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Marine life

24 August 2016

The seas around the archipelago are teeming with life, much of it never to be seen by the residents or visitors alike.   Creatures large and small visit our islands; this season I have seen Common Dolphin, Basking shark and Minke whale and last night witnessed plankton fluoresce under the moonlight, it really is one size extreme to another.  One marine sighting outdid all others this year – on a fabulously calm and bright day in June I was sitting on the plateau of Dun after completing the first part of the Puffin Survey, I looked down into the sparkling water and was amazed to see the most enormous basking shark peacefully feeding below.  I managed to shoot a short video, click here to view.  Common dolphins in Village Bay 2016Basking shark at Dun (2)Basking shark at Dun (1)Basking shark at Dun (4)

This shark was at least 5m long and would have gone completely unnoticed if I hadn’t been in the right place at the right time.  Limited to observing from land the ranger team knows that we only see a small proportion of the cetaceans and marine animals that pass close to the islands and that’s why we are always grateful to the boat operators for reporting sightings during their travels.  In fact, we regularly turn green with envy after hearing tales of close encounters.  Boreray seems to be the place for amazing views with Nicola Boulton (Go to St Kilda) capturing some striking images of a pod of Orca with a juvenile and Judi Hayes (Kilda Cruises) spotting basking sharks in the same area.Adult Orca with juvenile (Photo Nicola Boulton)Basking shark at Boreray (Photo Judi Hayes)Photo: Orcas (Nicola Boulton), Basking shark (Judi Hayes)


Other marine life is slightly easier to see, with seals regularly making an appearance in Village Bay.  During an early morning puffling check I took time out to watch a group of seals snoozing in the water near the Feather Store. I’ve seen a few individuals before but never quite so many in this one area.  Seals are relatively easy to see (and hear) in other locations around Hirta with the Dun Gap offering great opportunities for clear views of seals resting on rocks.  Seals, early morning Village BaySeals sleeping, Village BaySeals, Dun gap

Marine life below the water surface is much harder, although not impossible, to see.  Wandering around the jetty or shore line at low tide shows a surprising diversity of life.  Occasionally creatures from the depths are brought to the surface too.At the sea shorePolypsLobster head



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