The beautiful, kindly gaze of an alpaca from Callanish has captured the hearts of judges in an international photo competition, winning second place for her owner.

Caskie is the matriarch of the herd at Callanish alpacas, and owner Clare Lewis captured one of the favourites in her herd, Martina, looking out of her stable door and over the Callanish landscape, all reflected in Caskie’s benevolent eye.

The picture, shown here, won second place in the category of alpaca close-ups in a competition run by the Alpaca Owners Association in the USA, and judged by expert members of the Lincoln Camera Club in Nebraska.

Clare described her accolade, which she entitled ‘The alpaca of Caskie’s eye’ as ‘unbelievable’, especially as it is the only non-USA entry to be placed in any category of the competition.

Clare said: “Appreciation of the beauty of any of our animals is very touching. Caskie has huge, jet-black eyes which are so convex I have sometimes seen the entire length of the Callanish stone circle reflected in her eye.

“By contrast, Martina has stunning blue eyes, rarely seen in alpacas, and this, together with her white fleece, goes along with her profound deafness. Being deaf doesn’t disadvantage Martina in any way as 13-year-old Caskie, the matriarch, takes special care of Martina. I felt that care and watchfulness was beautifully reflected in this image.”

Unbeknown to Caskie, she’ll have even more responsibility next summer, as all the herd except her are pregnant. Clare borrowed three males during lockdown and has since found that just one, Archie, will be the father of all the future cria – the proper word for baby alpacas.

Baby alpacas fathered by Archie the alpaca fit the island nicely, as Clare points out, since a fictional Archie the alpaca was a central character in the novel The Brilliant and Forever, written by Stornoway author Kevin MacNeil. Kevin also followed up with a book of philosophical alpaca musings, The Diary of Archie the Alpaca.

Clare’s picture has earned her a winner’s ribbon and her picture of Caskie’s eye will appear in a future issue of the Alpaca Owners Association magazine.