Calls of the wild

Keep your ears open in 2022 for some amazing wildlife calls you can hear in the Kyle of Sutherland area.

Curlew © Zzvet / AdobeStock

With every year that passes there are certain species of wildlife that are a “must see” in the Heart of Sutherland. More recently I have come to realise that it’s not just seeing them that is uplifting, with some animals/birds it is hearing their calls that gives me just as much pleasure and on some occasions even more. So for 2022 I have set myself a bucket list, wildlife calls not to be missed during the year. Often the animal itself is difficult to see let alone hear, however I will endeavour to succeed in my quest . If time allows and you are in the countryside you might want to compile your own list of animals/birds to hear during the year.

For me there are a few that are very special. First of all there is the call of the breeding Curlew in April whilst they are displaying to one another, a sign that spring is well and truly here.

Early mornings in quiet glens in springtime are also the time to listen for the willowing sounds of Black Grouse lekking as they show off their prowess to the grey hens. Sometimes you will hear them but not locate them, but  if you take the time listen you can often pin point the location, and  it can often be far away as the sound will travel quite some distance.

Barn Owl © Eric Isselée / Adobe Stock

The hissing sound of the Barn Owl once darkness falls is probably the most spine chilling. Apparently grave diggers in days gone by would make the sign of the cross if they heard or saw a Barn Owl, as it was thought that the Owl was in the image of the person whose grave they were digging. This sound can be heard at any time of the year particularly just after dark.

White tailed Eagles during winter will often congregate and roost together in a preferred tree. They give a very beautiful high pitched trumpeting call to one another, sometimes to welcome another eagle but also to defend the very tree they are sat in. I once heard them before dawn had broken and had to wait until it was light before I could see that there were four eagles all sat together in the same Scot Pine.

My list would also be incomplete without the sound of the Red Stags roaring during the rut in October. The guttural sound is unmistakable and so reminiscent of being in the Highlands.

The penultimate is the Eider Duck, which I often watch at Loch Fleet. They make me smile as they float across the water with their heads bobbing back and forth. Their call is a rather a high pitch oooh oooh. A friend once told me it’s the call of constant surprise, which always makes  me smile when I hear it.

Lastly, and my all time favourite is the call of the Diver. A very beautiful bird with an even more tremendous call. I don’t mind if it’s a Black throated or Red Throated, their call is nothing short of spectacular. I first heard them whilst walking by the side of Loch Migdale one afternoon. Oh my, a sound so haunting as it echoes down the Loch, it stopped me in my tracks and it’s one I will never forget, and one not to be missed each year.

So that’s my favourites, but I am sure you will have your own as we are spoilt for choice in the wonderful diverse county of Sutherland.

by Ashley Smith

Last Updated on 4 December, 2021 by Kyle Chronicle

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