Oban harbour was mirror calm when the team met at 6.30am and boarded MV Clansman. As is the case with the Hebrides, sea conditions can change a number of times throughout a survey, but the sea state ranged from 0-2 throughout the day with only a very short period of sea state 3 late in the afternoon.
Our first sighting came with 3 harbour porpoise at the northern end of the Sound of Mull. Despite a great sea state we didn’t pick anything else up until we were on our second watch from Coll to Tiree and it was pretty quiet up until then on the seabird front too. Approaching Tiree a large group of 50 plus common dolphins raced to meet the ship and we had great views of them as they bow rode Clansman.
On the return to Coll (this survey stops at Coll twice in the day) we were pleased to see common seals hauled out on the rocks and skerries with at least two pups in tow. The common seal pupping season has just started up here.
Apart from a few interesting birds like Arctic skua and white-tailed eagle we didn’t have any more marine mammal sightings of note until early evening on the Colonsay run where we picked up 5 minkes whales, one small one showing particularly well (jaw and rostrum) relatively close to the ship.
It was a long day but a great survey with some fantastic sightings and a very welcoming and friendly crew to keep us going. Thank you to CalMac Ferries for continuing to facilitate our research.
Minke whale x5
Common dolphin x54
Common and grey seals x4
Razorbill, guillemot, manx shearwater, Northern gannet, cormorant, shag, herring gull, great black-backed gull, curlew, mallard, Arctic tern, common tern, oystercatcher, Black guillemot, Arctic skua, Black-headed gull ,great northern diver, shelduck, rock dove, Grey heron, common gull and White tailed eagle.
Andy Gilbert, Jan Storie, Rachel Kay, Ronnie McGowan