Posted on behalf of WDCS's Canine Research Assistant, Kila
"Get your stuff together we're off to the field again" was the shout and in the blink of an eye we were heading north, off to find some of those flippered critters who spend all their time in the water - lucky them (I have to make do with the odd river and puddle!) En route we picked up the rest of the research team, the other human Sarah and my assistant of old, Harvey!
I have to admit that i was a wee bit surprised when we were finally let out of the moving box and low and behold we were in a place called Ullapool on the north-west coast of Scotland. I initially thought that the humans had made a basic error and missed the turn-off for Gairloch but apparently not as the next morning we voluntarily drove into the gaping mouth of an even bigger moving box, one that floated on water and was to take us across the sea to the 'Stickless Isles' or, as they're more commonly known, the Outer Hebrides. The Isle of Lewis was to become our new temporary abode for the next 6 weeks .... 6 weeks? With no sticks? That's like ... 42 weeks in my lifetime, how will i survive?! Seaweed, although rather tasty, just isn't the same. I hope the humans brought a supply with them ... otherwise i may need someone to send me a care package!!
There was however a shining light at the end of the tunnel as not long after setting sail i made a new friend, a very important new friend ... our soon to be, local butcher! He assured me that Harvey and i would have an inexhaustable supply of bones during our stay and although not something they usually did, would provide us with off-cuts for tasty dinners as well ... I think i'm in love! The humans and he talked avidly about his recent trip to Japan where for some bizarre reason he'd been working as a human cannonball ... at this point, as you can imagine, i politely left the conversation and went to sleep. This excellent omen for us canines was matched for the humans as they spotted some of those dolphin critters not long after leaving harbour and seemed very happy with their sighting - so all in all a very good start to our time on the islands!
And so it began as we trundled off the ferry (see i'm learning!) and set down in very sunny Stornoway. First priority was to get us canines to the beach to stretch our legs and dip our paws in the water, and what a beach it was .... miles of golden sand and turquoise water ... but not a stick in sight (it's too early to make too big a deal about this lack of 'wood' i know but i'll be sure to keep you all updated as i'm sure you're all as concerned as i am!)
The next morning we were up with the sun (which is a lot earlier this far north i can tell you!) and headed for the lighthouse at Tiumpan Head where we were to set up camp for the day. It was apparently a perfect spot, with an amazing panorama for miles around, deep waters close to shore and a comfortable heather mattress to sit on. Harvey and i however are a wee bit concerned about the fact that the lighthouse is now a canine jail (or kennel as you humans call it!) and we've been told to be under no illusions that if we misbehave they'll send us there (yelp!) .... Harvey didn't take this well as he's been on the inside before and has no desire to go back! It turned out to be an absolute cracker of a day with blue skies, the odd fluffy cloud and a burning sun ... shade hadn't been something the humans had predicted they'd have to worry about until now, and there was none on our wee promontory but we just had to grin and bear it ... not as if this was going to be a normal weather day now was it?
The research focus for this island field season are a much forgotten species called Risso's dolphins (or Grampus griseus - sounds like 'Grizzly Grandpa') but the humans will tell you all about them in the next blog as personally i've never seen one, although i'm presuming that will change in the near future. The day passed in a blur of animals, no Risso's but the humans were more than happy to make do with sightings that included 3 basking sharks, 8 harbour porpoises, a minke whale (very close to shore as i've mentioned) and a pod of roughly 20 common dolphins who stayed in and around the area for over an hour, chasing fish and playing rather boisterously in the mirroresque waters of the northern Minch.
Not a bad start to our time here ... long may it continue!!