The end of the season for our Wildlife Officer
This Wildlife Officer season started off in uncertain times, and much of my time was spent working from home. Here's me on my very first sailing with CalMac back in April when I was unable to interact with passengers. Thank goodness it wasn't too long to wait, before restrictions started to lift and tourism made a slow and careful return in Scotland and I was able to share the wonderful wildlife of the west coast with others.
With the help and company of many enthusiastic CalMac passengers and crew, in 2021 I have completed 119 surveys over 41 return crossings using the new ORCA Ocean Watchers Mobile App. Here are some of the amazing animals that CalMac passengers and I have recorded this year.
2021 Mammal Sightings Summary:
Minke whale: 22
Harbour porpoise: 84
Common dolphin: 211
Bottlenose dolphin: 4
Unidentified dolphin: 30
Unidentified cetacean: 3
White beaked dolphin: 2
Total: 358 individual marine mammals recorded from 17th April - 12th October
Common dolphins leaping towards the MV Hebrides.
2021 Sea bird sightings:Northern gannet, artic tern, common tern, shag, cormorant, puffin, razorbill, guillemot, black guillemot, Manx shearwater, artic skua, fulmar, greater black back gull, kittiwake, herring gull, storm petrol, red throated diver, eider duck, great northern diver.
A beautiful gannet in flight, taken from the MV Clansman by ORCA Volunteer Peter Selway.
2021 other marine wildlife sightings:Barrel jellyfish, Lion's mane jellyfish, common seal, grey seal.
A grey seal peeking out off the coast of Skye.
The season has flown by and I've seen new places, new animals, and spent hours with new people (a real novelty after the last year and a half). A couple of firsts for me have included white beaked dolphins, breaching Minke whales, and bow riding porpoises! I have also loved visiting local schools and community groups, and their passion for these animals and protecting their local marine environment has been inspiring.
A minke whale, taken from the MV Loch Seaforth.
Thank you to everyone at CalMac and ORCA and a special thank you to all the ferry staff who came and had a chat out on deck, gave me hints and tips about good wildlife spots, reported their own sightings, and brought me tea and cakes in the wind and rain.