2019-04-08 - Oban–Castlebay
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.
1x Minke whale
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