With ginger nuts galore we were down at the boat for yet another 4am start, the sea wasn’t overly welcoming but we decided to take our chances and headed east towards Fraserburgh – not a direct route (as that would have only taken us a few hours) but following a saw-tooth transect taking us over the southern trench – a channel approximately 8 miles offshore that is 200m deep, and shaped like a tongue that comes in from the North Sea. Journey time + 10hours!!
I’ve mentioned in previous blogs how the Moray Firth has been like a vast blue desert, devoid of the abundance of cetacean life we’ve been used to over the years (apart from an abundance of rafting birds)...
…..well today it went from the sublime to the ridiculous and if it hadn’t been for a dolphin whistle being detected on the hydrophone and then us knowing where to look for the owner of the whistle, we’d have seen not a jot – nada, zip, zero, zilch, nix, rien – whatever language you say it in it all means the same…..nothing!! In fact it wasn’t until we reached Fraserburgh (where we were to spend the night) that we encountered some local wildlife - in the form of some resident grey seals who’ve made the harbour their home. They’ve got wise to the fact that there’s always a spare fish or two coming over the side of the odd vessel!
After sampling some of the local cuisine (Fish and chips for some, macaroni pie and chips for others) it was out with the sleeping bags and time to try and catch some sleep and rest the weary eyes ready for another day of dedicated searching!!
We were up with the sun (0403hrs) and back out to sea, headed for home! Conditions were looking better but with the tide and the wind moving in opposite directions we were in for some fairly significant swell – making the bow-watch a very bracing (but hugely enjoyable) place to be! The day started well with a few harbour porpoises notched up and we were in high spirits for what the day had in store.
Approximately half way along the route we passed in front of the cliffs known as Troup Head, home to the biggest mainland UK gannet colony - did you know that over two-thirds of the world’s gannets are found in the UK? The skies were awash with these masters of the sky and sea and everywhere you looked there were flying, diving and resting gannets – with of course a fair few guillemots and razorbills thrown in for good measure. No-one wanted to be on bird shift (where you have to count and record all birds seen during your time on watch) as we passed by but that honour fell to 2 of our noble volunteers who did their best……but cried off with “there’s too many….i can’t do it anymore”!
The swell abated somewhat however the wind picked up making sighting conditions all the more difficult and sorry to say that we made it back to our safe haven of Buckie harbour with no more cetacean sightings. Where have all the minkes gone?
Unfortunately the weather isn’t looking sea-worthy for our remaining days but we’re being optimistic and holding out for some more boat time before our time is up and the survey comes to an end!
We’ll be sure to keep you updated!!