Sunday, 30 June 2013

Rib trips & Hyskeir lighthouse...

People are more concerned about the proposed deer cull than they are of the imminent extinction of the Scottish Wildcat...
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-highlands-islands-22839948

Rare bird gets killed by turbine blade in the outer Hebrides...
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-highlands-islands-23082846

decline in invertebrates due to cold spring...
http://www.bbc.co.uk/nature/23054039

Another tagged golden eagle goes missing over managed shooting estate...
http://raptorpolitics.org.uk/2013/06/25/yet-another-satellite-tracked-golden-eagle-goes-off-the-radar/

An SLS Whalewatch on Saturday 22nd as we headed north to cover waters off Ardnamurchan and the small isles. The trip started with fireworks as half an hour in and we had already encountered a minke whale, WT eagle fishing and harbour porpoise. Plenty of bird activity on the way round the peninsula with big numbers of Shearwaters and auks in particular. We landed on the isle of Muck for lunch with its 30 strong community delighted to have just received 24 hour power the week previous. A quick walk of the isle and I was admiring the rich meadows which the owners promote on the isle as part of a new scheme. No Corncrakes but plenty of Skylarks, Swallows, Meadow Pipits and Finches.  

On the way back south we covered off Sanna and Muck but no more whales as we enjoyed great views of porpoise, Storm petrels and more Shearwater. Lewy let me lay down on the bow and get level with big rafts of Shearwater we went past which was a great experience as I took a few shots. For the last hour of the trip I propped the camera on the mast pointing back at the top deck and did a time lapse of crew and passengers, the footage can be seen at the bottom of this post.


Northern Fulmar
Manxie taking flight..
Basking shark seen on Monday...

On Mondays Whalewatch we headed west with Popz as skipper. Porpoise and wt eagle heading across and a small amount of feeding by Manxies. The morning was quiet but the second half was fantastic with two separate pods of Common Dolphins and a single basking shark holding at the surface. Large numbers of Storm Petrels plankton feeding at the surface off Coll. 

On the evening a few of us headed to the Loch Na Keal area to check on a local pair of Golden Eagles and to see what else was happening. All is well with the 6-7 week old eaglet with adult birds busy providing food. A young couple pulled up from Glasgow and helping them with their first Golden Eagle experience was hugely rewarding seeing their response and joy from seeing the special birds. Lovely to meet Jenny as well who is a blog reader. A bitch Otter and two cubs further down the sea loch was another highlight of the evening.

The king of the skies...goldie


A very healthy hurry of kittys and manxies off sanna bay

On the Tuesday I was crewing for Island Shuttle who do RIB charter trips around the Hebrides. We picked up 4 passengers from Salen and headed back up to the sound with our first destination being the isle of Muck. As we arrived at the fishing bank we encountered a small hurry of manxies and kittys. As the passengers were keen to see some marine life we stopped and had a scan with no joy so made our way north where I witnessed the biggest hurry I have seen in Hebridean waters...an amazing spectacle. 

We landed on Muck for a short spell before mooring off Eigg for lunch. We travelled west at 30 knots through the sound of Eigg as we watched the sea birds effortlessly cruising past us at around 40mph! We arrived at the cairns of coll where the Northern Lighthouse board were doing a maintenance check on Suil Ghorm lighthouse with the chopper landed on the beach. We did a circuit of Coll but no basking sharks at the surface so we headed back to Salen after a 130 mile trip and great RIB Trip. Thanks to Tomo for the opportunity and good experience. 



manxies with the isle of Muck in the back drop...
Wednesdays SLS wildlife trip produced some nice eagle and porpoise action and a very healthy plankton sample with a couple of screenshots provided to show the activity under a microscope...


Phytoplankton...plant matter under the microscope...photo by Andy T
Fish Larva...photo by Andy T
Copepod, big part of basking sharks diet...Photo curtsey of Andy T

Follow Andys facebook plankton page here....https://www.facebook.com/ProffessorPlankton

An evening shift at the Harrier sites on the north side of the isle was a mixed bag with no sign of birds at the first site and a brief female seen at the other site. Field work is getting cut short because of abundant midges and busy days at sea. A nice sunset and a quick focus on wild flowers produced Early Purple Orchid, Marsh Spotted Orchid, Kidney Vetch and some good smelling Bog Myrtle. I am enjoying learning new wild flowers, I think when you get to a certain age you start to appreciate the flora a bit more and the wonderful scent that comes with them. Very keen to concentrate on the Butterflies If I can find a decent spell of weather to do so. 


Early Purple Orchid...photo by Andy Tait
Winky sea watching off Caliach
North coast sunset remains...

On Thursday I was asked to crew on the RIB with Lewy to help with the search for Basking Sharks on the charter. We headed north riding a fair sized swell to a traditional site for Sharks off Hyskeir which is a remote island 30 miles from Tobermory to the south west of Canna. Plenty of  Stormies all the way up and as we got closer to the isle the GPS said we were very close off the bow as seconds later the huge lighthouse (41m) appeared from the mist. We did a circuit of the isle with no joy with the Sharks as we tied the RIB onto the pier and had a privileged 5 minutes shore time to explore the truly remote location. 
One brilliant fact about the isle Lewy told me was that when the lighthouse was manned, the keeper made a one hole golf course on the fertile grassland which is now well grazed by Geese. The lighthouse was one of the last to be manned as it went automated in 1997. No Sharks on the day but a great trip out for Lewy and Ewie.


30 knots on the rib...hyskeir lighthouse in the back drop

Hyskeir lighthouse on a remote island west of the small isles, what a privilege

The highlight on a wet and windy Whalewatch on Saturday the 29th was a breaching Basking Shark clean out of the water on two occasions. Arctic Skuas and Storm Petrels were other good shows.



Top deck time lapse on Sula Beag with Ruth and I guiding...

Thanks for looking :)

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