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September wildlife sightings fromand other news from Hebridean Whale Cruises.
The Risso's Return
7th September 2007
Plenty of sightings this week of Minkes, Common Dolphins and Porpoises. And now what we've been waiting for – the (unusually late) arrival of the Risso's Dolphins. A nine-strong pod with two calves.
I have been monitoring these distinctive big dolphins for three years now. They usually arrive in August with sightings through to late September. They have huge dorsal fins which at a distance can be confused with Orcas by the untrained eye.
This pod has been in the Rona Bank and Staffin Peaks area for a few days. A pod was recorded in exactly the same area at this time last year; the same animals on the same date in the same place for two consecutive years … mmm. Is this the same pod?
One of the calves was only months old. The two calves stayed glued to one animal that was nearly white, indicating and old individual. There was one juvenile in the bunch as well. This is the first time I have seen so many young ones in a pod, which is encouraging.
9th September 2007
Great Shearwaters started to turn up yesterday. These birds, just like the Sooty Shearwater, travel huge distances from the South Atlantic where they breed. Wind-assisted for the most part, they arrive in late August or September in unpredictable numbers.
This year has seen unprecedented numbers in the Hebrides. This is thought to be because of a huge weather system in the north east Atlantic blowing the birds across the ocean to Northern Scotland.
Flocks of 7,000-plus have been recorded just north of us around the Butt of Lewis. Next year we will be chumming* for pelagic birds in May, late August and September. Can't wait!
27th September 2007
More inclement weather in the middle of the month so we haven't been out much until now. Today we encountered two pods of Common Dolphins and the behaviour of both pods was unusual.
I was heading for a trawler near Rona Bank (at this time of year you can find Sabine's Gulls following them). The trawler had stopped and they were hauling up the nets. As we approached we noticed dolphins milling around at the back of the vessel.
The dolphins looked as though they might be entering the nets to 'steal' the catch. My suspicions were confirmed when we left that trawler for another one to the north west and there we found another, bigger pod of Commons doing exactly the same thing.
I know that Bottlenose Dolphins 'steal' from trawlers in the Moray Firth, but this is the first time I have witnessed this behaviour here in the west with Common Dolphins. By the way, we did find a Sabine's Gull.
29th September 2007
The biggest pod of Risso's Dolphins I've ever seen. At least 20 animals west of Rona Bank, including three calves and three juveniles. They gave us a good show of breaching, spy hopping and lobbing. Got some photos of a breach (finally got the camera back) but unfortunately no I.D. photos.
30th September 2007
Final day of the month and we set off on a tour, heading to Plockton, Portree and Rona. The weather forecast claimed unadulterated sunshine.
I've never seen so many athletic porpoises before! Huge pods of these animals from the south of Loch Torridon down to Plockton and around Raasay to Portree. At a wild guess we probably saw 700!
The weather changed to rain on the way to Portree so we cancelled the last leg of the trip to Rona (where we were going for a bit of a walk) and set off back to Gairloch.