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The Gairloch Chandlery, Pier Road, Gairloch, Wester Ross, Scotland

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

Barbecue Weather

15 August 2009

Like the rest of the country we have been suffering with the weather this August so my apologies to our disappointed passengers for so many cancelled cruises.

This year we have had a fantastic bird breeding season with many young Auks all over the Minch attracted by massive numbers of bait fish. And this usually means bumper numbers of predators following the fish, but it has been tricky finding the whales in particular.

There has certainly been submarine activity out there but I think the massive spread of bait fish means the whales have been dining at leisure and not particularly in their traditional areas like Rona Bank.

What I have noticed is although there are more bait balls this year they are smaller than other years. So, while in the past you could practically guarantee a whale wherever you saw big hurries of sea birds were massed, this is not the case at the moment.

Sooty Shearwater – August 2009

This glut of food has certainly brought in a lot of pelagic birds, including Sooty shearwaters (pictured) and hundreds of Manx shearwaters. European storm-petrels are here in almost plague proportions and we have seen early Sabine's gulls.

Near Disaster

15 August 2009

Last week on the final cruise of the day I was heading out to the Staffin Island area off Skye at 25 knots when I came to an abrupt halt just outside Loch Gairloch.

What on earth had caused it? I was bewildered to find a rope around my prop and as I started to get it off it suddenly dawned on me what I had picked up was a commercial prawn creel rope over a mile long!

Someone had carefully removed all the creels from the ground rope as they were hauled in, and the rope had simply been discarded in the ocean.

Luckily there were no injuries to any of our passengers or myself. And as well as a serious safety issue to any vessel this could have been an ecological disaster: Basking Sharks in particular could have been drowned by this line as well as entanglement of cetaceans and other species.

I probably know the perpetrators. This wasn't a rope that had been in the sea for a long time – there was no marine growth on it – it was very freshly jettisoned; the wind and tide direction indicated it came from the south.

Needless to say I was furious about this incident and my many thanks go to the passengers who assisted in hauling the rope on board, which took over an hour. It made a mountain of rope (pictured) behind the seats on Orca 1

Orca 1 with salvaged rope – August 2009

Another shocking incident has been reported in the area with the alleged shooting of local wildlife. I'm not entirely sure of all the facts but apparently seals and skuas were targeted from a speed boat. It is in police hands at the moment.

I haven't seen old 'white eye', the original local skua, since this incident. It normally pops in to see us on most cruises and I'm deeply upset and worried that this bird, who has entertained our passengers for years, has been murdered. Let's hope it's busy elsewhere.

Finally got it!

15 August 2009

14 years down the line I have got a decent photo of a Sabine's Gull and a near top action shot of an unprovoked attack on my subject by a Kittiwake!

Sabine's Gull – August 2009

Some of our none-birding passengers seemed a little bemused by myself and another birding pal furiously clicking away at a 'black-headed Gull' with such excitement. I did explain the significance of the sighting and did extend the cruise by 10 minutes to make up for the 'wasted time'.

Sabine's Gull attacked by Kittiwake – August 2009
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