Whale Watching Trips
Isle of Mull
INTER-ISLAND CRUISES WHALE SIGHTINGS
2003 AND TOTAL SIGHTINGS FOR 2003
Well, here we are at the end of another month and another season. Although we did only 15 days whale watching this month, we had some of the best days of the whole year, with large numbers of porpoises and common dolphins and some really spectacular days watching minke whales frenzy feeding towards the end of the month. Our sightings of late basking sharks and Rissos dolphins added to the variety.
It has been wonderful welcoming so many watchers aboard Flamer this summer. We hope that you all enjoyed your trips. Those who had days with good sightings will have been thrilled with their experiences. I can only say how disappointed we were on Flamer for those few parties who failed to see a whale on their trip. We hope their day was never the less an enjoyable one, and they will come back another time to let us show what we know can be out there to be marvelled at.
I have two thank you's to make. Firstly to the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust for their continuing support, and for supplying us with our laptop computer and Logger software which enables us to log all sightings and environmental data for eventual inclusion in the national cetacean sightings data base, and for our on board camera which we use for identification of minke whales and basking sharks. All this is vital work in the continuing research into the wellbeing of our seas and our important stocks of seasonal cetaceans.
My second thank you goes to our wildlife guide and crew Sarah Barry for tireless work for her second, and unfortunately for us all, last season. She has been a tower of strength, and worked so hard to make our passengers' days so enjoyable. Sarah goes on to University this Autumn to take her Masters degree, and we wish her all success in the future. Thank you, Sarah.
Our sightings for September are:
HARBOUR PORPOISES 180
COMMON DOLPHIN 184
RISSOS DOLPHIN 10
BASKING SHARK 8
HARBOUR PORPOISES 810
COMMON DOLPHINS 826
BOTTLENOSE DOLPHINS 2
RISSOS DOLPHINS 15
It's hard to believe that we are at the end of August already, with the final month of the season left. This month has been incredibly busy with a full boat most days, and very few days lost to weather. Our sightings this month have exceeded all expectations.
One of the main features this month has been the huge variety of cetacean and other sightings. In addition to many minke whales and countless harbour porpoises, we have seen common dolphins, rissos dolphins, atlantic white sided dolphins, one solitary orca, 3 sunfish and numerous basking sharks.
Most of our minke sightings occurred at the beginning and middle of the month. We had a quieter 10days at the end of August, when the minke were rather elusive and hard to find, and the feeding was deep with little evidence of herring fry. Most feeding appeared to be on sand eels, which are a bottom feeding fish. Minke are difficult to find and track when the usual clues of surface lunge feeding and presence of sea birds is missing. A short spell of bad weather between the 18th and 22nd which disturbed the feeding pattern may have been to blame, followed by some cooler, fresh northerlies which did nothing to settle things down. We look forward to some settled September weather and feeding back to normal.
Basking shark have returned in good numbers this year, arriving in these waters a little earlier than last year. We have seen quite a number of really large sharks, including one 30 footer that collided with the boat, with its tail thrashing at deck level!
The sighting of the Atlantic white sided dolphins on the 26th August was exciting. I have seen them only once before in these waters, in all the years we have been doing our trips. It was also good to get a return visit from the rissos dolphins, once so common in these waters, and now infrequent visitors.
BASKING SHARK 34
RISSOS DOLPHINS 5
WHITE SIDED DOLPHINS 12
COMMON DOLPHIN 12
Here we are at the end of a very busy month with 25 whale watching days completed - some good weather and some not so good. There have been a few difficult days with no sightings of minke, but on the whole we have found whales on the great majority of out trips.
There have been many exciting and unusual incidents. At the beginning of the month, we were alerted by another whale watch boat of the presence of common dolphins, and after a long search eventually met up with a group of maybe 300 to 400 travelling fast. It was a huge thrill to be in the midst of so many creatures. The sea seemed alive with leaping dolphins everywhere you looked. Then suddenly in the middle of all this, a minke whale leapt clear of the water in a full breach. Wow!!
On the 8th we had an excellent morning stationary in the water for nearly 2 hours watching 4 minke continuously feeding under one massively active hurry of birds, with many close associations with the boat during that time.
Then there was the unforgettable experience of a minke on the 17th, breaching clear out of the water like a polaris missile, not more than 50 metres from the boat - not once, but 10 times. We really look forward to seeing the photos of that !
Basking shark have arrived in our area in healthy numbers, and although the distribution as yet is confined to specific areas, we have had some good encounters, and sightings should increase from now onwards.
Our total sightings for the month are:
MINKE WHALES 108
COMMON DOLPHIN 450 ( APPROX )
We have not had a spell of settled summer weather yet here on the west coast of Scotland, but we have lost very few days through bad weather, although we did have a period of strong, near gale southerly winds in the middle of the month, which resulted in some days lost. Never the less, we managed 15 whale watch days, and 9 island days in total this month.
Our total sightings this month have not been spectacular, partly due to sea state and wind direction on many trips, partly due, I'm sure, to the usual wide distribution of cetaceans in the hebrides that we find at this time of year, but also, and I don't think it is just a coincidence, the presence of naval vessels exercising in the area over a period from the 14th to the 28th June. Concern has been expressed recently on BBC radio, that low frequency sonar emissions may be having a detrimental effect on fish stocks, and even human divers, as well as cetaceans. It has been our experience, and those of other boats working in the area, that the presence of naval warships clears the area of whales and porpoises. In addition, low flying military helicopters and jets also have a detrimental effect on wildlife, in particular seals ( many common seals giving birth this month ) and sea birds. We experienced this effect when 4 military helicopters flew ridiculously low over the Cairns of Coll on the 25th June twice, completely clearing the colony of common seals from their haul out rocks in seconds. Great for a seal in the process of giving birth!!
Now the good experiences. We have had some wonderful encounters with common dolphins on more than one occasion this month, particularly the day when we spent over an hour with a group of some 30 dolphins, that gave us a wonderful display of bow riding, tail slapping, body slamming, logging and spy hopping; even stopping and waiting for us to catch up, and then playing around the boat with it stopped in the water.
June 16th was a red letter day, with some 8 minkes actively feeding in one small area, including 3 identified whales from previous encounters. We had some spectacular lunge feeding, including one very spectacular backwards breach, clear out of the water, and 3 whales close circling the boat at the same time.
Our total sightings for the month are:
MINKE WHALES 27
COMMON DOLPHIN 80
SIGHTINGS UPDATE FOR MAY 2003
This has been our first full month of the new season, and has proved to have been highly successful. We have had 15 whale watch days , as well as a number of island trips, and lost only a few days at the beginning of the month through bad weather.
Minke whales have been with us in good numbers, although on some days have been difficult to follow due to their very active foraging behaviour, common at this early stage of the season when the waters are still cold, and feed can be in small quantities and well dispersed. We have had some really good close associations, particularly with two adult minkes that we have recognised from previous years. Towards the last week or so of the month, a change of wind from north west to south brought a lot of feed to the Mull shore, which gave us several days of really good sightings close to home, with some spectacular surface lunge feeding, with the associated mass of feeding seabirds.
The number of porpoise sightings this month have been really quite remarkable. On every trip we have seen quite large numbers, and they have been associating with the boat on many occasions. We were also very fortunate on two separate occasions to see groups of common dolphin. We saw one big group of possibly 100 on 25th of the month, and another group of approx. 20, 4 days later. Both groups gave us the usual thrilling display of bow riding , leaping clear out of the water, tail slapping etc.
Our total sightings for the month are:
PORPOISE 157 ( porpoises actually logged )
COMMON DOLPHIN: 100 ( approx )
UPDATE FOR APRIL 2003
The West Coast of Scotland experienced some exceptionally good weather over the latter half of April, which meant that we were able to get the boat painted and back on her moorings, ready for a new season, in good time for Easter.
Our first trip was on the 19th April, and on that day and the subsequent few trips this month we established that the minke whales were back early, and showing themselves to be in their usual locations for this period in the season.
We have also seen plenty of porpoises on these early trips, together with masses of returning sea birds including large quantities of shearwaters close in to the Mull shore, and puffins and guillimots ashore and in their nesting colonies on Lunga.
Those of you
have booked in for trips this season, both Sarah ( our crew and wildlife
guide returning from last season ) and myself look forward to seeing
you aboard Flamer, and hope the weather is kind to us this summer to
allow us to show you our wonderful wealth of wildlife here in the seas
off Mull. For those of you contemplating a visit for a whale watching
trip - book up soon, as this is showing signs of being a busy season.