We had an unexpectedly glorious day on the water today and saw first-hand what many had been telling us over the past few days since our arrival – that this was already a good year for wildlife in the Minch!
A virtual carpet of sitting guillemots led us up to Tolsta Head in the north of our study area. Here we were greeted by a swirling mass of high flying gannets, young and old, who were diving and feeding successfully on a huge shoal of fish. Tiny little white-bottomed storm petrels flitted about on the waters’ surface between them and our first minke whale lunged through the middle of the whole giant feast. It was a true spectacle and a wonderful welcome back to the Minch!
On our way to visit the local harbour seal haul out site, a solitary colourful puffin flew past, another reminder of the diversity of life in the Minch. Scottish harbour seal populations are suffering terrible declines throughout large parts of Scotland, but the decline in the Western Isles is slow but gradual. We’re pleased to report that there were many young pups in the group we observed.
As if that wasn’t enough excitement for the day, we were thrilled when our boat skipper, Lewis, pointed out an otter, completely unaware of us and munching heartily on a tasty looking wrasse. And then there was another – our first ever pair of otters on Lewis!
In addition to all these incredible encounters, we successfully deployed our first piece of acoustic equipment for 2012 and we retrieved another that had been sat in Loch Erisort monitoring porpoise movements over the winter.