All four seasons experienced on our first survey from Kyle of Lochalsh
OUR EXPEDITION SURVEYS COLLECT DATA ON WHALES, DOLPHINS, PORPOISES AND BASKING SHARKS IN HEBRIDEAN SEAS. OUR BIODIVERSITY OFFICER, BECKY, SHARES THE HIGHLIGHTS OF THE LATEST SURVEY ON BOARD SILURIAN…
The first of our Kyle of Lochalsh trips commenced with a new group of volunteers joining us on board. Despite the rather ‘dreich’ weather we had a lovely cosy evening on board getting to know one another and learning all about the cetaceans that we might see. The next morning the science training continued as we learnt all about the survey protocol, practiced spotting wildlife and recording data. That afternoon we left Kyle of Lochalsh and made our way west through the Sound of Rona anchoring on the east coast of Skye. With the weather making a turn for the worst we were then forced to turn back east finding sheltered waters, anchoring at Plockton. The action really started the next day with a pod of at least 60 porpoise taking us all by surprise in the first hour of surveying. Swimming right towards the boat it was an amazing sight, with some individuals close enough for us all to see the markings on the side of their bodies. The sightings continued as we encountered several pods of common dolphins as we weather continued to clear and the sun began to shine.
By the time that we had reached the Shiant Islands we were surveying in calm seas and blue skies! Another cetacean species was then spotted, as a Risso’s dolphin emerged from the depths, with their white scars glistening in the sunshine! We sailed into Loch Claidh that evening ecstatic from the day’s events. We decided to celebrate with a sunset swim next to a waterfall, which was glorious if not a little cold!
The next day we turned back south towards North Uist, encountering our first minke whale of the survey, as well as another pod of common dolphins and a breaching basking shark! We spent a glorious evening in Loch Maddy with some of us enjoying a sunset run before a visit to the pub and a game of pool, with victory going to the girls! We continued to sail south early next morning, with a mixture of sunshine and showers bringing several vivid rainbows. However, the sunshine prevailed and we had a spectacular sail all the way to the Isle of Rum. On the way we encountered a feeding frenzy, with hundreds of diving gannets and a large pod of common dolphins, who finished feeding and came into bow-ride for a very special 20 minutes. Unfortunately, the sunshine did not last and we were storm bound the next day as the wind howled around the boat. However, we had a great day baking and playing games, before managing to get ashore that evening to explore.
For the next few days the strong winds continued as we made our way back to Kyle of Localsh through the sound of Sleat. However, we still managed to encounter cetaceans, with 30 sightings of porpoise recorded around Rum. The last few days of the survey were spent concentrating on the waters around Rona and Rassay, anchoring in the spectacular Loch Torridon for the night, where we went ashore exploring the forests as well as the pub!
In total we surveyed 359.6 nautical miles (nm), spending 315 nm on effort, acquiring over 49 hours of acoustic recordings.
During the survey, we encountered seven species of marine megafauna including: basking sharks, common dolphins, Risso’s dolphins, minke whales, harbour porpoise, grey and common seals. We also recorded over 430 Guillemots, 280 gannets and 50 storm petrals!
Massive thanks to the citizen scientist team who joined us on board: Caren, Craig, Norman and Stev! It was a pleasure to sail with you all. We couldn't collect the vital data without the citizen scientists that survey our waters! Thank you for all your hard work!