A weeklong trip on the west coast of Scotland culminated in a visit to Gairloch, hopefully to spot some whales and other marine life.
Just before boarding the boat I watched a regular scene unfold at the dock. A local seal keeping a watchful eye on each returning boat and hoping for some fish food.
A common seal bull taking the first and best spot on a large rocky outcrop yet to become visible as the tide lowers from Loch Gariloch.
As I watched on it became apparent that this gathering was all about status. Those getting the best resting spot were out of the water first while the other carried on fishing nearby.
As our boat skips across the waves heading straight for open water we encounter a range of sea birds.
On a nearby island there were around 15 visible Heron's sat along the shore. Many of them young (still big birds) waiting for their parents to return with fresh fish.
Many battles were being fought out here in amongst the flocks of seabirds.
A Great Skua with clear intent followed our boat for a long distance as we slowed down out in the open water.
This pirate of the sea skies was circling the boat and pursuing other birds as it tried to bully it's way to a meal.
We were soon spotting several gatherings of sea birds in different directions a clear sign of feeding and likely whale activity.
As rain fell in the far distance it set a backdrop to see the gannets hovering and swooping and provided our first spot to sit and wait for a whale to surface.
Minke Whales only surface for a couple of seconds and spotting them against the waves is not easy at first. Finally I managed to catch a glimpse of this whale off in the distance.
It wasn't long before this younger Minke came to take a much closer look at our boat in between feeds.
As we drifted around an area of sandbanks at the mouth of Loch Gairloch we managed to spot at least two maybe three different whales.
Our interested Minke companion taking a final check of the boat before we headed off further out into the Minch to avoid spending too much time disturbing this feeding spot.
When we set off the wind seemed to be picking up, and now we were in the eye of the storm. The seas went still and created excellent spotting conditions.
Motor on full speed we now headed further out towards the Shaint isles as the storm brewed up behind us. I had expected at some point for us to be soaked in the storm but we managed to stay ahead of it at all times.
Gliding over the calm seas and staying ahead of the storm.
I hadn't seen Gannets feeding in the wild before this trip to Scotland. The sound and force with which they crash into the water has to be seen to be believed. Here there was a feeding frenzy taking place as several were smashing into the sea every few seconds. It gave a clue as to where the Dolphins might be feeding.
As we continued to speed towards the Shaints' a pod of dolphins left their feeding temporarily and heading straight to the boat.
This was my first dolphin sighting and I was amazed by their speed and darting all around the boat.
It was now around an hour until sunset and the sea started to gain motion again as the winds picked up and the storm which was following us seemed to get closer. The common dolphins regularly came to the boat and then seemed to leave and return, perhaps they were torn between feeding and investigating.
Still flanked by Gannets we finally had to head back to shore and away from the Shaint Isles.
It would have been great to be able to stay longer out at sea but the night was drawing in and the weather was changing so we headed back to shore. The birds continued to feed as we left there realm.
Cruising back into Gairloch at the end of a brilliant few hours. Having finally achieved my goal of seeing whales and dolphins I was ready for fish and chips and night sleeping in the car.