Oban–Castlebay

2019-06-10 - Oban–Castlebay

Survey details

Survey route: Oban–Castlebay

Company: Caledonian MacBrayne

Sea region: Minches & Western Scotland

Survey start date: 2019-06-10

Number of nights: 1

^ Kisimul Castle, Castlebay

We boarded the MV Isle of Lewis in the sunshine on Mon 10th June ready for our survey to Barra. Conditions were breezy but not too choppy so we were hoping for lots of sightings. It was calm and quiet through the Sound of Mull and we were treated to a close up view of a golden eagle as it flew over the ferry and stunning views of the small Isles as we cruised past Ardnamurchan Point. Shortly after we left the Sound of Mull I spotted a harbour porpoise close to the ship raising our expectations that we would be kept busy for the remainder of the trip. However as we left the shelter of Mull more white caps appeared making spotting more difficult. Choppy conditions remained all the way across the Minch and we had no further sightings.


We crossed our fingers and hoped for a busier return journey.


We boarded the ferry again bright and early on Tuesday 11th, the day was slightly cooler and more cloudy but shortly after leaving Castlebay Jan spotted a basking shark off the starboard side of the ship. The Minch was even choppier than the first day making crossing the bridge a little tricky but a while later Jan spotted 2 groups of common dolphins coming towards the ferry and as we approached the Hawe’s Bank Alistair spotted a Minke whale. We were treated to beautiful views of the Coll and Tiree as we entered calmer water closer to Mull and conditions were perfectly calm in the Sound of Mull but we had no more sightings on our way back to Oban.


Thanks to the team for their hard work and to the Captain and crew of the Isle of Lewis for their hospitality.


Cetacean Sightings


1x harbour porpoise


1x Minke whale


2 groups common dolphins 


Bird list


 Oyster catcher, Black guillemot, Guillemot, Razorbill, Gannet, Great Skua, Fulmar, Common tern, Arctic tern, Manx shearwater, Kittiwake, Puffin, Golden eagle, Shag, Great black backed gull, Eider duck.

^ The survey team ready for action bright and early on day 2

Survey team members

Jane Dodd, Alastair MacGugan, Andrew Ferguson, Jan Storie

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2019-05-06 - Oban–Castlebay

Survey details

Survey route: Oban–Castlebay

Company: Caledonian MacBrayne

Sea region: Minches & Western Scotland

Survey start date: 2019-05-06

Number of nights: 1

The team met in Oban Ferry Terminal full of Bank Holiday Monday travellers and the four surveyors boarded MV Isle of Lewis for our two day survey to the Outer Hebrides with an overnight on Barra.


As always the Sound of Mull was relatively quiet but it was lovely to see the newly returned Arctic Terns feeding in the sound. We had good visibility with a sea state ranging from 2-4 as we crossed the open water of the Sea of Hebrides. We had high expectations as the crew were reporting seeing dolphins and Minke whales over the last few sailings. Either side of Hawes bank we picked up a small number of common dolphins and a single Minke whale.


The return leg was initially pretty quiet with an incidental sighting of a Minke whale by one of the officers but we were unable to locate it again. But later, as we passed the Cairns of Coll, common dolphins started racing to the bow and a stream of approximately 100 dolphins showed themselves over a five minute period.  Not long after that the port observer had another Minke surface close to the ship. Needless to say the team were excited and happy with the sightings.The rest of the survey was rounded off with seal sightings and a harbour porpoise sighting either side of the sound before we returned to Oban with big grins on our faces.


Thankyou to CalMac and the Captain and crew of MV Isle of Lewis for allowing us to continue our bio-diversity monitoring.     


Marine mammals


Harbour Porpoise 2


Common Dolphins 120+


Minke whale 3


Common & Grey seal 3


Bird list


Kittiwake, common gull, herring gull, gannet, guillemot, black guillemot, razorbill, puffin, great skua, red throated diver, great Northern Diver, Arctic terns, barn swallow and turnstone

Survey team members

Andy Gilbert, Joanne Beaton, Joe Jeffcoate, Rachel Mawer

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2019-04-08 - Oban–Castlebay

Survey details

Survey route: Oban–Castlebay

Company: Caledonian MacBrayne

Sea region: Minches & Western Scotland

Survey start date: 2019-04-08

Number of nights: 1

We boarded MV Isle of Lewis eager for sightings with a great weather forecast before us. Despite good conditions we didn't pick up anything during the first couple of hours of the survey and as we exited the Sound of Mull into the southern Minch we were hopeful that that would change. The crossing to Barra was full of seabirds, including huge numbers of Manx sheawaters, many of which were feeding.  But, even with a sea state ranging from 2-3 there was suprisingly no dolphin action.  However, as we approached Castlebay a number of warships were taking part in the annual Joint Warrior NATO exercises.


We spent a comfortable night in Dunards Hostel and were back at the ferry terminal at 07:30 ready to board and try our luck again.  Due to a fault with the ship it looked unlikely that we wouldn't get back to Oban that day.  We were resigned to another day on Barra spendind the afternoon exploring a little, taking the short boat ride out to Kisimul castle in the harbour and one of our team even rented a bike and cycled around the island. It was a lovely sunny day and despite the inconvenience there were worse places to be stranded than a Hebridean Island.


The next day we were away back to Oban but again we encountered the naval exercises and no cetaceans. The seabirds were still around and at one stage we had a large group of probable pink footed geese heading north. It wasn't until we were approaching the Isle of Mull that we had our first and only marine mammal sighting. In the distance we picked up a Minke whale through the binoculars, feeding beside the coast. It was the first minke spotted by ORCA in the Hebrides this season and we were all excited to record it. The rest of the sailing we unfortunately didnt have any more sighting but we were very happy with our whale.


Many thanks to the Captain, Chief Engineer, and crew of MV Isle of Lewis for making us so welcome and facilitating our work.


Cetaceans seen:


1x Minke whale


Birds


Gannet, kittiwake, manx shearwater, black guillemot, guillemot, razorbill, fulmar, shag, common gull, herring gull, great black-backed gull and pink footed geese.

Survey team members

Andy Gilbert, Anna Pfoertner

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