The Isle of Skye boasts a fantastic variety of wildlife, both on and off shore. Here’s a brief guide to the wildlife on Skye that you can expect to see from Spindrift IV.
The Sea Eagle or White-Tailed Eagle is a great success story, once hunted to extinction it was reintroduced from Norway in the ‘70s and today there are over 50 breeding pairs along the west coast of Scotland. It is the largest bird of prey in the UK, with a wingspan up to 8 feet, you really need to see it up close to appreciate just how big this bird is. Some of the most frequent sightings in Scotland are in the cliffs at Portree and the birds often swoop down for fish thrown from boats.
Golden Eagles are also resident on Skye, with perhaps the most concentrated population in Scotland. However these birds are particularly elusive even to a dedicated birdwatcher.
There are several species of dolphins in the waters around the Inner and Outer Hebrides. The two that you are most likely to see are the Bottlenose Dolphin and the Common Dolphin. According to the Hebridean Whale & Dolphin Trust, a population of around 30-40 Bottlenose Dolphins reside in the inland waters around the Isle of Skye and Kintyre. Common Dolphins are Summer visitors between May and October and are usually seen in groups of 10-30, but occasionally a large group of several hundred can be seen together.
The number of Harbour Porpoises in the Hebridean Waters is one of the highest in Europe. It is the smallest cetacean in these waters and normally only glanced briefly when they surface to breathe.
There are also several species of whale in the waters off the West Coast of Scotland, including a small population of Killer Whales. But the whales that are seen most frequently in coastal and in-shore waters are Minke Whales. Minke Whales are very streamlined and grow up to 10 metres in length, their lifespan can be as long as 50 years.
Another frequent sighting around the Hebrides is the Basking Shark. It can grow up to 11 metres in length and the is the second largest fish in the world, after the whale shark. Basking sharks swim along at around 2.5 to 4 miles per hour with their mouths open filtering the sea water for food. They can reach much greater speeds which allow them to breach.
For more information about the dolphins, whales and other sea life that inhabit the waters around the Hebrides, visit the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust.
You can see both Common Seals and Grey Seals in the waters and bays around Skye. The seals are quite used to the boats so a boat trip is a great way to get close up to these animals. Grey Seals are larger than the Common Seals and travel over greater distances to feed. The smaller Common Seals prefer inshore waters and have a stronghold in the waters around the Inner Hebrides, although will still forage over an area of up to 50km.
Apart from the Sea Eagles there is an abundance of birdlife around the shores of Isle of Skye.
Gannets are a large, distinctive sea bird with a long neck and long pointed beak. They are mainly white with a yellow head and black wing tips. The largest breeding colony of gannets in the world is located close to Skye at St Kilda and birds can often be seen in the Summer before they start their migration south from August to October.
Puffins, Guillemots, Razorbills and Terns are just some of the sea birds you can also expect to see around the islands with a huge variety of birds inland too.
To discover more about the birdlife on Skye, Skye Birds is a great source of recent sightings and has information on where to go to see particular breeds.