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

Subs and Sabs

25 July 2009

All the speculation about submarines disturbing the whales appears to be true. We have had a contingent of Minke Whales feeding in the Rona Bank area for nearly a month and yesterday I set out for the area quietly confident that we would encounter whales, even though it was quite choppy and there was a good two metre northerly swell running.

There were lots of sea birds actively feeding all around the bank and I panned around thinking it won't be long before the Minkes pop up; then I spotted a nuclear submarine heading straight for me at speed. It passed just to the east of Rona Bank then turned over towards Skye.

We didn't see any whales until the very last cruise of the day – and they appeared exactly where I'd been searching on the previous cruises to no avail.

I'm certain the submarine disturbed the whales because there was so much food there all day and there is no reason for them to leave a glut of feed unless they are driven away. They are here to feed, not to court and calf.

Sabine's Gull – July 2009

On a brighter note we have been seeing a moulting adult Sabine's Gull (above) on Rona bank over the past few days. This was another 'lifer' for a couple of passengers.

Once more into the breach

15 July 2009

They are at it again! A Minke breached 15 times yesterday just outside Loch Gairloch off Carr Point.

Minke Whale breaching – July 2009

The talk of this being due to submarines is still open for debate, but there weren't any visible subs out there and no warnings of dive submarine operations on the VHF from B.U.T.E.C. range control, so who knows?

Once in a lifetime

12 July 2009

Yesterday we had a local birder and his pal booked on one of our two-hour Orca 1 cruises with the promise of a "lifer" for his pal – a European Storm-petrel. I didn't think this would be a problem, with glass-calm seas and beautiful sunshine.

Just before the cruise he asked for a Long-tailed Skua as well – now that's a different story as the passage migrant time has gone, although two years ago we did have some long tails around in June and July.

Long-tailed Skua – July 2009

As advertised, we saw probably 40-plus stormies and you can guess what happened then – I spotted a Skua in the distance and thought it was an Arctic until I got my binoculars on it – then No! it's a long tail! Lifers to order!

On the next cruise we saw another pair of them. We also encountered a pod of Common Dolphins and a very nosey Minke.

The Bottlenose Dolphins made a brief visit to Loch Gairloch last week which was a blessing as it was quite choppy offshore. These dolphins have recently been identified as the same as the Moray Firth pods and range all the way to Galway in Ireland.

Airborne Minkes – good or bad?

1 July 2009

Minke Whale breaching – June 2009

Over the past week there have been multiple sightings of Minke Whales breaching – launching themselves out of the water.

I have never seen so much breaching by Minkes. The Seawatch Foundation has aired concerns that submarines in the area may be the reason for this.

On our last cruise of the day on Monday I was approaching some Common Dolphins when a Minke launched itself out of the water just beyond the dolphins.

Minke Whale – June 2009

The Minke breached 10 times in quick succession then seemed to be more or less porpoising and breathing very heavily.

This activity is very dramatic to see but what does it really mean?

There are lots of Minkes around at the moment – we encountered 24 whales on our cruises on Monday. So they have not been scared off from the area, which is what has happened before when there have been full military manoeuvres.

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