St Kilda or Bust
Humpback whale known as SCUK040 - an old friend!
Any trip to St Kilda is one to remember but this one brought along an extra surprise for guide Muriel!
We started off on our voyage of adventure in mid-June with a wavy and rainy start! For our first evening we took shelter in one of our regular and favourite sea loch anchorages where we know that white-tailed eagles like to hang out!
As we came from the waters of the Minch to enter the loch we got views of a minke whale and a probable fin whale which certainly was a treat after a rather rainy start. Excitingly, word then reached us that one of the local white-tailed eagle chicks was about to be taken from the nest to be re-homed as part of the Isle of White eagle re-introduction scheme, playing it's own part in spreading this magnificent bird species back around it's historic range. As we watched from a distance, we wished the “little” bird all the best and hope that both of the two chicks from that nest will grow into strong white-tailed eagles!
Our journey continued south after a lovely visit to the Shiant's, but unfortunately the weather took a turn for the worse, and we were forced to shelter for a couple of nights in Tarbert on Harris, a little picturesque harbour town. As we were not able to go out with the boat we took our guests on a land touring our minibus and showed them some of the beautiful landscapes of Harris and south Lewis. We had some some nice bird sightings along the way (greenshank, shelduck with ducklings) and even another white-tailed eagle, followed by a porpoise seen at Huishinish Bay by some of our group.
Thursday dawned and the weather had improved and so we were finally able to head off through the Sound of Harris to our destination - the dual UNESCO World Heritage site of St. Kilda! After a slightly bumpy journey through the Atlantic swell, we saw the stunning sight of the high cliffs of Boreray come welcomingly into view and made it into the sheltered harbour of the famous Village Bay on Hirta as evening fell.
There we spent a glorious day on the Friday (blue sky and sunshine) exploring the remains of the ancient village and learned about the rough life of the people who called St. Kilda home. It sure felt special to set foot on this history-filled place. We all enjoyed the stay on this Island, spotted the local St Kilda wrens and Soay sheep, sailed past the amazing gannet colonies on the sea stacks of Armin and Lee, and took some unique memories with us knowing that not many people get to experience those Islands.
On our journey home to Stornoway we were lucky enough to find a dolphin pod which swam through the Minch and joined us for a bow ride on the Saturday morning, which meant a boat filled with smiles! Better still, the Monadhliath was about to be filled with “Wows! and Aws!” as we came across a humpback whale continuously tail-slapping only a few hundred metres away from our boat. We stayed at a distance to figure out whether it was stressed out by something or just tail-slapping for a less obvious reason. The second seemed to be the most likely case and it soon started to feed around the boat. As we left it behind us we were treated to seeing it breach a couple of times before it dove and gave us the last look of its fluke. As our guide went through her pictures she soon recognised the fluke (see the main photo above!) and was delighted to know it was the very same individual known as SCUK040 that she had seen and photographed just over a year ago at Tiumpan Head on Lewis - remarkable! What an ending to a glorious week!
(Left to right -> Storm petrel, white-tailed eagle, St Kilda wren - all photos by Hebridean Adventures' guide Muriel Hallé)