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August wildlife sightings from Nick Davies and other news from Hebridean Whale Cruises.

Dolphins Galore

12th August 2007

The weather has been good so far this month and so have the Common Dolphins! Pods of up to 150 have been recorded. The Minke whales have regularly been seen lunge feeding through dense schools of small fish (this is when they are surface-feeding and propel themselves out of the water; this type of feeding is almost exclusively found offshore).

Rain Stops Play

19th August 2007

It's started again this week – horrible strong winds and rain. Feel sorry for the people who have left England after the recent floods only to be faced with the same up here. So lots of curtailed and cancelled cruises which has played havoc with the usual good sightings.

First Humpback of the Year

23 August 2007

The weather has improved. On an early cruise today we encountered a pod of 50 Common Dolphins over by Staffin Island. So on the next trip I set off once more for that general area hoping to bump into them again.

About half way across to Skye I caught a glimpse of a black arch from the corner of my eye, so I brought the boat to a halt and scanned with my binoculars. Saw the black arch surface two more times and thought – that's not a Minke. Then the distinctive showing of the fluke (tail) before the deep dive of a Humpback!

It was approximately a mile and a half away. Humpbacks are very difficult to approach when feeding so I gingerly headed in the general direction knowing that the dive could be for three minutes or 40! I picked an area where I thought it might surface again and stopped the boat.

A couple of minutes passed and then a huge blow and the whale surfaced 50ft in front of the boat. Absolutely perfect positioning (more luck than judgment). It surfaced, rolling slowly, three more times and then the perfect photo opportunity for the fluke identification shot.

All Humpback Whale flukes have a unique black and white underside pattern, as unique as our fingerprints. The problem is being in the right position at the right time to have the chance of the underside photograph. We were in that position when the whale dived.

At this point I should explain that my trusty camera has been broken for over a month and is still in a shop in Glasgow waiting for an £8 part to be fitted. I asked the passengers if anyone had got the shot. A few mumbled replies, and Mr David Mitchell said he thought he had it.

Humpback Whale – August 2007

Photograph reproduced courtesy of David Mitchell

Added later: We forwarded David's photograph to the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust to see if they had this whale on their database. They forwarded it to the Irish authorities and we now know there has never been a recorded sighting of this whale in British or Irish waters before. Humpbacks seem to be returning to traditional feeding grounds like the Hebrides as they did in pre-whaling days, fingers crossed.

Petite and Beautiful

31 August 2007

We have finished the month with more Minkes and Common Dolphins. Harbour Porpoise are starting to show in the biggest pods we have seen all season.

My favourite Atlantic gull gave us a good show this week, feeding behind a trawler near the north end of Skye. The petite and very beautiful Sabine's Gull. It was feeding together with Manx and Sooty Shearwaters, the usual gulls, and Great and Arctic Skuas. I was a bit worried for the Sab as only minutes before a Great Skua made short work of a juvenile Kittiwake.

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