Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Big seas & November whale watching

A powerful animated video on the effects over over fishing...

27 designated marine conservation zones in place in England...wheres the rest?

Please sign this petition to make the Golden eagle the national bird of could make a huge difference in protecting the species long term from illegal persecution. The bald eagle in the USA is the national bird and any actions in killing this bird is going against the icon of your country. The birds are doing very well in the States and continue to increase their range.

What a great man and story...Wild fox domesticated as not in a fit state to re-wild it...Beautiful connection with man...just a wild dog but more intelligent.

Boat traffic seems to be an increasing threat...especially in the south...too many minkes washed up this year...

I headed to the north side of the isle with friend Jen on the 20th as winds up to 55 mph (force 10) were blowing from the north so there would be some impressive seas running. When we arrived we could hardly stand as we were so exposed to the 55 drafts coming our way! An amazing experience and I managed a few photos to capture all the drama.

Rough seas at the Cairns force 10 from the north

B and W of the big seas off Coll

Great to watch!

Hooded Crow - love these birds...

I did a talk at the local primary school on Friday 22nd about our dark skies and what to look for. It was great experience and the children were very enthusiastic and inquisitive. A few of the older kids had incredible knowledge of the night sky and the children as a whole seem to be really in touch with the environment. I look forward to getting involved more with primary schools in the future.

Jen and I did a shore walk to the south side a couple of days later with the high pressure arriving made for different conditions to a few days previous. We did a circuit of the south west peninsula on the isle mainly covering the coastal areas. The highlight was a female peregrine fly overhead just when I was under the wind turbines searching for dead birds. It flew into a nearby garden and flushed a good number of starlings. Another highlight was 2 BT divers along with 8 GN divers along the coast. A flock of 35 Twite flew nearby and a group of 25 plus White-fronted geese took off and headed for Tiree. The geology was another major highlight with one of the oldest rock types Lewisian Gneiss outcrops along the shore with amazing colouration. A good 5 hour walk with the only problem the number of 18m turbine blades around the peninsula...The landscapes are billions of years in the making and now destroyed for the large percentage of people who appreciate them.

Stunning Lewisian Gneiss outcrops on colls shoreline...

GN Diver in Arinagour bay

On the 24th Andy Tait arrived on the isle for a couple of days. He got off the ferry and was overjoyed as he had just seen a minke whale down near Tiree! A relaxing first evening on the isle and on the next morning we boarded the Clansman ferry to do the Coll - Tiree run to see if we could get any cetacean success. The sea was flat calm (force 1) and overcast conditions so perfect for viewing marine life. About half an hour in and we picked up a young minke whale surfacing off the bow before going down deep for around 3 minutes and surfacing consistently again 5 times. What a treat, and I picked up another distant minke looking towards the Treshnish isles to the east. We also recorded 12 Porpoise, a juv Gannet, Kittiwakes and 6 GN Divers to mark a great two hour excursion! 

The minke whales are a great record for this time of the year as very little is known about their movements but they are scarcely seen in the winter months around the hebrides. I managed a photo ID shot of its right flank and a distinct black mark is noticeable on the base of its dorsal fin which is interesting. The dorsal fin itself looks very clean with no obvious markings.

We walked around the village of Arinagour in the afternoon and the good sightings continued with a juvenille WT Eagle seen overhead before heading east towards the coast. There is no breeding birds on the isle just a few immature birds seen in the last few years. A flock of Crossbills were heard chipping overhead near the conifer plantation and as we walked down to the woodland we enjoyed nice views of Treecreepers and Goldcrest. 

Minke whale surfacing off the bow of the Clansman! It had a distinct black mark at the base
 of its dorsal when image cropped in...great record!

Foraging in the mosses, lichens and trees interior...

The following day we decided to do the Coll-Tiree run again boarding the Clansman and getting in position on the bridge for another 2 hours sea watching. There was bit more wind which made the conditions harder but its all part of the challenge. The main talking point was a cetacean which surfaced twice off the bow in the chop which I thought was a dolphin species but did not get onto it again. A large number of Guillemots seen with over 65 recorded. Two Fulmars and three adult Gannets were good sightings and brief Porpoise also seen. Another great trip and Andy stayed on board to carry on towards Oban as I got off at Coll. Great to see close friend Andy and will see him again soon.  

Here is his video of the close minke surface viewing from the bridge...

Thanks for looking :)


  1. Wow.. So you have had a trip and tour in the countryside. It's a really lovey place. Have you been to Oban, Scotland? There are a lot of places to go in there like taking oban wildlife trips. Oban has a very diverse ecosystem. You'll see amazing animals, birds and more. It's worth seeing too.