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
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.
Jane Dodd, Andy Gilbert, Lynne Thwaites, Kathy Thwaite