Posted on behalf of Kila, WDCS Canine Research Assistant
Every excursion into the field brings a multitude of adventures for both human and canine researchers alike and this time has been no different ... ! It's been a fun-filled few weeks and we've made new friends, Gairloch is a great place to visit ... and NATO certainly agree! We've had our fair share of both bad and good weather days - personally i prefer the 'bad' ones as opposed to the 'good' ones where we spend hour after hour looking through the big and small glasses (apparently they make everything appear that little bit closer ... perhaps i should get me some ... it would make finding the rabbits that little bit easier) as these usually mean that we're out and about in the moving box conducting some sheep abundance surveys (Harvey and i swap sides every now and then to ensure random sampling procedures are followed), checking out the local beaches for pieces of driftwood (or as the case may be, some discarded plastic for my beach-cleaning assistant) and meeting the locals, visitors and "raising awareness" as to why we're here in the first place! Just the other day we met one of our youngest supporters; i'd never met her but she knew all about us ... sweet little thing loved dolphins but dogs even more ... good taste i say!
Taste is a very enjoyable sense for us canines (as is smell) but hearing is just as important (although i 'hear' there are dogs, and humans, who live perfectly well without all their senses intact) and for the first time i believe that i finally understand why all the noise that humans are making in and under the seas must be so very distressing for the whales and dolphins. This "Joint Warrior" has included an unprecedented number of aircraft, from low-flying helicopters to blink and you miss them, fighter jets, and on many days we were never without a low hum and vibration in the air, the drone was unrelenting and the constant "noise" was rather irritating to say the least. It's not that i couldn't live with it (I would just be a bit grumpier than usual) but i was finding it very difficult to focus and it certainly made life that little bit less pleasant. The difference between now and when we were here in April when the volcanic ash cloud kept all aircraft grounded is stark!
It's very difficult to understand exactly how noisy it is under the water but thankfully our old friend the "Dolphin whisperer" came to join us on fieldwork as did his side-kick "PC Plod" and the porridge and rice (but sadly not razor clam) master, "Big Red", and they've been listening with the "big ears" to all the goings on in the aquatic environment. It may look all peaceful and tranquil on the surface but the reality is so very different ... ! Most of the time there was a similar constant droning noise to the one that we'd been experiencing on land but much more high-pitched ... the humans tell me it's called Sonar, and it's being emitted by some of the various navies who are in town, well ... in town at sea. I don't really understand the specifics of it all but basically they use it to try and find the "enemy" or their "prey" by bouncing noise off of objects underwater. My questions are ... (1) What happens if it bounces off an animal?; and (2) Why can't they use their other senses? Smell has always worked for me!
Sight is another of the senses and it's possibly the one that brings me the most pleasure ... and there's nothing quite like a West of Scotland sunset ... words don't do them justice!
Another bonus to the non-watching days are our trips to the 'temporary office' (otherwise known as the Old Inn) and once more i'd like to give a personal shout out to our friend Sharon ... she's always so happy to see us and in as well as carrots has now added sausages and ham to the canine pub grub menu!! (The butchers should also get a mention as they provide us with a plethora of tasty treats when we're in town!)
Until the next adventure ... keep an eye out for my flippered friends as they certainly bring endless hours of entertainment!!