Tales from the Trail: Ardnamurchan Lighthouse
Join us for our weekly blog as we share experiences from sites along the Hebridean Whale Trail - this week Tierney and Milo talk about their first week in post as the new Ardnamurchan Lighthouse volunteers.
Living in a lighthouse has been a dream for many, if someone told me last year I would get that chance I wouldn’t have believed them. Milo and I have had an interesting first week volunteering with the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust based at Ardnamurchan Lighthouse. The Hebridean Whale Trail launched this Friday and we have been posted at the most westerly point on the UK mainland. It is a hotspot for loads of species of whale, dolphin and porpoise (cetaceans) and it is a popular area to visit due to the historic lighthouse and gorgeous scenery, so no pressure there! Our training period greeted us with Mediterranean weather, with little wind and 30 degrees! Is this really Scotland?
Yes! Yes, it really is. Attacked by clouds of midges while having dinner at sunset, thunder clouds formed over the glassy water and we knew the Scottish weather had returned. As forecast we have been battered by wind and rain ever since. Watching the fronts cross the Hebrides and swallow the sight of Muck, Eigg and Rum. Some days not seeing further than 5km from shore as even Mull was hidden from view. Four days passed and although we have met some fantastic visitors, we still hadn’t spotted any cetaceans…
Saturday morning I saw a retweet of someone spotting a solitary killer whale off Canna, could that have been John Coe, one of eight resident individuals in our West Coast Community pod? Milo and I were on high spirits as we started our morning shift at the fog horn, and we didn’t have to wait long. Our first sighting!!! Four bottlenose dolphins were playing in the stern wave of a motor boat travelling past the point not far from shore. Wow! Buzzing, we then spotted a single porpoise 300m from shore. Graceful mammals, reaching 1.5m in length travel in a circular motion, blink and you’d miss them!
Ardnamurchan is a wildlife haven. Visitors have watched pine martins run across the road near the café car park and we saw two young otters in a neighbouring bay. Gannets, manx shearwater and skua have glided past our post. Then tonight just before we end our later shift at four, our flatmates popped down to see how today was going and I believe they are our lucky stars. Seconds later eight bottlenose dolphins appeared metres from the shore! The group also included a juvenile.
A perfect end to our first week and we are excited to find out what wildlife awaits over the next 9 weeks! A regular blog will be posted so you can follow our journey and see what wildlife and people we encounter, maybe one week you can join us on our blissful point with a photogenic lighthouse.
Till then, thanks for joining our adventures!
Tierney and Milo
Time spent on watch: 36 hours
No. of cetacean sightings: 10
No. of dogs petted in the line of duty: 24