Oban–Tiree–Coll–Oban–Colonsay-Oban

2019-08-25 - Oban–Tiree–Coll–Oban–Colonsay-Oban

Survey details

Survey route: Oban–Tiree–Coll–Oban–Colonsay-Oban

Company: Caledonian MacBrayne

Sea region: Minches & Western Scotland

Survey start date: 2019-08-25

Number of nights: Day sailing

^ Out on the deck enjoying the sunshine while we docked at Tiree

We boarded the MV Clansman very early on a beautiful, slightly misty Sunday morning ready for the survey to Coll, Tiree and Colonsay. The sea was flat, calm for most of the trip and like a mirror in places. Things were very quiet until we left the Sound of Mull when we spotted a group of 6 porpoise. All was quiet again until after we left Coll and headed for Tiree when we spotted a Minke and then almost immediately afterwards a harbour porpoise. On the trip back from Tiree to Coll we spotted 2 groups of 2 harbour porpoise in quick succession. This trip was all about long periods of quiet and then frantic activity! On the way back down the Sound of Mull we spotted another harbour porpoise and then just after Lismore lighthouse a group of 3 more bringing our total to 15.


After a quick refuel in Oban we re-boarded the Clansman and set sail for Colonsay. On the way down the Firth of Lorn just before the Garvellachs we spotted a large group of (30) common dolphins with calves from the starboard side of the bridge, they were splashing around close to the coast of Mull. The rest of the trip was quieter after all that excitement, we had a couple more very quick sightings of dolphins close to the ferry but unfortunately they were moving too fast to identify with certainty.


Thanks to Hannah, Neil and Siofra for a great trip and to the crew of the Clansman for their hospitality.     

Survey team members

Jane Dodd, Hannah Parkinson, Neil Parkinson, Siofra Quigley

Continue reading

2019-07-28 - Oban–Tiree–Coll–Oban–Colonsay-Oban

Survey details

Survey route: Oban–Tiree–Coll–Oban–Colonsay-Oban

Company: Caledonian MacBrayne

Sea region: Minches & Western Scotland

Survey start date: 2019-07-28

Number of nights: Day sailing

We were welcomed onto the bridge of the Clansman by the captain and his crew as we approached the Sound of Mull. Our first sighting was a small Minke whale within the sound itself. This is not an area where we tend to record many cetaceans so we were surprised to see the whale surface a few times close to the ship. Just before reaching Tobermory we picked up a small group of travelling harbour porpoise and a curious harbour seal.


Despite bouts of fog the sea conditions were good, ranging from 1-2 all the way across the Inner Sound to Coll and Tiree but apart from a single porpoise the seas were quiet. At one stage, quite close to the ship, we had distinctive splashing at the surface of the water coming from below but no body appeared and we suspected a small shark but were unable to confirm.


It wasn’t until we reached the entrance to the Sound that we found another 4 porpoise and then 2 more as we exited the other side and passed Duart Castle. 


On arrival in Oban we had time to get off ship and grab a well needed warm meal before the second leg of the survey to Colonsay. The Captain took us through the Sound of Kerrera and between the Garvellach archipelago and the mainland which was spectacular from a scenery perspective. The sea conditions were still good – at times down to 0 and around the Garvellachs we recorded 13 harbour porpoise, including 1 calf. Between there and Colonsay we also spotted a lone Minke whale that had to be recorded as an incidental sighting as it was outside of the survey parameters.


On return from Colonsay another 3 porpoise were seen and we also had a fabulous sighting of two more Minke whales, one of which at one stage surfaced right beside the bow on the beam below us and gave the team an amazing view. After that the fog closed in and we finished the survey.


As always, thank you to CalMac and their captains and crews for facilitating our conservation work.


Marine Mammals seen:


Harbour porpoise x26


Minke whale x4


Harbour seal x2


Birds seen:


Black guillemot, guillemot, manx shearwater, Arctic tern, gannet, great skua, shag, puffin, razorbill, greylag geese, oystercatcher, kittiwake, great black backed gull, common gull and herring gull.

Survey team members

Jane Dodd, Andy Gilbert, Lynne Thwaites, Kathy Thwaite

Continue reading

2019-05-26 - Oban–Tiree–Coll–Oban–Colonsay-Oban

Survey details

Survey route: Oban–Tiree–Coll–Oban–Colonsay-Oban

Company: Caledonian MacBrayne

Sea region: Minches & Western Scotland

Survey start date: 2019-05-26

Number of nights: Day sailing

^ Common seals seen on return journey

With sightings of a fin whale breaching off Tiree seen in recent days, the ORCA survey team were eager for the day ahead as they boarded the MV Clansman at 7am. The weather wasn’t on our side though, averaging around sea state 4 most of the day, rain, low cloud and occasional fog banks. The team braved the conditions on the back verandah for 2 hours as we travelled up the sound of Mull. Once clearing the island of Mull the fog lifted and we were allowed onto the bridge, briefly, as a technical issue occured. We limped back to Oban on one engine which took 4 hours. As we bobbed around offshore initially we did manage to see 2 probable common dolphins feeding amongst a large flock of manx shearwaters. We had 8 common seals on a small rocky island on our return journey.


The ORCA team were magnificent and cheerful.The Calmac kind ferry team had amazing patience, These things happen.


Marine Mammals seen:


Common Dolphin(probable)  x2, Common seal x8


Birds seen:


Black throated diver, manx shearwater c700, razorbill, guillemot, puffin, black guillemot, shag, red breasted merganser, eider, kittiwake, common gull, gtr black backed gull, herring gull, oystercatcher and gannet.

^ Manx Shearwaters

^ MV Clansman

Survey team members

Brian Clasper,Charlotte Andrew,Beth Harvey & Sarah Harvey

Continue reading