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Handa Island Summer

Nature documentary about this notable bird sanctuary

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Short documentary from the 1970s filmed on the island of Handa. The film looks briefly at the island's history of human habitation - its matriarchal society and parliament, but mostly focuses on the island landscape and bird sanctuary. Notable sequences and images from this film include: land and seascapes in and around Cape Wrath and the island of Handa; the arrival of a small boat of bird-watchers; an old overgrown graveyard and ruins of old crofters' houses, left over from when the island was inhabited [approx. 100 years ago] shots of the cliffs at Handa, highlighting birds like puffins, guillemots, herring gulls, eider ducks, cormorants and 'dive-bombing' skewers. The film also looks at plants such as the heath spotted orchid, bog cotton and sea thrift before concluding with further shots of hill-walkers, bird watchers and naturalists leaving the island by small boat.

Questions & Activities


  • Where is Handa and how was it formed?
  • What types of rock are present in this area of Scotland?
  • What are lazy beds?
  • What does matriarchal mean?
  • Why did the Queen of Handa and her people leave?
  • What kinds of birds can you spot?


Geography / Geology: Research the different types of rock and how they were formed. Discuss why there is no volcanic activity in Scotland anymore.

Environmental Studies / Social Studies: List the names of the seabirds mentioned in this film. Discuss why bird sanctuaries are necessary due to pollution, declining fish stocks and wildlife crime.

History: Research the constitution and activities of the Handa parliament.

English / Graphic Communication / ICT: Design a computer game based on an island. Draw sketches of island, creating its own geology and topology. Then write the history of the island leading up to the 'game time' which is your present. Now create characters and tasks that will form the narratology and numerology of the game. Create your own cut scene intro using footage about islands from the archive.

Clip Details

Record Id 007-000-002-409-C
Resource Rights Holder Courtesy of RSPB Film Unit
Project Ref 3608
Date 1974
Genre Documentary, Nature Documentary
School Subject Biology, Environmental Studies, History, Computing Science, English, Geography, Geology, Social Studies
Subject Matter Graphic, Communication, Rivers and Coasts
Who Alister Brabner (cameraman), Paul Kermack (narrator)
Where Cape Wrath, Handa Island
Event Lesiure
Attributes Colour, Sound
Clip Length 11:51
Film Length 12:40