Spectacular minke whale sightings mark the start of Silurian’s summer survey season
We started the summer survey season in style on Silurian with our first minke whales of the year during the first standard survey expedition of 2019, and what spectacular sightings they were! Read all about it in this survey summary from Becky, our Marine Biodiversity Officer;
On the second day of the survey we woke up to sunny skies and calm seas. Over breakfast, we discussed the survey route for the day, and the great spotting conditions filled us with excitement for the day ahead. As we got underway, the sun shone brighter and the seas became calmer and we had regular porpoise sightings throughout the day. We were within an hour of our evening anchorage, when I saw the familiar roll of a creature’s back out of the corner of my eye. It was our first minke whale of 2019 from Silurian! Originally spotted more than two nautical miles away, the minke resurfaced much closer to the vessel, and appeared to be swimming towards us. We soon realised that not one, but two minke whales had come over to us. One of the individuals stayed close to the boat for half an hour and we could see the animals whole body and bright white pectoral fins as it swam underneath Silurian several times, appearing as interested in us as we were of them. On our way to Skye, we saw four more minke whales, taking our total for the day up to six individuals. What an incredible day!
During this Expedition, Silurian surveyed the waters around the Small Isles before heading south and collecting data in the waters off the Treshnish Isles and the west coast of Mull. We stayed in some spectacular anchorages along the way enjoying beaches on the Isle of Sanday, as well exploring the Isle of Muck.
In total, Silurian travelled 214 nautical miles collecting visual and acoustic data. Our newly trained citizen scientists spent more than 30 hours on effort, scanning the seas for marine life and recording the underwater sounds from our hydrophone.
As well as the minkes that we encountered, we also recorded five other species of marine mammals: grey seals, common seals, harbour porpoise, common dolphins and a pod of bottlenose dolphins. We spotted the bottlenose dolphins within the first two hours of leaving Tobermory on the first day of the survey! In a playful mood, the pod came to bow ride, putting on another spectacular show.
We were also treated to some amazing bird sightings. The star of the show was the Manx shearwater, with over 1,000 individuals gliding past the vessel during the survey. The gannets also put on some amazing displays, diving among the minke whales!
Massive thanks to the citizen scientist team who joined us on board: Anna, Bruce, Del, Jane, Paula and Stewart --- we couldn't collect the vital data without you, and it was a pleasure sailing with you all!
Thanks also to Scottish Natural Heritage who help fund the data collection programme aboard Silurian.
Feeling inspired to get involved with our marine conservation efforts? We have limited spaces on our 2019 summer surveys. Come and join us on board for your chance to contribute to our research and encounter some of the amazing wildlife we have in our waters!