Good weather came rolling in, bringing with it an abundance of weird and wonderful dolphin sightings……!!
Spotting harbour porpoises can be troublesome in any and all sea states bar sea state 0 as these small cryptic species are not known to be overly acrobatic, and when surfacing their small fins can easily be lost behind a wave. Common dolphins however are usually more easily recognisable as they do tend to be a bit more gregarious and their striking colouring can give them away – saying this, distance can determine the ease of immediate identification.
Flat calm (mill-pond’esque) makes for perfect conditions as every piercing of the surface can easily be seen. The past 24 hours have seen such conditions and provided the perfect light. The eternally changing cloud cover allows the sun to peep through every now and then and with every passing minute another part of Skye lit up as another fell back into shadow. Like the changing colours in a painter’s palette, the various Hebridean Islands presented themselves in a variety of colourful hues – the Shiants themselves glorious in golds, greens and browns, like a shining beacon in the sea around.
And so....The adventure began with the sighting of a pod of between 13 – 20 common dolphins, slowly making their way across the Minch towards the mainland. Another 5 were spotted shortly after, slightly further south but moving in the same direction – possibly the stragglers of the group, in no apparent rush to get anywhere!
The plethora of porpoises kicked off with a few individual sightings here and there but before long I was to bear witness to some of the strangest behaviour I’ve ever seen when it comes to these wee chaps! The undulating (a very quick undulate) fin pierced the surface and then a mere 2 seconds later pierced it again in exactly the same position, at first leading me to believe that I was looking at two different animals, two seconds later, same place, then again and again. About four or five revolutions later the porpoise returned to the surface and there he/she remained….not moving – called “logging”, as the animal resembles (of all things) a “log” floating on the water. It stayed there for about 20 seconds before recommencing the revolutions, followed by another 20sec. log!
Shortly after, we had another five porpoises, again in the northern half of the survey area and again heading in from the islands and east towards the mainland. There must be some fish running in the area – or they know where they are running and are off to find them!
I was still bemused by the previous porpoise’s behaviour and was mulling it over in my mind when all of a sudden I spotted another two individuals in the same general vicinity as the others. And believe it or not….one of them started exhibiting the same behaviour as the previous “logger” – revolve, revolve, revolve, log/revolve, revolve, revolve, revolve, log …. and so it went on! Quite mesmerising and very intriguing!
Harbour porpoises appear to be making a bit of an appearance for us this time round as to date (in the past two weeks) we’ve had 21 individuals in 9 sightings…not bad going for one of the most elusive of cetaceans. Long may it continue!
Until the next time why not enjoy a Hebridean sunset on us?!