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The Whales of Waternish

The Whales of Waternish


Postby Anne C » Tue Jul 30, 2013 5:07 pm

Route description: Waternish Point visit

Date walked: 27/07/2013

Time taken: 5 hours

Distance: 11 km

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With the high tops covered in heavy cloud and the sea flat calm we reckoned it was a good day to walk out to Waternish Point, an easy 11km return from near Trumpan Church.
I'd always admired Waternish Lighthouse from the Calmac ferry from North Uist and many years ago I'd been lucky to spot 2 orcas a distance out from the shore.I love walks that offer a great chance to spot wildlife in great surroundings and views to the Western Isles are always a pull so we headed off at 11am with high hopes.
Skye and Rena's 90th July 2013 019(1).jpg
Loch Bay and cloud-covered Macleod's Tables from the near the walk start point.

Wildflowers were in full bloom.
Skye and Rena's 90th July 2013 022(1)(1)(1).jpg
Wildflowers

The wide track takes you past a number of interesting points,including two brochs.We stopped to look at the detail on one of two 'Macleod's Cairns'.
Skye and Rena's 90th July 2013 029(1)(1).jpg
The memorial to 1530 events

Heading on, Dunvegan Head's 1000ft cliffs looked impressive.
Skye and Rena's 90th July 2013 031(1).jpg
Dunvegan Head

The sea was so calm that you could see anything breaking the surface a long way off.Just as we were chatting about this ,unbelievably, a whale broke the surface, its long black back slowly gliding up and out of the ocean.From the distance we were inland, it must have been huge. In seconds, it had emerged again leaving us almost speechless.
Right - enough of this moorland meandering, it was time to head off down to the cliff edge and get closer to the action!The whale looked like it was heading towards the Point, our destination.We couldn't quite believe we'd had this sighting barely 20mins into the walk and from such a distance but the Minch was like a mill pond.
In no time,we were hiking along the spectacular coast itself, on lovely short-cropped and very dry grass.The views were stunning,even if our whale had definitely disappeared by now.
Coastal views Waternish(1).jpg
The Waternish coast

In fact, the day was brightening by the minute and soon the sea looked more like the Med and the shallows below us were crystal clear.It was a joy just to take it all in, the gannets diving offshore, guillemots and razorbills dotting the sea's surface.Magic.
Skye and Rena's 90th July 2013 061(1).jpg
Waternish Point in the distance

Waternish coast(1).jpg
Waternish coast

The harsh call of gulls caught our attention and we turned to see what the commotion was about.Incrediby, they were mobbing an eagle that must have been after chicks or nests.It flew very close to us before heading inland.As usual by the time I got the camera out and focused it was a way off ! But I got a couple of shots.
Eagle(1).jpg
Eagle heading past us

Golden eagle(1).jpg
Golden eagle?

We couldn't see a white tail so reckoned it was either a golden eagle or maybe a juvenile sea-eagle.In fact, not long after this we saw another one take off from near the Lighthouse itself,so there were a pair though I didn't get a photo of that one.
We reached the Lighthouse in warm sunshine, a glorious spot.
Waternish point lighthouse(1).jpg
The Lighthouse

Just as we were setting up the bird -scope , several small black fins broke the surface and we were amazed to see around 2 dozen porpoises feeding offshore.We realised that almost everywhere we looked, little fins were appearing as they hunted the waters 400m or so out from the Point.
3 porpoises(2).jpg
3 porpoises surface

A RIB from Uig soon appeared on the scene too - the folk on board must have got a fantastic view of the porpoises up close.
Skye and Rena's 90th July 2013 087(1).jpg
RIB gets really close

The 'scope has been a great investment - the detail and clarity it gives is amazing; I'd thoroughly recommend it to anyone interested in watching wildlife.We've often thought -' Oh, will we take the scope today?' and the answer always seems to be...thank goodness we did,certainly for low level walks.
Well, we were just amazed at what we'd seen so far.Little did we know that Waternish had even more in store!
The seal colony below us broke into song, their eerie, almost human voices breaking what had been utter silence.They certainly looked like they were enjoying basking in the warm sunshine.
Singing seals(1).jpg
Singing seals

We had just started to have a spot of lunch when our attention was caught by a loud 'whoosh' offshore.Jumping up to check what it was ,we saw a big black back emerge from the water,its tiny dorsal fin gradually appearing, before it sank back into the deep.He was back! Or...was it another one? In fact,over the next hour we realised there were 2 Minke whales hunting off the Point ..one definitely smaller than the other so possibly a mother and calf.They were a magnificent sight.
Minke whale(1).jpg
Minke whale

Skye and Rena's 90th July 2013 107(1).jpg
Minke whale

Heck of a difficult to catch with the camera though...I lost count of the number of empty blue sea pictures I took but got a few that prove they were there!
The whales were around for the next hour - more I imagine - emerging with a great loud puff of air as they surfaced.Finally and reluctantly, we had to pull ourselves away as we had a family event early evening and needed to scrub up and get organised.
To look out to the ocean and see porpoises and whales before us - and for so long - has to be a wildlife highlight for me.I have seen whales before abroad but it's always extra special to see your own country's wildlife and in such a beautiful, wild and quiet setting.
Waternish had one last sight for us as we retraced our steps along the cliff edge,reluctant to lose the close-up sea views on the big inland track.What looked like a peregrine raced past us,fluttering wildly as it emerged from the cliffs before heading at top speed inland.It was certainly peregrine territory.
Skye and Rena's 90th July 2013 131(1).jpg
Peregrine?

Sometimes you do a walk to sort of get it out of your system if it's one you've wanted to do for while but this is one walk that will draw me back I suspect many times.Even without the wildlife,it would be a treat as the views to the Western Isles and the (sometimes)sparkling sea are mesmerising and for not really any effort at all.
Skye and Rena's 90th July 2013 146(1).jpg
Evening light on North Uist from Waternish
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Re: The Whales of Waternish

Postby The Rodmiester » Tue Jul 30, 2013 5:35 pm

Thanks for posting, wonderful wildlife!, you were so lucky! When I went I saw nothing but there were naval excercises going on in the waters, so that might have been a reason for no wildlife activity, and also planes overhead. But I did take a photograph of the cairns (my namesake Roderick McLeod). I bet your glad we are in the digital age and not kodak film anymore, there would have been many thrown away pictures of only the sea :lol:
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Re: The Whales of Waternish

Postby RicKamila » Tue Jul 30, 2013 8:45 pm

Hi. Great report. Want to visit there next time on Skye.

Your first Eagle I am pretty sure is a Golden Eagle, but in the second picture, going by the wings it looks similar to a Sea Eagle. Kamila thinks so too. Was it the same Eagle in both photos?
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Re: The Whales of Waternish

Postby rohan » Tue Jul 30, 2013 9:07 pm

What a delightful walk with all that going on.
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Re: The Whales of Waternish

Postby morag1 » Tue Jul 30, 2013 9:14 pm

Love this report, really fab to see all that wildlife :D
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Re: The Whales of Waternish

Postby rockhopper » Wed Jul 31, 2013 12:05 am

Excellent ! Think I've only ever seen an eagle once in the hills and even then I'm not sure.....and you get possibly two in one go :mrgreen: I'd probably not be able to get the camera out in time anyway :roll: Well done - enjoyed that - cheers :)
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Re: The Whales of Waternish

Postby ouroboros » Wed Jul 31, 2013 11:57 am

8) 8) Marvellous! 8) 8)

Sea Eagle by the breadth of the wings and large bill.

What a brilliant day's wildlife watching. :D 8)
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Re: The Whales of Waternish

Postby AnnieMacD » Wed Jul 31, 2013 5:48 pm

Brilliant report. There's nothig better than combining a great walk with seeing all that wild-life.
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Re: The Whales of Waternish

Postby RicKamila » Wed Jul 31, 2013 10:00 pm

ouroboros wrote:8) 8) Marvellous! 8) 8)

Sea Eagle by the breadth of the wings and large bill.

What a brilliant day's wildlife watching. :D 8)


Aye, looking at both photos again, I'd agree with you that its a Sea Eagle.
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Re: The Whales of Waternish

Postby Anne C » Thu Aug 01, 2013 3:00 pm

Thanks for all the comments!

RicKamila wrote:Hi. Great report. Want to visit there next time on Skye.

Your first Eagle I am pretty sure is a Golden Eagle, but in the second picture, going by the wings it looks similar to a Sea Eagle. Kamila thinks so too. Was it the same Eagle in both photos?


It's the same eagle.I agree though....most likely a juvenile sea eagle.The wings were like barn doors.


The Rodmiester wrote:When I went I saw nothing but there were naval excercises going on in the waters, so that might have been a reason for no wildlife activity, and also planes overhead. I bet your glad we are in the digital age and not kodak film anymore, there would have been many thrown away pictures of only the sea :lol:

Yes - several blue sky photos too, trying to get the eagle! What we did notice was that the RIB was making the whale sound from quite a distance off so I doubt the paying customers saw much of it.The RIB made a heck of a racket which clearly had an impact though the porpoises didn't seem to mind.
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Re: The Whales of Waternish

Postby dooterbang » Fri Aug 02, 2013 3:04 pm

Lovely report.

I love Skye.

At the start of June I was lucky enough to witness a Minke Whale from Waternish Lighthouse...you can see it in my Mountains, Marathons and Meringues TR.

Cheers.
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Re: The Whales of Waternish

Postby Caberfeidh » Fri Aug 02, 2013 5:51 pm

Buggr! Just when my harpoons are away getting sharpened!!! :wink:
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Re: The Whales of Waternish

Postby Anne C » Tue Aug 06, 2013 11:00 am

dooterbang wrote:Lovely report.

At the start of June I was lucky enough to witness a Minke Whale from Waternish Lighthouse...you can see it in my Mountains, Marathons and Meringues TR.

.


What a fantastic report!That was a good one you got of the whale - another great part of the coast. I love Skye too.If you are interested in seeing eagles,I'd recommend Beinn Tianavaig -it's a lovely walk up to the summit beside the cliff edge,around an hour to the top.Of the 3 times we've done the walk, we've watched a golden eagle sweep up from the cliff edges,checking us out.Managed to get a pic of it on the ground, at the summit itself as we approached last time.(keep meaning to write up a wee report on that walk - views are stunning).
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Re: The Whales of Waternish

Postby ScottishLeaf » Wed Aug 07, 2013 12:44 am

Fantastic report, just shows we really are spoiled in Scotland. That last bird does look like a Peregrine Falcon too.... I remember standing just below the summit of Dumyat, near Stirling, and looking down over the cliffs, to see a Peregrine swoop to take a pigeon. The sheer speed they can move at is utterly amazing.
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Re: The Whales of Waternish

Postby Anne C » Thu Aug 08, 2013 1:26 pm

ScottishLeaf wrote: That last bird does look like a Peregrine Falcon too.... I remember standing just below the summit of Dumyat, near Stirling, and looking down over the cliffs, to see a Peregrine swoop to take a pigeon. The sheer speed they can move at is utterly amazing.


Yes,I'm pretty sure that's what it was, possibly a male. The speed was incredible.I love seeing them, though I've never seen an actual strike - must be quite a sight ! A pair were nesting last year in one of the derelict Red Road flats in Glasgow. - some great pictures of them online.
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