Loch Linnhe welcomes rare ocean-going visitor

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Marine animal rescue experts say they are aware of the rare northern bottlenose whale which has been sighted in Loch Linnhe in the past week.

Julia Cable, national co-ordinator for British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR), confirmed to the Lochaber Times on Tuesday the organisation has been informed of the whale’s presence.

‘I can confirm a northern bottlenose whale has been seen in Loch Linnhe but we do not have anyone monitoring it at present,’ she said.

‘We have been informed that the whale is displaying feeding behaviour and is staying in the deep parts of the loch. If the situation changes, we will get volunteers to the area.’

BDMLR was notified on Sunday by Dr Ben Darvill who spotted the whale, which is of a species rarely found in inshore waters.

Dr Darvill, who is the development and engagement manager for the British Ornithology Trust Scotland, based in Stirling, told us he first spotted the whale in shallow water off Sallachan, near Ardgour.

‘I was driving north heading for the Corran Ferry after a weekend in Strontian and I was glancing at the sea from time to time, hoping perhaps to spot an otter or something,’ he told the Lochaber Times.

Dr Ben Darvill managed to film the whale as it surfaced to take stock of its surroundings in Loch Linnhe. NO F32 bottlenose whale screengrab
Dr Ben Darvill managed to film the whale as it surfaced to take stock of its surroundings in Loch Linnhe.
NO F32 bottlenose whale screengrab

‘It was hard to miss a huge splash out in the loch. At first I thought an asteroid had hit the water. I pulled over and saw the whale repeatedly leap right out of the water, each time landing with a huge splash, followed shortly afterwards by a deep echoing boom noise.

‘Over the course of the next hour or two, I watched it leap out – breach – and spy hop [sticking its head out of the water to look around], and also repeatedly hit its tail fluke on the surface.

‘It was in the shallow water off Sallachan – surely not right for what is a deep-water species.

‘It spent quite a bit of time with its head and beak out of the water, presumably looking around thinking, where on earth am I?

‘I just hope that it makes it back out into the deep water where it belongs, though it was fantastic to see it at relatively close quarters.’

Also known as the bottlehead or North Atlantic bottlenose whale, these large ocean dwellers can grow to over 11m in length and weigh up to 7,500kg.

Sea Watch Foundation director Dr Peter Evans told us the species is rare in British waters, occurring mainly in deep waters beyond the edge of the continental shelf.

‘In summer, northern bottlenose whales may move onto north-west European shelf waters, such as around the Hebrides, where most records occur between July and September,’ he said.

‘In Scotland, most records come from the Hebrides, particularly around the Isle of Skye where there are some deeper canyons.

‘In Scotland, there have been 21 previous live sightings of northern bottlenose whales since 2000.’