2018-08-01 - Ullapool-Stornoway

Survey details

Survey route: Ullapool-Stornoway

Company: Caledonian MacBrayne

Sea region: Minches & Western Scotland

Survey start date: 2018-08-01

Number of nights: Day sailing

A stock image of a common dolphin

Survey sightings

Cetacean sightings: N/A

Bird sightings: N/A

Other animals: N/A

Soon after we exited Loch Broom we were given access to the bridge. Thankfully the early fog had cleared and we were greeted with full visibility and a sea state 4 which persisted throughout the first leg of the survey to Stornoway. 2/3rds of the way across the Minch we picked up a small Minke whale that appeared 50 metres infront of the ship. A short while later a group of eight common dolphins appeared from the east and raced towards the Loch Seaforth before scooting down the side of our vessel. Not long after that another Minke appeared from the same line as the dolphins and just surfaced once. We checked the bathymetry with the crew and whilst there wasn’t a huge ridge here it did drop from 50 to 100 metres in this area.

We were pleased to find the sea state dropping from 4-3 on the return leg and soon after leaving Stornoway we briefly encountered two common dolphins under the bow: one adult and a calf. Despite the improving conditions we didn’t encounter any more marine mammals in the Minch. We did however pick up a sooty shearwater on its migration south and throughout the survey there were lots of Arctic skuas. We counted 7, one had pale morph plumage. 

When we entered Loch Broom at the end of the survey the sea state dropped even further and ranged from 1-2. This area can be very good for harbour porpoise but surprisingly we only recorded one before the end of the survey.

This was a great survey with an experienced team made very pleasant by a welcoming and interested bridge crew.  As always, thank you to CalMac for facilitating our work.

Marine Mammals:

Harbour porpoise 1

Common dolphins 10 (1 calf)

Minke whale 2


Arctic tern, puffin, guillemot, black guillemot, shag, great skua, arctic skua (1 pale morph), herring gull, lesser black backed gull, great black backed gull, common gull, kittiwake, manx shearwater, sooty shearwater, greylag goose, sparrowhawk and diver sp.

Survey team members

Andy Gilbert, Jan Storie, Andrew Ferguson