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April wildlife sightings from Nick Davies and other news from Hebridean Whale Cruises.

Submarines and Puffin Soup

28 April 2008

First trip to the Shiant Islands today and I was looking forward to it as much as the passengers. Late April is one of the best times to visit the Shiants as the Puffins and other birds meet and greet each other again.

I don't know how they find each other as the Puffins are monogamous and have been separated over the winter. A Shiants trip is also good for early Minke Whale sightings.

Saw some Harbour Porpoises in the Loch on the way out, so the trip started well. Then what I had dreaded – two battleships and a periscope about five miles from the Shiants.

Submarines scare all cetaceans away with their sonar and whatever else they are doing, and recently they've been doing a lot around here – it's called Exercise Joint Warrior. BBC News has got the full story, and the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society (WDCS) is worried about its effect on west coast cetaceans.

So it was a good job that the Shiants were positively exploding with sea birds. It really was like bats flying in and out of caves! I'm going to have to take a video camera as it is impossible to capture on stills or explain it in words.

The air was full of sea birds mostly doing their display flights. Most Auks normally flap their wings at about 300 beats a minute, but they slow them right down, as if in slow motion in tandem with each other, for their displays. And the main bay between the islands was like Puffin soup!

Can't wait to go again.

Otter on Board

23 April 2008

I was doing some engine maintenance on the Kerry today with the engine cover lifted up above to protect the engine from the rain. Took a break and on my return I found a young Otter curled up asleep on the engine.

Juvenile Otter – April 2008

It didn't seem to mind me being there. I knew something must be wrong so I went to get help to catch it and have it taken to Ullapool where there is a rescue centre, The Highland Wildlife Hospital Trust.

Everyone who was on the afternoon cruise on Orca 1 got a good look at it and took some photos before it was whisked off to Ullapool. Hope it's O.K.

Whales on the Way

13 April 2008

We've had regular sightings of Harbour Porpoise during the first part of this month but no whales as yet. However, we know they're on the way.

We've had reports of Minke Whales turning up in the southern Hebrides so they should be here with us any day now. The forecast for the week ahead is perfect for finding them.

And a pod of Orcas and lots of Bottlenose Dolphins have been reported around Portree and Rona, so from now on we will be surveying that general area.

Otters have been showing well around Longa and Shieldaig. We saw a fisherman hand-feeding a young one from the pontoon where we moor our boats!

We have had regular sightings of White-tailed Eagles; and the Puffins are back in town after a cosy winter in the mid Atlantic. So we will be running cruises to the Shiant Islands again from next week.

We are still seeing a few wintering Slavonian and Little Grebes; and the three types of divers are mostly in breeding plumage again. Long-tailed Ducks are still regulars just off Opinan beach.

News of a possible Black-browed Albatross sighting down in England! Could the bird turn up here? I have added Ray and Dogfish liver (waste from local fishermen) to the chum*. They are apparently the best attractants for Albatross.

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