Skua skirmishes and gawky gannets

By Robyn Palmer

Although the heavy rain had finally let up, the mist still hung frustratingly over Stornoway harbour as Tuesday’s Hebridean adventurers climbed aboard MV Monadhliath. During the short delay getting out of the harbour, we took the opportunity to get to know the resident seals. Once we had got fully underway we spotted a brave little puffin inside Stornoway bay, who quickly dove underwater as his foe, the great skua swooped overhead. As soon as we got out of the bay the mist lifted to display the beautiful coastline of Point, and allowed the group to begin scanning the horizon for all types of wildlife. 

Our lead guide Jon quickly spotted a large group of seabirds in the distance, always a good sign that fish will be in that area (and therefore larger predators maybe), so we turned away from the coast and headed out to visit them. The group was mainly comprised of gannets, including a few juveniles who still had speckled black wings. Fulmars, terns and skuas were all present so it was a great opportunity for everyone to get the chance to identify different species. A fight broke out when a skua attacked a juvenile gannet with a fish, the young bird did its best but was forced to relinquish its catch. 

Since nothing larger had appeared from below we decided to carry on to Tiumpan Head. On the way a harbour porpoise surfaced for a moment and heading back towards and along the coast we got a second porpoise sighting. We made our usual stop at Bayble island to observe the nesting guillemots, razorbills and kittiwakes and had just headed off to check out a white-tailed eagle nest when a minke whale was sighted up ahead. We slowed the boat as we approached and it surfaced two more times, giving everyone a great view of its long arching back and small curved dorsal fin. The eagles were another delightful addition to the trips finale, as not only could we spot both chicks looking big and strong but also one of the parents came flying by overhead then perched silhouetted on the clifftop, nice and easy to find with your binoculars. It's been busy out at sea this week, great conditions and lots of action! We hope you can join us soon.

For more information about all our wildlife watching cruises and day trips around the Outer Hebrides from Stornoway, please visit our website at