By Sarah Longbottom
Last Friday began with thick fog blanketing the whole Isle of Lewis - as always, we had been keeping a sharp eye on the weather forecast and suspected that this was the precursor to the expected scorching day. Expectations confirmed! By 7am the fog was burning off and by 9am we were steaming out of Stornoway Harbour to glorious blue skies and calm seas, in search of wildlife and sun-tans! Our day trip took us south along the spectacular east coast of Lewis towards the Shiant Isles - sharp eyes on the upper deck spotted splashing activity around two miles before the Enchanted Isles (as the Shiant's are also called), and we changed course to investigate. We didn't have long to wait, as we were soon watching a pod of common dolphins racing towards us. Dolphins are definitely the extroverts of our waters, delighting us with fantastic leaps and breaches as they approached. A few individuals stayed with us for a spot of bow-riding, before the whole pod kept heading east. These lads and lassies were busy feeding, so we returned to our previous course to the Shiant's so as not to disturb their activities.
Cruising slowly into the bay before Eilean Tighe and Eilean Garbh, we were able to take in the myriad of seabird life that call the Shiants their summer home. The air as well as the water was full of puffins, razorbills, guillemots and shags, all busy with fishing and raising young. Pointing your binoculars towards the grassy slopes is always a good way to spot the puffins standing sentry at their burrows!
After taking some time in the bay to appreciate the Enchanted Isles and their summer visitors, we began to circumnavigate the islands - on the south side of Eilean Tighe, we were delighted to spot another pod of common dolphins. This pod came right alongside the boat, enjoying a lot of bow-riding and displaying some serious acrobatics. We were particularly delighted to spot two juveniles and a very young calf in the mix - great information to log for the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust's records.
We cruised home in glorious sunshine, calling in to take a look at an area where we have spotted White Tailed Sea Eagles in the past. Our luck for the day held, and we were able to spot an adult on its nest, with the other adult perched not far away on the cliff side. Two more White Tailed Sea Eagles at a different site rounded off our cruise beautifully. Another great day for crew and guests alike aboard MV Monadhliath!