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13 June 2014
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Rocky Islands - Treshnish and Staffa

Birds and Basking Sharks

Staffa

The Treshnish Isles in the Inner Hebrides off the west coast of Scotland were formed 60 million years ago when volcanic eruptions on the nearby island of Mull caused lava to flow into the sea.

Staffa - a wildlife wilderness and one of the natural wonders of the world


Guillemots c/o Turus MaraThe eight islands, situated about three miles off the mainland, are internationally recognised as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) for their wildlife, which includes seals, cliff and burrow-nesting seabirds and wintering wildfowl.

The main islands - Lunga, Fladda and Bac Mor or the Dutchman's Cap - are completely uninhabited and provide a safe haven for birds and grey seals.

The only way to visit the islands is by taking a special boat trip from the mainland, and on approaching Lunga the views of nesting seabirds are spectacular.

Don't miss a trip to Fingal's Cave on Staffa, one of the top natural spectacles in the British Isles, and the inspiration for Mendelssohn's classical overture - The Hebrides.

A bird's-eye view

Puffin c/o Turus MaraLarge nesting colonies of Puffins can be seen during late spring and summer, before they leave to spend the colder months out at sea.

Puffins generally mate for life and return to the same cliff-top year after year, where they nest underground using their beaks to excavate old rabbit burrows or even digging new ones.

These comical birds are at their best during the breeding season, when their rainbow beaks are their brightest before they dull again to brown in autumn.

The islands are also a breeding ground for other seabirds like Razorbill, Guillemot, Shag, Fulmar, Cormorant, Kittywake and Skua.

With all these birds around there's always a scrabble for food - watch carefully and you might even see a Guillemot snatch a sprat out of its neighbour's beak!

Shark adventure

Basking Shark c/o Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust and Rob PickeringThe surrounding seas are also a prime spot for Basking Sharks so it's just as well that boats are the only way to travel.

Basking Sharks take their name from their fondness of feeding at the surface and in calm water - it's easy to spot their enormous dorsal fin cutting through the water.

They're the largest fish in Britain and the second largest in the world, measuring anywhere up to 12 metres long and weighing up to seven tonnes.

These endangered gentle giants may look imposing but are actually harmless, feeding on plankton filtered through their enormous jaws.

In fact, Basking Sharks can filter up to 2,000 cubic metres of sea water in just one hour!

These gentle creatures can live up to 50 years.

Photo credits

Fingal's Cave c/o Turus MaraBasking Shark copyright and courtesy of the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust/Rob Pickering.

Sea bird pictures and Staffa/Treshnish images courtesy and copyright of Turus Mara.

 

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