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Last Updated: Thursday, 18 January 2007, 00:11 GMT
Puffins, sea eagles and Jaws too
By Steven McKenzie
BBC Scotland news website, Highlands and Islands reporter

Basking shark
One of the basking sharks circles the boat
The Highlands has been judged to be the best place in Scotland if you love wildlife by BBC Wildlife Magazine.

Close encounters with basking sharks, puffins and a white-tailed sea eagle in a single day in June can only back up the region's claim to top spot.

"You're gonna need a bigger boat."

The classic quote from the film Jaws immediately sprang to mind as two female basking sharks circled our small craft.

The skipper of the whale-watching cruise silenced the engine and allowed his vessel of bob from side to side.

Just minute's out of the harbour we got our first glimpse of a basking shark

Stretching to 18ft (5m) long the massive fish dwarfed the boat.

For several minutes the harmless sharks swam close by, their huge mouths open wide as they fed on tiny plankton.

This was easily the highlight of a day my wife, Claire, and I spent in Wester Ross last June.

Our boat trip from Gairloch had quickly turned into an episode of David Attenborough's Planet Earth.

Just minute's out of the harbour we got our first glimpse of a basking shark, its dorsal fin rising above the water.

Seabirds of every shape and size were everywhere.

Gannets and mean-looking skuas glided overhead, while on the water black-and-white puffins paddled like aquatic butlers.

Ghostly shape

On the drive home from Gairloch we spotted a white-tailed sea eagle being mobbed by a smaller bird of prey.

Even outside of that summer day's wildlife-fest, you don't have to travel far to see why the Highlands is BBC Wildlife Magazine's Scottish winner.

From the battlements of historic Fort George, near Ardersier, it is possible to watch dolphins.

Red kites regularly soar above the road from Inverness to Dingwall and the ghostly shape of a barn owl swooping over the A96 to Nairn on a winter's night reinforce the region's natural credentials.


SEE ALSO
Highlands a winner for wildlife
18 Jan 07 |  Highlands and Islands



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