Ullapool certainly provided the ideal setting with bright sunshine and snowcapped mountains for the first Marine Mammal Survey of the season.
Soon after MV Loch Seaforth left Loch Broom the survey team was welcomed onto the bridge and were informed by the crew that they had already seen a number of harbour porpoise in the Loch.
We were blessed with clear visibility and a sea state ranging between 2-4 for both sailings. As we crossed the Minch a few seabirds were in evidence and a third of the way across a small distant group of what were probably common dolphins were spotted feeding off the starboard side.
A solitary fin was spotted by the officer of the watch at the bow of the ship a short while before we reached the coast of Lewis. A number of Great Northern divers were in evidence in Stornoway harbour, still over wintering before their migration to Icelandic breeding grounds in May.
The return leg saw a slightly decreased sea state and soon after leaving Stornoway we picked up 6 common dolphins racing past the bow of the ship, showing nicely. It wasn’t until we approached the mainland that our next, and final, marine mammals appeared with two sightings. A total of three harbour porpoise swimming in the mouth of the Loch.
This survey was a fantastic start to the season and as always, thank you to CalMac and their crew for enabling our research.
Common dolphins 11
Harbour porpoise 3
Unidentified dolphin 1
Great black-backed gull, herring gull, kittiwake, fulmar, gannet, great skua, guillemot, black guillemot, razorbill, puffin and Great Northern diver
Andy Gilbert, Jan Storie