(Gaelic name meaning… Ronald’s Farm)
Balranald is a wonderful place to visit at any time of year. In the summer the walk to the headland takes you through grassy meadows called machair, with flowers of every colour and buzzing with bumblebees. Many species of wading birds breed on the machair, so the skies are full with wings as the brids wheel and call. The days feel endless, with the summer sun shining down until well after 10pm. On the headland, Arctic terns scream overhead, chasing marauding great skuas that come in looking for an unattended nest.
In winter the landscape is changed. The huge skies foretell storms and the winds blow sun and showers across the landscape, straight off the Atlantic Ocean. You might be lucky enough to spot an otter during your visit here. These gorgeous creatures spend much of their time at sea, catching fish and crabs to munch on the rocky shore.
Watch out for harbour porpoises close in to shore, further out you might spot the splashes of common dolphins or even Risso’s dolphins nearer to the monarch isles. Look out for feeding seabirds as that might indicate a minke whale searching for food in the waters offshore.
A bit about the site
Balranald is an RSPB nature reserve, so pop into the visitor centre when you arrive to find out lots of information. The visitor centre even has some whale and dolphin bones outside. To get to the whale watching areas, you’d need to follow the path through the kissing gate and out to the headland. This is approximately 2 kilometres from the Visitor Centre. There is parking and a public toilet at RSPB visitor centre and there is a campsite with a café that is open during the summer months.
Wondrous creatures in the waters
Look out for
Grey seals Lapwing Golden plover Curlew Terns Gannets Fulmars
Birds and Blubber
A visit to Balranald will fill you with wonder at the many birds to be spotted. Whale watchers regularly use birds to help spot whales and dolphins lurking beneath the waves. Gannets diving into the sea with a great splash, rafts of shearwaters milling of the sea surface, guillemots flying under the waves are all indications that there is food galore beneath the sea. Whales and dolphins often feed on the same fish and sea life as these beautiful seabirds so can help you narrow down where to look.
Hungry hungry porpoise
Porpoise’s are hungry little creatures and can eat up to 550 (small!) fish per hour just to survive their active lives in our cold seas. It’s a good job that porpoises are also very good hunters too. Each hunt has over a 90% chance of success due to their impressively accurate underwater hunting techniques.