Shiants (Photo: A Leslie)
The Minch is a very good fishing ground for seabirds, and the Shiant Isles are right in the middle of the Minch, and so provide a perfect place for seabirds to nest. It is like a miniature St Kilda – thousands of puffins, guillemots, razorbills, kittiwakes and skuas. The big difference is that there are no gannets here – they did try to breed once but it was not successful.
The puffins nest in burrows on the grassy slopes, whereas the guillemots and razorbills are on the steep cliffs and in the boulder slopes. The bay between the main islands is full of these auks in summer, all trying to get back to their nests with fish for the young chicks. It almost looks like you could walk across the bay there are so many seabirds on the water.
There are over seventy thousand pairs of puffins on the Shiants, making it one of the biggest puffin colonies in Britain. There are also ten thousand razorbills, and eighteen thousand guillemots - the birds nest almost side by side there are so many of them.
On the top of the big islands, there is good grassland where the sheep can graze. This is also the place where the great skuas nest – they are like the pirates of the sea and this is their lookout. From here they can fly down and take fish from other seabirds.
In 1918 the last pair of sea eagles in Scotland had a nest on the Shiants. The sea eagle then became extinct, but in the last thirty years it has been re-introduced to Scotland and once again the gigantic sea eagle can be seen at the Shiants. It is often to be found patrolling the cliffs with its hugs wings outstretched, looking out for seabirds to catch. They often take fulmars, and these are carried off in their huge talons and taken back to the nest.