We were greeted by the crew of the Isle of Lewis and welcomed onto the bridge between Oban and Lismore. The sea state was reasonable but we didn’t pick up any cetaceans until we reached the end of the Sound of Mull. However, an adult white tailed sea eagle flew down the Sound close to the ship giving those on the starboard side great views of it.
When we reached the edge of Loch Sunart we spotted a single Minke whale feeding in the entrance to the loch. As we passed the Isle of Coll we observed a group of 16 common dolphins in the distance racing towards a fishing vessel and associating with the boat. porpoise, 1 with a calf, were then seen as we sailed towards Hawes Bank. The bank itself was pretty quiet but we did have a spectacular sighting of a large basking shark breaching 5 times out of the water making a huge splash. I smaller basking shark was spotted a short while after and another porpoise was seen before the sea state rose to 4 as we cruised towards Castlebay.
We had a comfortable night in the hostel at Catslebay. We were back on ship at 07:15 the next morning and just as we had arrived on the bridge and the ship was exiting the harbour 4 bottlenose dolphins raced to the starboard side and gave us great views. Half an hour later we were recording another small group of common dolphins and very soon after that a group of Risso’s dolphins swam along the port side of the ship. We had clear views of these animals and there were two calves in tow.
The rest of the crossing of the Sea of Hebrides was quiet with the exception of a few harbour porpoise. As we entered the Sound of Mull a group of 4 porpoise were clearly seen crossing the bow. Again, as we crossed the edge of Loch Sunart, a Minke whale showed itself, already being enjoyed by a small boat load of whale watchers. On exit of the sound we recorded another 3 harbour porpoise around Lismore light.
This was an excellent survey where some members of the team were lucky enough to record new species for themselves and everyone enjoyed the basking sharks! As always, it was made all the better by the warm welcome that we were given by the officers and crew of the Isle of Lewis.
Marine Mammals Seen:
Harbour porpoise 10
Common dolphin 21
Bottlenose dolphin 4
Risso’s dolphin 7
Minke whale 2
Harbour seal 2
Grey seal 1
Basking shark 2 (1 breaching)
Kittiwake, gannet, white-tailed eagle, Arctic tern, great black-backed gull, herring gull, common gull, cormorant, shag, guillemot, curlew, manx shearwater, fulmar, European storm petrel, puffin, great skua, black guillemot.
Survey team members
Andy Gilbert, Pete Short, William Anderson, Pat Hatch