Today's trip to the magical Shiant Isles saw somewhat grey skies and a bit of chop on the sea making cetacean spotting quite tricky...nonetheless it stayed dry and some good sightings were enjoyed by our guests and ever-keen crew!
Not far out of Stornoway harbour it was clear that there was food in the area due to the large numbers of feeding seabirds about. Sure enough, a dorsal fin popped up very briefly..but was not seen again..so we couldn't positively ID it...probably a minke whale but unfortunately it had to go down as mystery of the seas.
As well as gannets, auks and kittiwakes, it was a treat to see larger patrols of Manx shearwaters today, as they generally don't show so much in these waters until mid-summer, foraging further away from their breeding grounds in the small isles. A good number of squas were seen today also, both the falcon-like arctics and the terrors of the skies and of puffins, great skuas or 'bonxies'. It was tricky spotting the elusive porpoises, but both guests and crew got a few brief sightings which we recorded for science and conservation on the Hebridean Whale & Dolphin Trust's Whale Track app. As we neared the Shiants more and more puffins were seen, many with billfulls of sandeels..a good sign and a clue that they had chicks to feed back at their burrows or scree caves on the Shiants.
The Shiants are always a place to be inspired by and today was no exception. Even though the carpet of seabirds on the water was reduced to 100's not 1,000's, with many parents being out at sea fishing for their new born chicks, stopping for lunch we were surrounded by rafts of puffins, handsome razorbills and guillemots including some of the bridled (spectacled) form. We enjoyed great views of both grey and harbour seals hauled out, and then marvelled at the puffin burrow hillside and north coast seabird crammed cliffs.
On the way back home there was brief excitement with a distant breaching splash of a huge beast, a minke or basking shark, never to be seen again - another mystery of the deep! Then back in the bay distant dolphins were spotted, on the way to where there was a frenzie of feeding gannets and at least 2 minke whales were encountered feeding on plentiful shoaling fish that skipper Tony could see on the fish finder. One of the younger minkes even payed us a brief visit, a treat for all and a few folks' first ever whale encounter - always a special moment we are pleased to play a part in. What a spectacular finale, well worth all the patience and topped off with a check-up on 2 large white tailed sea eagle chicks, apparently doing well.
Why not jump on one of our scheduled wildlife watching cruises or day trips soon and come see all this for yourself! If you are in Stornoway just stop by our booking office above the harbour at 22 North Beach or check in at the Tourist Information Office for details of our upcoming trips!