There isn’t anywhere better in the country for seeing marine birds. Large colonies of gannets and puffins are found on St Kilda, as well as the Shiant Isles. Spot eagles soaring the cliffs of Rum and North and South Uist while guillemots, kittiwakes and petrels fly across the seas. Rich in marine life, we regularly see large pods of dolphins, sperm, killer and Minke whales, seals as well as basking sharks close to the boat when sailing these waters.
There are several whales present around the Hebrides, including Sperm, Killer, Northern Bottlenose and Sei whales. However, the commonest is certainly the Minke whale, which grows to about 10 metres and has a distinct white patch on its flippers. They will often approach a boat closely.
The Hebrides has many dolphins, some like the porpoise, which are resident all year round. Other species which are often seen are Risso’s, Bottlenose, White-sided, and White-beaked dolphins.
The second biggest fish in the world, growing up to 12 metres in length. But don’t worry, they feed only on plankton. Sightings tend to vary a lot from year to year, but in the Small Isles, late summer is best. Although protected from British fishermen, the UK still allows Norway to catch them in our waters.
Otters are seen around the islands, close to the shore and more rarely inland.
Best time to see them is around low water, when they find the hunting easiest. Although common, there is concern about their continued success, with the gradual increase of mink all over the Hebrides.
Both Common and Grey Seals are seen regularly in the area, there being several large colonies in the Small Isles. Grey seal pups are white (unlike Commons) and are born on remote beaches in Oct/Nov.
Often seen on the hills of Knoydart, but difficult to get near to these days, seen as a bit of a ‘baddie’ with respect to the regeneration of native woodlands, but very much an important part of the way of life in the Highlands. Calves are born in May (leave young calves well alone if you come across one). Regularly sighted also on the hills from some anchorages in the Hebrides.
Puffins, Gannets and Guillemots
The Western Isle are rich in marine birds. From the huge Gannet cities of St Kilda, to the busy puffins of Canna, Mingulay and the Shiants. From the tiny Storm Petrel to the mighty White tailed Sea Eagle. Or the unforgettable experience of a night with the Shearwaters of Rum or Eigg.