Sailing around the Clyde for the last ten year means I have accumulated a lengthy tick list of birds and beasts seen from my boat.
On a recent trip to Loch Ranza, Isle of Arran, I added a long awaited species to the list, a Basking Shark, over Whiting Bank off Bute at the south end of Loch Fyne. It was a pretty fine specimen over half the length of my 8.4 metre boat. I logged it’s position and have reported it to the Shark Trust together with a photograph.
Birds are my commonest sighting of course and perhaps my favourite with it’s spectacular plunges from 50 feet up is the Gannet. I was photographing Gannets when the shark showed up, mistaken at first for a seal, another of my most common sightings. The stiff winged Manx Shearwaters were skimming low over Loch Fyne at the same time but they are very difficult to photograph, particularly when you are attempting to sail a boat at the same time; the auto tiller helps but I still do not have an in focus photo.
Over the years I have spotted quite a number of Harbour Porpoises but their quick roll over with a puff of breath is usually all you see and hear. They are known as Puffing Pigs, very descriptive, they puff, they are chubby and when they get close you can smell them!
A year or two back a Bottle Nosed Dolphin entertained many boaters off Fairlie, leaping clear of the water in the Hunterston Channel.
Bottle Nosed Dolphin
Both porpoises and sharks seem to prefer glassy conditions or perhaps that’s when they are most easily seen.
It was fairly calm when I saw the shark which approached with a boat’s length several times but as almost always on a trip to Loch Ranza the wind piped up closer to the Cock of Arran and I finished up beating into Kilbrannan Sound in a force four gusting five. It was much the same when I left the following morning which resulted in a lively run with shortened sail until the Bute shore was approached and the wind eased, but no more sharks.
It seem astounding that these magnificent fish were hunted until the 1990′s, they must have been easy targets with their trustuing nature. Gavin Maxwell, noted naturalist and author of, “Ring of Bright Water“, had a shark oil business in the Sound of Sleat.
Young Guillimots abound at this time of year squeaking away in little groups and I saw Eider Ducks, Cormorants, Sandwich Terns (off Millport) and a variety of gulls en route.