This truly has to be one of the most spectacularly beautiful places in the world! We’ve had the most amazing weather since we arrived and have often had to wonder whether this really is Scotland? Then we remember that we’re wearing hats, scarves, gloves and even thermals and the answer is a resounding yes! However, we’ve been bathed in sunshine on an almost daily basis, and had a veritable porpoise extravaganza on our doorstep so who’s complaining about a little bit of wind?!
Each dawn has cast a pink-hue across the positively mirror-esque waters of the Minch, not a ripple in sight. As the day progresses our environment is constantly changing, shadows are cast over large stretches of water by the overhead clouds, the colour of the sea is constantly changing (from deep blue to hazy grey), glass like surface to the water gives way to white-caps which appear and disappear as the wind gusts and then falls again, the islands can be as clear as day or completely obscured, and sometimes it can prove difficult to distinguish where the horizon actually is … but that was easy to work out when you’d spy a fishing boat apparently floating in the clouds! The grand finale to any day is always the setting sun, and very rarely in this neck of the woods does it disappoint!
The wildlife hasn’t disappointed either, although we are still awaiting the first minke whale of the season – call me cynical but do you think they know the navy are in town? (We are also here a whole month earlier than we were last year so that may have something to do with it!) The porpoises however have been out in force and we’ve had sightings of individuals and also larger groups of up to 5 animals. There is absolutely no denying that the flat calm waters that we’ve been lucky enough to experience have made these sightings possible! Harbour porpoises are pretty tiny, one of the smallest of all cetaceans and also one of the least gregarious and flashy, a shallow roll is usually all you see of them, so any kind of swell and you’re usually out of luck!
And what marine habitat would be complete without the birds? We’ve been treated to a multitude of species, both terrestrial and marine, scattered everywhere the eye could see – the usual suspects of razorbills, gannets (although significantly fewer than there have been in previous field seasons – again, we are here earlier in the year this time), shags, great northern divers, oyster-catchers and of course the gulls are all around, but we’ve also spotted a few Great skua’s and a plethora of greylag geese!
(A slight tangent on the greylag goose for you now – The “lag” portion of their name comes from the fact that they are usually the last of the geese to migrate, and thus the grey goose tends to “lag” behind the others. It is the ancestor of most domestic geese, and the largest and bulkiest of the wild geese native to the UK. The number of breeding wild birds however has declined dramatically over the years (current approximation is a mere 3,000 breeding pairs) and the only truly “wild” greylag’s are to be found in the Outer Hebrides and Northern Scotland. Interestingly their Latin name is Anser anser – what I ask is the Question question? Your answers on a postcard please …. !)
And to top off our marine vista, the various NATO navies have turned up on our doorstep and we’ve had warships galore to feast our eyes on – and we hear on good authority that we had a French submarine in the vicinity the other day. In the meantime, a good friend of WDCS, (otherwise known as the “dolphin whisperer”) arrived with his super-dooper acoustic equipment so keep watching this space for some more news on what he’s been getting up to!
Long may this weather continue, unfortunately however it’s meant to break on Saturday but we won’t dwell on that and shall enjoy each day for what it brings …. Please make it a minke whale!!