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Observations from the Wheelhouse - Nicks June News

cuckoo sitting on a branch jutting from an exposed rocky and heather-covered cliff on the island of Ronay in North Uist

A lady went into a pet shop.

“I want a parrot for my little girl,” she said. “Sorry, madame” said the shopkeeper, “We don’t do swaps.”

Now I’ve got that off my chest, let’s get onto the subject of the weather.  I know I am not alone in thinking that June was unseasonably cold and unsettled.  But I have at home an old copy of the West Coast Pilot which contains weather observations from Stornoway taken between 1871 and 1932. During those years, the average temperature for June was 51°F. ( 11° C). And the average rainfall was 2.4 inches (60 mm). The average number of days with rain was 17, and the average number of calm days was 8.  So I guess 2024 has been pretty average too in the great scheme of things.

A large male eurasian otter, sitting in a patch of bladder wrack seaweed and facing the camera

The cold weather hasn’t seemed to put the otters off.  We have been seeing more otters every week than we would’ve seen in a month in other years.  It has certainly helped having Rosie on the deck. Several times she has heard them squeaking over the sound of the engine and lo and behold there they are.  My favourite sightings took place while we were ourselves being observed by a white tailed eagle. Watching us watching them!  There is plenty of evidence to suggest that these birds will watch otters themselves with the intention of snatching a free meal from them.

As mentioned last month, our resident pair of white tailed eagles have two healthy chicks on the nest so no trip is complete without experiencing some close eagle action usually culminating in one of the adults taking fish back to feed their chicks. It never ceases to be a thrill to see these huge birds up close.

A white tailed sea eagle swooping low to the water with wings extended and a fish in its talons

One of the most exciting sightings for me was one day watching a deer being attacked by two great skuas, something I had never seen before, I guess it had strayed too close to their nest on one of the smaller islands.  Seeing deer swimming from island to island has been another treat, it’s not something we see every day, but not too unusual either.  Groups of black throated divers have also made a reappearance after being largely absent at the beginning of the month.  One day we actually saw a group of 12 all swimming lazily together and wonder of wonders they didn’t dive at all so the photographers aboard got some fabulous shots.

A group of seven red deer swimming in the sea, heads extended from the water. The stags have new antlers, still coated in soft velvet

Out in the Minch we have seen Rissos dolphins a few times and a minke whale too, but generally speaking sightings of cetaceans have been quiet. Presumably because fish shoals have not been present. And interestingly when Nye and I have tried a spot of fishing in the last couple of weeks, we have struggled to catch anything much.

The common seals have been lying high up on the rocks recently and quite a few young pups have started appearing, adding an level of cuteness to our Hebridean Wildlife boat trip alongside those sea eagles and otters.


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