Located 11 miles of the coast of Pembrokeshire, Grassholm is home to more than 39,000 breeding pairs of Gannet, representing around 10 percent of the world population – the third largest Atlantic gannet colony in the UK (behind St Kilda and Bass Rock). The island is also the westernmost point in Wales.
Image: Gannets on Grassholm – geograph.org.uk – 174369″ by dave challender. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons
According to Robin Reid, RSPB officer for the Western Isles, Bowglass (Bogha Glas) on the Isle of Harris is the best place in the whole of Europe to see Golden Eagles (BBC Wildlife, Feb 2015).
The track that goes up from [the car park at] Bowglass runs through four different golden eagle territories. If you spent a day between February and June going up that track…. there’s a good chance you’d see five to ten different eagles. I can’t think of anywhere else in Europe where you can walk up a glen and potentially see so many eagles in just three or four hours.
Photo from Geograph © Copyright Peter Moore and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.
The rocky headland of Hella Point near Land’s End offers great views of basking sharks during the summer months. The Cornwall Wildlife Trust Basking Shark Project runs sightings here from June to the end of August. For instance in 2010, more than 600 basking sharks were sighted here, mainly in June along with grey seals, sun fish, fin and minke whales and common, bottlenose and risso dolphins.
Chanonry Point on the Black Isle is famous as one of the best places in Europe for watching dolphins from the comfort of land. These bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) can often close to the shore, especially after low tide, when they come in to fish in the strong currents. In fact BBC wildlife presenter Simon King has described Scotland as “one of the best land-based dolphin watching hot spots in the world”. It is also a top spot for seal watching. Note the nearby Dolphin and Seal Centre in North Kessock is now closed as of 2015.
While bottlenose dolphins can be seen off the point throughout the year, the chances of seeing them increase when their food supply increases, the peak times being when salmon are returning towards the two main rivers (the Ness and Beauly) which feed into the Moray Firth. The salmon come in with the tidal current which, once the tide starts to come in, can be extreme. If planning a trip, find tide details and pick days with midday low tides with the largest difference between low and high tide (spring tides, avoid the neap tides). An unofficial “jungle telegraph” system operates round the Rosemarkie campsite and point in June and on into August with details of the latest sightings only a brief conversation away. The University of Aberdeen operates a more formal range of surveys throughout the year from their field station based just along the coast at Cromarty, supported by funds from the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society. While the Point is regarded by many people as the best place to watch the dolphins from land, licenced boat trips do run from Cromarty and Avoch.
Photo from Geograph: © Copyright Craig Wallace and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.