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

The Big 5

30 July 2008

We have introduced a new cruise for the serious wildlifers called the 'Big 5'. It's a three to four hour cruise searching traditional hot spots for five key species – Minke Whales, dolphins, porpoises, Basking Sharks and Sea Eagles.

We did our first 'Big 5' yesterday and got four out of five – only missing the Basking Shark (it was windy which normally means the sharks don't surface feed). Our sightings yesterday included four Sea Eagles (two adults and two juveniles), two Minke Whales, One Common Dolphin, and 40-plus Harbour Porpoises. We also just missed some Bottlenose Dolphins near Portree; cheers to Squirrel of the MV Stardust for the tip-offs Portree way.

With this cruise we have good chances of loads of other species as the distance travelled is vast – we target Rona Bank, Portree and the north east coast of Skye, and of course Carr Point to Red Point.

Fin's Back & a Lovesick Minke

29 July 2008

Here it comes again! Fin Whale! The massive beasty surfaced again only two and a half miles outside Loch Gairloch. I'm pretty sure it was the same one as last week; I'd like to think these animals are making a comeback in the Hebrides. Again it was actively feeding which shows the fish stocks in the Minches are in good health.

After leaving this whale we headed to Rona Bank hoping for the Minkes and My God! – we had the best interaction with a Minke Whale in years.

It was a adolescent male I think, because, well let's just say it was treating Orca 1 as a prospective partner – turning on its back just feet under the boat and actually spy hopping over the forward quarter whilst we were cruising at 3.5 knots. This continued for nearly half an hour!

Fin Circles the Boat

24 July 2008

Speyside Wildlife were with us again today and before we began the cruise I remarked to Craig, one of their guides, how unlucky they had been to miss the Orcas last week. This was to change dramatically, not with Orcas but the second biggest whale of all – a Fin Whale!

It's hard to communicate in words the size of these animals and the noise that erupts when they expel their spent air.

Fin Whale – July 2008

This Whale was feeding making big circles around the boat providing us with great photo opportunities. The Fin Whales I have seen in the past have been travelling through so this was a great experience to see them at work.

On the other wildlife front we have had plenty of Basking Sharks and Common Dolphins and for the birders lots of European Storm-petrels. And dare I say it – a possible Black-browed Albatross on the north cliffs of the Shiant Islands. As you know I don't call anything unless it's confirmed so we'll leave it at that.

Bottlenose & Orca in the Loch

18 July 2008

Bottlenose Dolphins have returned! After an absence of two years we have been greeted by eight adults at the pier in Gairloch Harbour!

Bottlenose Dolphin – July 2008

These animals have been around for a few days, mostly in the pier area, bringing hundreds of admirers.

We saw a Killer Whale enter Loch Gairloch early today – I hope it wasn't after the Bottlenose Dolphins in the Loch. Found out later that a yacht sighted at least five Orcas moving very fast four miles north of Longa Island heading north.

Speyside Wildlife have been continuing their specialist cruises with us again recently and had a great Minke encounter yesterday with a juvenile bow riding – which was special. However, they weren't with us today so they missed the Orcas.

Common Tern Disaster

14 July 2008

Early July has brought disaster for the poor Common Terns with a complete wipe out of the colony on Glas Eilean. Can't be 100 per cent on what happened but it was probably the Great Black-back Gulls again or maybe a Otter went through them, but they have completely failed to fledge a single chick.

Minke Whale sightings have been brilliant so far this month with multiple Whales on their traditional feeding grounds of Rona Bank and the Trodday Trench. So as long as we could comfortably get out there we have encountered them. We missed loads of hat tricks though, because we haven't found any porpoises, which is very unusual.

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