First basking shark arrivals in the UK- Hebrides of Course!
Out of the blue…(no pun intended) the basking sharks have arrived back to UK waters and much to our surprise we had a massive number of sharks over the easter weekend! This shows the Hebrides are still the no1 place for basking sharks!
Other areas in the south of the UK usually have among the first sightings as the sharks migrate north over spring, so it is unusual to have them so early beside us in so many number. Rumours are that it's very rare or barely recorded to have such numbers so early, so what this means for their summer migrational pattern we don't know! We took some plankton samples and that revealed a large number of copepods (basking sharks favourite meal) so the spring plankton blooms must have started to some extend.
Plankton blooms are an oceanic event which rely on a number of factors such as sunlight, nutrients, temperature. This starts with the phytoplankton (algae) which generally can be compared to spring flowers and the conditions they need to flower in the spring. The phytoplankton is predated by zooplankon (animals) as this is the type that sharks favour! So there is quite a complex food web structure that attracts the sharks in the first place. Why there has been a bloom and early arrivals is unknown. However it has been a very windy winter with a lot of storms which is turn would generate a lot of upwelling and nutrient availability. As such perhaps the sunshine and warming of the sea has created suitable conditions for an early bloom and therefore the arrival of the sharks!
We recorded 15 sharks over 24hrs out on the Hebrides on easter sunday and easter monday. All sightings seemed to be small-medium sized sharks but due to weather and limited people we could only make surface observations. The event in itself is hugely interesting and is another twist in the mysterious lives of the sharks!
We had a wonderful time out at Coll and gave us a glimmer of our summer trips, with 4 sea eagles spotted, some nice interactions with our harbour and grey seals, porpoises, puffins, fulmars, guillemots and gannets all being spotted. Along with a fantastic sunset over the beautiful Hebrides. See below for some pictures and check out our four day Hebridean shark and wildlife adventures on this link - the best way to experience this wonderful destination.
[caption id="attachment_3196" align="aligncenter" width="1000"] Checking out our favourite snorkelling spot![/caption]
[caption id="attachment_3197" align="aligncenter" width="800"] Ben More on Mull pokes out through the haar[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_3198" align="aligncenter" width="1000"] An eagle soars over the islands[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_3199" align="aligncenter" width="960"] Stunning Sunset over Arinagour and Loch Eatharna[/caption]