As is increasingly turning out to be the case, this month’s Oban to Castlebay survey route produced the goods yet again.
The survey team were welcomed onto the bridge of the MV isle of Lewis by Captain George Campbell and his team as we passed Tobermory in the sound of Mull. We found a sea state ranging from 2-4 with good clear visibility for both crossings. Having passed the Island of Coll and Hawes Bank without any sightings our patience was rewarded with a group of over 40 common dolphins racing towards both sides of the bridge exhibiting all sorts of acrobatics as they breached and performed back slaps for us.
A short while later a large animal breached right in front of the ship. This certainly wasn’t a minke whale and after another also breached right out and one swam past us we realised that these were basking sharks that we were seeing.
The last sighting of the day was half an hour off Barra when a minke whale surfaced at the bow.
We had a very pleasant night in Dunards Hostel in Castlebay and a quiet drink in the sunshine outside one of the hotels with the sound of corncrake croaking in the field behind us.
The return journey was made in similar weather conditions and soon after we left we picked up two minke whales ahead and a porpoise at the bow. For half an hour we sailed through another group of basking sharks and recorded 5 more. Hawes bank was relatively quiet with only half a dozen common dolphins showing and our last cetacean sighting was a single harbour porpoise as we entered the Sound of Mull.
The team was delighted with such an exciting survey and absolutely superb hospitality from Captain Campbell and his crew.
Minke Whale x3
Common Dolphin x56
Grey and Common Seals x6
Basking shark x9
Common Guillemot, Razorbill, Common Scoter, Common Gull, Gannet, Cormorant, Shag, Manx Shearwater, Arctic Tern, Fulmar, Black Guillemot, Great skua, Puffin, Oystercatcher, Great black-back gull, Great northern diver, Eider (males in eclipse)
Andy Gilbert, Lucy Babey, Jane Dodd, Alistair MacDonald.