My Island - My Wildlife Friends

I thought it would be nice to talk a wee bit more about the unique location I call home. The Isle of Coll is around 13 miles long by about 3 miles at its widest point. I spoke a little in a previous blog about the Island way of life, and I'll go into that a bit more in future blogs. For now however, I'd like to talk about some of the domesticated animals and wildlife we find here on the Island. As I couldn't even begin to cover everything in a single blog, I'll spread it over future blogs too.

Me being me, I often see and interoperate things differently from most people, and that's no different when it comes to animals. When I look at almost any creature I see an individual, a being with feelings, character, and personality. As a child I used to love when Johnny Morris came on television and would give animal's voices, and they would appear to have a conversation, for a large animal he would give them a deep voice and smaller cute animals would usually have higher comical voices. I thought this was amazing and I always saw them as individuals, human even, I told you I was different! That hasn't changed as I've got older, so when I'm up close to any creature I still see an individual and treat them accordingly. Coll has an amazing diversity of wildlife, sedentary and migratory, some common and some extremely rare. Also some of our domesticated animals are quite unusual too, and it's these that I'll talk about first.

Coll's farms are typical of many Hebridean Island farms, and have mostly a mixture of sheep and cattle, and especially Highland cows and Hebridean sheep. A recent addition to the Islands domesticated animals are three Alpacas, which are native to South America, but seem to live happily in the UK.

Another unusual animal that was rescued from the seashore by a local man was a baby otter, which was apparently abandoned by its mother. The idea by the chap who found it was that he would raise the wee creature until it was old enough to be released back into the wild. He avoided too much close contact with the otter so that it didn’t bond with him, and be more able to fend for itself when released. However when the otter, now named Otto was released it seemed reluctant to head for the call of the wild, and occasionally returns to the man’s garden, but is free to come and go as it pleases. It is hoped that Otto will someday find another wild otter to mate with and finally go completely wild once more.

  • Highland Cows on Coll

    Highland Cows on Coll

  • Me with an alpaca
  • Me with an alpaca

Many wild animals live happily in close proximity to us humans, and often interact with us while remaining “truly wild” and like Otto they choose when they want to come and go when it suits them. A lot of the time it’s linked to the availability of their food, or when they’re mating or migrating.

It’s usually on their terms, and that’s as it should be as far as I’m concerned. I have personal experience of wild interaction on a daily bases, while at work at Coll ferry terminal. We have been befriended by two Herring Gulls who have been with us for a few years.

They first decided they liked us when our port supervisor started to feed them. As well as the usual work stuff we discuss when we have our days off we also make sure that there is enough bread to feed our Gulls and that a member of staff feeds them. Even the local shopkeeper gives us out of date bread free of charge. Every morning when we arrive at the office the two of them are sitting on the sae wall waiting patiently to be fed, and if you don’t feed them immediately they move along and stare through the office window with a certain look on their face, which says-feed me-and it is a look that you just can’t ignore as the anticipation in their eye is so evident. I for one am such a softy; I just have to do as they ask.

Once they’ve had their fill they will go about their business quite contented. The only time we don’t see much of them is when they’re raising their young, and often there will be just one of them as the other is covering eggs or chicks. After a few weeks they’ll appear with a youngster in tow and it will stay with mum and dad for much of the early summer before going off to seek its own fortune. Meanwhile mummy and daddy gull take it easy and supplement their diet of sae fish with bread from the nice staff at Coll ferry terminal.

They will in fact come right up to you to receive their easy meal. Some people say they are pests, but I’m pretty sure their ancestors were hanging around our shores long before we humans came on the seine. They may well be seen as pests in cities and lands fill sites, but that’s because of the waist left by us humans, who think we are the superior species on this planet. I for one sometimes wonder about that!

Next time I’ll talk about my recent interview with the Daily Mail and continue my London odyssey.

Speak soon!

  • Highland Ram on Coll

    A Highland Ram on Coll

  • Pier Gulls on Coll
  • Pier Gulls on Coll