In an unsettled summer, a long awaited decent weather forecast mid-August meant a few days booked at short notice for a trip to north-west Scotland. Boat trips out of Ullapool were planned for three consecutive days, with two longer trips out into The Minch (the stretch of sea that separates the mainland from Lewis & Harris in the Outer Hebrides), plus one around the more sheltered Loch Broom and the Summer Isles. Apart from the superb scenery in this part of the world, there would be the chance for photo opportunities with cetaceans and seabirds. Based myself near Laide, with a room overlooking Gruinard Bay, a pleasant 40 mile drive west from Ullapool and basically birding this area at an easy pace, as well as scanning the lochs between the two sites. Despite being on the North Coast 500 scenic drive route traffic was fairly light - clear roads were the norm, with such a great backdrop and vistas. No real problem with Midges, only started to appear around 8.00 in the evening when I was sat outside the hotel having a meal.
For the first two days, glorious warm weather with great light for photography. Crucially a flat sea improved the chances of picking up whales and dolphins - Humpback Whale seen on the first morning right next to the RIB (my first in the UK), a couple of sightings of Minke Whale on the second day, plus numerous Common Dolphin and the odd Harbour Porpoise encountered on both trips. It was tough going on the seabird front, best being six Storm Petrel, Great Skua was pretty regular with double figures being seen daily and just a single Manx Shearwater was a surprise (thought I'd see hundreds). Best of the rest were flocks of summer plumage Black-throated Diver (13 in Gruinard Bay & 8 in Loch Ewe), White-tailed Sea Eagle, Red-breasted Merganser, Raven & Black Guillemot.
Luck ran out weather wise on the final day, strengthening winds had whipped up the waves and meant a really rough trip out into Loch Broom, with nothing new seen. Heavy cloud cover and poor light, meant an early finish - lunch then the long drive back to North Yorkshire.