Chris Packham checks out the wildlife on the Scottish island of Mull.
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This little piece of Utopia is Mull in Scotland.
Just to prove it's that, look behind me.
These dainty little sand martins are nesting at the top of a beach.
Where else could you find that in the UK?
Most of our beaches are far too disturbed, but not here.
Mull's coastline is a wildlife heaven.
Sea eagles, otters, in springtime a host of wild flowers.
The animals I have come to look for today hang around in pods and I guarantee they'll get you excited
and, given the conditions today, I reckon my chances of finding them
are pretty good.
You know those endless top ten lists, things you must do before you die?
I can guarantee that up there with naked paragliding is the desire to see dolphins or whales.
The thing is, seeing some of these remarkable creatures
is a really achievable thing throughout the course of the year
and in Britain you can do it with your clothes on.
In fact, you normally do it with rather a lot of clothes on.
The Isle of Mull is a real whale hotspot and here you can even see them without getting your feet wet.
Now, I know it's a statement of the obvious, very obvious indeed,
but unless you are excruciatingly lucky,
you could sit up here staring at this water for quite a few hours,
so for some mild distraction, pick up a book about whales and dolphins.
This one shows views of the animals taken from the surface,
just the sort of view you're going to get from up here.
No smiley faces - you don't get to see smiley faces if you're on top of the water, here.
But what about the best days to come?
Bright, sunny days aren't much good. There's too much glare off the water.
And days when it's too choppy aren't good either
because then every white-topped wave looks like it's the result of a dolphin's fin.
One last tip. I know it sounds absurd, but keep your ears open
because you can often hear whales and dolphins when they are blowing.
On a quiet day, you'll pick up on that.
And in the seas around the west coast of Scotland, you'll find plenty of dolphins and porpoises, too.
But if you are on Mull, Tobermory is a good place
to start your adventure and there are plenty of operators to take you out.
This is whale-watching, Western Isles of Scotland style, and just look at it - sunshine, dramatic scenery,
blue seas and the potential to see 24 different types of whale and dolphin.
I'm on the hunt for one of the smallest and least known whales -
the minke, or stinky minke as it's known because of its fishy breath.
I know the ocean's a big place and looking for whales can be like
looking for a bin bag bobbing around in the middle of nowhere but there are clues to whale activity.
Just up ahead of us there are some gannets diving into the sea, which is a pretty spectacular sight.
We mustn't be distracted by the birds
but you've got to keep your eye on seabirds because often, when there's a group of them on the surface,
it could be that there is a minke feeding there.
When they feed, they often spill food and the gulls pick it up.
The minkes were proving elusive. All was not lost though
because on this trip, serious whale research is undertaken too. Skipper James Fairbairn roped me in.
Another good thing about these whale-watching safaris
is they are not just an excuse for gratuitous whale eye candy.
You learn things too, particularly about why the whales are here.
-That's all down to their food, isn't it, James?
-Yes, that's right.
-What's this? Plankton net?
It's got a very fine mesh and we use it to catch plankton so we can show people what the whales are after.
Bottom of the food chain, rich water. Let's see.
OK. See how clear it is. Still see the net.
-Doesn't put up much of a fight, does it, plankton? Hardly a sporting fish, is it?
Because basically what you've got there is a whale, isn't it?
A whale's mouth, trawling.
That's absolutely right.
Doing exactly the same thing it would when it was feeding.
Let's have a look. What have we got here?
-This is zooplankton, isn't it?
-This is whale food, isn't it?
-That's right. Exactly what the whale...
-A pint of whale food. I wouldn't down it myself.
-Full of protein.
Unfortunately, plankton was to be our only catch of the day.
Not a sniff of a minke, let alone its fishy breath.
So, it was minke one, whale watchers nil.
Still time, though, to check out the jellyfish before returning
to Tobermory to get ready to try again the next day.
Another day, another chance to see a minke.
Whale-watching operators claim a high success rate around Mull
so this had to be our day.
As part of the research project, the minkes are photographed.
It means their movements can be monitored and it's something that you can get involved in as well.
I bet 99% of your punters want to go home with a photo, don't they?
What tips can you offer for cetaceal photography?
The most important thing is to just always keep an eye on what you're looking at.
When you're holding the camera a lot of people find
they tend to naturally close an eye, put their other eye inside the lens, the viewfinder,
whereas the most important thing is to keep that eye open.
You can always guide the camera in the right place...
And be poised as well so you're looking with this eye and immediately up...
-You've got 1½ seconds whilst it's breaking the surface.
We're both armed with great big telephotos. What about little snappy cameras?
-Do they ever come close enough to use those?
I think actually you don't need to have this sort of equipment. This is more for photo identification.
If you want a photo to take home, these little snappy ones you get are just as good.
Now by this time things were, frankly, rather tense and the minkes were still refusing to play ball.
But there was a big clue - the seabirds were back on the surface
and strange things were happening under the water.
There it is right here.
-Look at that!
-Finally, a minke.
It's here again, it's under the bow.
There it is right here.
Then the whale just got closer and closer to the boat.
It was unbelievable.
This is one of around 65 individual minkes that have been identified in these waters.
Just about to come up again.
Look at that!
-If you're thinking of going to Canada, Iceland or Norway forget it!
There it is, guys, down here, right underneath us.
Really checking us out. It's going to the stern.
Honestly, I've seen a few whales around the world,
but never has one shown this much attention to the boat.
It must have criss-crossed under the boat 10, 12 times now.
Fabulous views, looking down through this clear water. You can see every detail.
Doesn't look like a bin bag floating on the surface -
it looks like a proper animal. James, what can you tell us about this one?
It's a young one. The juveniles are much more curious than the adults. The adults tend to stay away.
-What do you think?
I've seen minke maybe a handful of times,
but to keep going backwards and forwards so slowly, so controlled, it blew me away.
-It's almost like it was a pet.
It's like it performed for us.
It knew we were here, and it performed.
And you couldn't ask for anything else, could you?
People go all the way to the Bahamas, Nova Scotia, California...
but, look - calm sea, blue sky, sunshine, minke whale, pet minke, swimming under the boat.
What are you talking about? Save your money. Mull is the place to come.
-Vote for Mull!
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