The day started out still and the sea flat, and we had warships and helicopters from various navies travelling through our survey area. We got a couple of hours watching in, but before mid-morning tea it was already too rough for us to watch effectively. So when we got the call from Gairloch Marine Wildlife Centre to get down to the harbour so we could get out on the water to deploy our acoustic equipment, we wasted no time. Ian dusted the otter spraint (poo) off the ropes and we headed out to sea!
It was a smooth journey out towards the entrance of Loch Gairloch. We turned at Longa Island at the mouth of the Loch and the swell and the wind both picked up as we headed north into the Minch. It was just as Ian put the engine into neutral to deploy the ‘Dolphin Whisperers’ acoustic gear that our first puffin of the season was spotted!
The deployment of this real-time acoustic underwater monitoring equipment went without a hitch. This fancy piece of kit (developed by the Dolphin Whisperer himself) means that, with the assistance of some solar panels and a good receiver dish, we can listen to the underwater world as its happening, whilst sitting comfortably on the top of a hill!
We turned around and headed back into the Loch to deploy our own acoustic equipment. A curious harbour seal bobbed amongst the waves and watched us pass by. Unlike the dolphin whisperers equipment, ours stays in place for months at a time and our data is not revealed to us until we retrieve the PODs and download the data…
Just as we deployed our own C-PODs next to Longa Island, we were interrupted by a pair of great skuas twisting and turning in the sky together, one of which was chasing the other for a tasty morsel.
We moved on to Strath Bay, where we had porpoises all around us last year when we deployed the equipment. Alas! No porpoises sighted today (or yesterday….) but we did see some razorbills, red throated divers and a good number of shags. All in all a good few hours out on the water – thanks Ian!
The calm glassy water of the Minch opened itself up on the familiar hilly, zig-zaggy coastal drive back to our field survey station. The wind had died down and we began a mid-afternoon land-based watch. We could clearly see the Dolphin Whisperers hydrophone buoy floating in the water.
We were getting a little weary of watching (we haven’t seen any cetaceans all day!) when Nicola called out “submarine!” (yes, she gets all the good sightings!!!). As the sun began to set behind Harris across the Minch, we ended our survey watching the sub travelling at the surface through our study area.