The animals and plants on Ulva
you will see, depend upon three things: the time of year, your powers of observation and pure luck. Red deer, rabbits and mountain hares, the occasional sea otter, stoat or hedgehog might be spotted at any season. A researcher from Leeds University studying the habits of otters managed to see them every evening for six weeks in the summer of 1986 along the south shore of Ulva.
There are no foxes on Ulva and although the Vikings may have seen wolves (naming the island ‘Ullfur’ or ‘Wolf Island’) there have been none around lately.
Atlantic seals may be seen at any time of year. Some especially good places to find them are: the reefs just beyond Starvation Point, the bay near the old cruck mill and the reefs between Ulva and Gometra that you see from the Viking fort at Dun Ban.
You may see a frog or toad, or, if you are very observant, a slow worm. We don’t see adders and hope it’s because they aren’t here. If you are very sharp-eyed and very lucky, you might see one of Ulva’s two rare species, the Keeled Skimmer dragonfly (Orthetrum coerulescens) or the Slender Scotch Burnett Moth. Relevant Links: (British Dragonfly Society) (Butterfly Conservation)
A pilot whale was found washed ashore in Whale Bay in 1966 and another in 1987. In 1991 two sperm whales were washed up and a large whale cast ashore here in 1722 made history: 9 members of the MacQuarrie clan and 17 others from all over Ulva were charged in the Admiralty Court at Inverary for theft of the valuable spermaceti whale oil. Finders were not keepers when beechcombing in those days.
Botanists can have a field day on Ulva – literally. There is such a variety of plant habitats here from dark, cool, damp gully walls to high, exposed, tundra like conditions, with all gradients between, from fertile, well drained crop land to peat bogs. Rare wild orchids aren’t rare on Ulva. Grass of Parnassus sparkles in boggy places and there are enough carnivorous plants to make you wonder how the midges survive.
Ulva’s woodlands, shores and open moors make it an ideal place for bird watching. Bird activity is intense throughout the year. There are exciting seasonal events – the coming of the terns to the small islands south of Ulva to breed, the puffins in the waters west and north of Ulva in early summer, the occasional cry of the corn crake.
Boat trips to see puffins and other seabirds on the Treshnish Isles leave from Ulva Ferry.
Herons nest in the beech woods beyond the Hill Steadings. Shags raise their babies in slovenly looking and bad smelling nests in the ravines on the south shore. Not far from them, on Castile Mor, a family of ravens speak in deep voices. They leave home when spring gives way to summer. Oyster catchers gossip as they pace the sharp spine of a reef and eider ducks respond in scandalized tones.
On a lucky day, you’ll look up and find a sea eagle soaring above you. Any day you’ll see hooded crows and buzzards.