worked on numerous programmes including BBC Springwatch and David Attenborough’s Wild Isles series and will guide you in wildlife photography and filmmaking, tailoring each session to your interests and abilities. All abilities are welcome, so whether you have never picked up a camera before, or you’re looking to improve your skills, Balranald is the perfect place to be immersed in the natural world. Eleanor will also be giving a talk about her career, inspired by the wildlife of the Outer Hebrides on Thursday 27 June at Grogarry Lodge. Book your place now! Book with This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
  • Join the RSPB at the Dark Island Hotel to hear more about the development of the new approach to relocate hedgehogs while safeguarding Uist's delicate ecosystem, there will be an open floor Q&A following the talk, plus tea and coffee. Tuesday 25th June, 6:30pm Please book your free place by emailing This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
  • North Uist Distillery is hosting a special gin tasting experience to celebrate wildlife at Nunton Steadings Visitor Centre with Gill Perkins, CEO of the Bumblebee Conservation Trust, who will explain about the essential role that bumblebees play in pollinating the botanicals that go into our gin. Find out more about the lifecycle of these small but mighty pollinators, and how you can help them thrive on the islands. Booking essential: https://www.northuistdistillery.com/collections/shop
  • In Eriskay there will be an unmissable opportunity in the afternoon of Monday 24 June to go on a Guided Hill Walk to see Eriskay ponies in Beinn Sgrithean.  Free event with suggested donation (£5) to Comann Each nan Eilean (www.eriskaypony.scot) Come and support our native ponies.

Barra​ 

  • Join Shona MacLellan from the RSPB on Thursday 27 June at 3pm for a bilingual event RSPB Cuairt Cainnt na h-Eoin / RSPB The Language of Birds Walk at Cille Bharra, Eoligarry, Barra. 

The festival is coordinated by Species on the Edge, a new conservation programme funded by The National Lottery Heritage Fund working to conserve Scotland’s rarest and most vulnerable coastal species.

View the full programme on the festival website: https://www.outerhebrideswildlifefestival.co.uk/2024-programme .

To keep up to date with the festival, follow it on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ohwildlifefestival/