Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Risso's Dolphins

Despite a very wet trip yesterday we had plenty of sightings including 4 Risso's Dolphin which is a first for me despite having been on boats around the Hebrides for the last 4 seasons. This is a large Dolphin species and whilst they can be very playful yesterday they were just milling around, slowly surfacing. A very nice sight. We also saw lots of Basking Sharks, Harbour Porpoise and Seals, along with a very soggy juvenile Sea Eagle that by the time we returned had sensibly retreated to the relative shelter of the trees.

Sunday's trip again had fantastic sightings with Minke Whale, Basking Sharks and a Sunfish all being seen along with the smaller species.

Friday, 20 August 2010

A week of two halves

Last Sunday was Tobermory Lifeboat day and the weather couldn't have been more perfect for it; clear skies, warm sunshine and light winds. Monday dawned much the same in terms of winds, but slightly more damp, however all on board were looking forward to the trip ahead. We went out to the Seal colony and then up to the Sea Eagle nest. We saw one of the adults in the bay itself and as we went round to the point one of the chicks was sat on the big rock stack. We were sitting there watching that when one of the passengers said ‘there's something over there,’ we had a look and it was a Basking Shark, it was a fairly small individual but a great start to the trip, as we were sitting there still with the Shark and Eagle visible a group of Harbour Porpoise appeared, so that was 3 of the big 5 within a short time of leaving Tobermory.

After this fantastic start we headed further offshore, and then came a call of there's something big over there. I had a look and saw a small Minke Whale surface a few hundred metres off. We saw it surface a few times and then it went for a deep dive and we lost it. However by then we had received a shout from a nearby fishing boat to say he had seen lots of Sharks so we headed over and had some really close views. We then picked up the whale again and watched as it moved up and down the tideline foraging. It was whilst we were all enjoying a cup of tea that it decided it wanted to have a closer look at us and surfaced twice, once either side of the boat at less than 20 metres, fantastic.

The trips since then have varied, Tuesday morning dawned sunny, but un-forecasted strong winds restricted our trip to the more sheltered inshore waters, however all had a good trip and we managed to have a fantastic view of a family of Harbour Porpoise foraging, as well as the Sea Eagles, a range of seabirds and the seals, including lots of young pups.

By the second trip on Tuesday afternoon the weather had improved so we headed further out and this time we had some great close views of Basking Sharks and the Sharks have been seen on every trip since, including some particularly large individuals. However as I write this I am sitting in the office watching the rain steadily fall and the bay getting buffeted by strong winds.

Unfortunately the Hebrides tend to get their best weather in May and June, with July and August being a lot less settled, this unfortunately means that those who visit during the typical summer months are often disappointed, but for those of you looking to visit the island all I would recommend it to expect the unexpected, as Crowded House sang, we often encounter 4 seasons in one day!

Saturday, 14 August 2010

The Whales return

With a spell of bad weather, followed by a week of private charters it was good to get back out on the boat. Monday dawned sunny, with a bit of a breeze. We headed out past the Seal colony and up to the Sea Eagles nest. Next it was time to head further out and we had fantastic views of some Basking Sharks, probably around 6 individuals. One in particular stood out with what looked like a bite mark on its back just behind the dorsal fin, hopefully we managed to get some decent photos to show to our Shark researches who may be able to shed light on the possible cause.
Tuesday's trip followed the same route and we had some more fantastic views of the Sharks, but yet again no whales.
By Wednesday the wind had strengthened and the area covered was more of the sheltered inshore waters, however again Basking Sharks were seen.
Thursday whilst still slightly breezy had improved and they headed out, and this time as well as the usual suspects, Seals, Sea Eagles and Sharks, they had a Minke Whale sighting and relatively close inshore as well. Despite being on a day off myself and missing out it's good to know that they are still out there and with the forecast for the coming week predicting calm seas I can't wait to get back out there and track down some Stinky Minke's!

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Dolphin's make the trip

With a small group on board on Saturday we left Tobermory and went straight out to the local seal colony. Now the Common Seals have finished breeding they are coming back to this area and we had some nice views of the seals basking on the rocks. We then headed up to the area where we have been seeing the Sea Eagles and again weren't disappointed. On the way across the bay we had a view of 4 Peregrine Falcons flying behind the boat, despite there being a good population of this species on the island we don't often see them from the boat. Then we were treated to a good display by one of the adult Sea Eagles, it flew behind the boat scaring a large number of Gulls into flight as it passed, it then went and perched in a tree and patiently sat there for photos. After this we headed further offshore and enjoyed the sunshine and good conditions. Despite only seeing a few Harbour Porpoise all were happy as we headed for home and it was then the Dolphin's decided to show themselves.
We were treated to good views of 6 bow-riding Bottlenose Dolphins, including one small juvenile and as we looked around we realised there were many more in the area. Unfortunately our trip was coming to an end, so we started heading home and were accommpanied for a while by a small number. As we passed one of the other trips on the way out we informed them of the Dolphin's presence and by the time the boat had reached them, they had all come together and there were about 15 animals playing around the vessel.
We did manage to get some video footage and hope to put it on here soon.