Oban–Tiree–Coll–Oban–Colonsay-Oban

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

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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

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2019-04-21 - 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: 2019-04-21

Number of nights: Day sailing

Only the second leg of this month's survey (Oban-Colonsay-Oban) was undertaken due to logistical issues.


The survey on MV Clansman was very quiet with a sea state ranging from 2-3 throughout the crossing.  As always, we were made very welcome on the bridge by the Captain and crew. Unfortunately we didn't pick up any cetaceans on either the outward or return leg. There were a number of manx sheawaters spotted and guillemots and razorbills were also in evidence. A great skua was sighted not far off Colonsay. 


Bottlenose dolphins had been seen off Seil Island the day before and we scanned the waters with ever more determination as we passed through the locality but to no avail. This sailing returns to Oban at 9:15 pm and we were eventually beaten by the light and retired from the bridge.


Many thanks, as always to the Captain and crew of MV Clansman and CalMac for fcilitating our work.   


 Bird Seen -


Guillemot, razorbill, black guillemot, great black-backed gull, lesser black-backed gull, herring gull, common gull, kittiwake, gannet, great skua, eider and manx shearwater.

Survey team members

Andy Gilbert, Stuart Dewar, Jane McVicar

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