Species galore as Silurian surveys the southern reaches of our survey area


Six new volunteer citizen scientists joined us on board Silurian on the 18th May for the fourth Expedition Survey of the season. After extensive training in cetacean identification and our survey protocol, we left Tobermory harbour before heading north to the Isle of Tiree. Calm seas led to fantastic spotting conditions and we were soon rewarded with a sighting of a minke whale and a basking shark. However, more was to come…

On the third day of the survey we had the ambitious plan of surveying the waters to the west of Islay. Surveying here can be difficult as tidal overfalls in this area can often result in very rough seas. However, the weather was settled and the conditions were perfect. An earlier than usual start heralded in a long day of ahead, however, we were immediately rewarded with a sighting of bottlenose dolphins before we had even begun to survey! The pod of three bottlenose appeared to be escorting us out of our anchorage, coming in to bow-ride as we passed around Nave Island. Sightings continued during the day - including our first Risso’s dolphin encounter of 2019 - alongside Risso’s, we recorded minke whale, harbour porpoise and several grey seals. What an incredible day for everyone on board!

The survey finished on a real high, with one of the citizen scientists on board referring to the final afternoon as ‘minke madness’ - an apt term as we encountered at least eight minke whales within an hour of passing the Cairns of Coll.

One of eight minke whales spotted on the last day!

One of eight minke whales spotted on the last day!

In total we recorded eight species of marine megafauna: basking sharks, bottlenose dolphins, common dolphins, Risso’s dolphins, harbour porpoise, grey and common seals.

During the survey, we covered 249.1 nautical miles collecting visual and acoustic data. The citizen scientists on board spent over 37 hours on effort spotting marine megafauna and we recorded 36:39 hours of acoustic recordings.

Track lines for HWDT04

Track lines for HWDT04

We also had some spectacular seabird encounters during the survey counting 2,966 birds whilst surveying, including 1,228 common guillemots and 519 gannets. However, this doesn’t tell the whole picture. We were also lucky enough the spend our penultimate night on board anchored at the Isle of Lunga, which plays host to thousands of nesting seabirds. We able to go ashore for a few hours and observe puffins fly in and out of their burrows during sunset. Magical!

Massive thanks to the citizen scientist team who joined us on board: Alan, Kirsty, Mieke, Sandie, Simon and Sue. It was such a pleasure to sail with you all and we couldn't collect the vital data without the citizen scientists that survey our waters!

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 still have 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!