Here's a wee sample of some of the wildlife we have seen this week.
What a beautiful look of love between this common seal mother and its pup. We are seeing lots of these wee ones on the shore and in the water on our trips, we even saw a mum and pup up next to the boat on the pontoon! Common seal pups can swim hours after they are born which means they can escape predators on the shore. The mum will feed the pup on super fat milk for a few weeks and will teach it all she knows about fishing in this time. After a while the mum will leave the pup alone on the shore for long periods while she feeds up and regains her strength but will come back to feed the pup. After that the pup will have to fend for itself and use all the skills it has learned to survive. Its a great time right now to see mum and pup together either in the water or like here resting on the shore.
20th June 2016.
Have a look at this picture, these gulls are stuffing themselves on little fish at the surface, the one taking off has a mouthful of sandeels. Sandeels are important for all sorts of predators including lots of gulls, porpoise and dolphins, if there is a lack of sand eels all these predators will suffer. In the past there has been overfishing of sand eels for food and also bizarrely to fuel danish power stations in the North Sea leading to a real decline in seabirds and also porpoise. The sand eel populations have picked up a bit as it is recognised that overfishing for these small fish has a huge impact up the food web including on other commercial species such as cod. However, we are always delighted and relieved to see bait balls forming in the early summer indicating that there is a good level of food in the water for all the seabirds and porpoise. Baitballs form when small fish aggregate in an attempt to protect themselves by sheer numbers, there is no coral for these fish to hide in so they form these large moving balls with the fish constantly moving and hiding in among each other. This is not fool proof as dolphins or porpoise drive these large numbers of fish to the surface and break up the ball as they feed, the gulls are winners on the surface gorging on the fish at the top. Its a great sight to see this level of activity in and on the sea as it means there are going to be great sighting as we go forward into summer, come and join us on a trip.
9th June 2016
Here is a picture of quite a small Minke whale which we saw this week. It was really exciting as he (or she) decided to get quite close to the boat at one stage. We think this is quite a young Minke whale and that it is still with its mother, they don't need to be close physically in the water as they can communicate over long distances underwater. They make noises which can be as loud as 152 decibels which is louder than a jet plane taking off!
Minke whales are the smallest of the Baleen whales, they sieve the ocean through their baleen which is made of the same material as our nails and hair! Eventually this whale will grow up to 30ft long and weigh 6-8 tonnes but he (or she) has a bit to go to get to that size and we hope to see this whale lots more this summer and over a lot of years to come!
Did you know that Cetaceans is the collective word for dolphins, whales and porpoises? It comes from the Greek word ketos which means 'a large sea creature'. They are all mammals like us so we can see them on the surface when they come up to breathe. We have had really good sightings of porpoises which is very exciting as it means all the good feeding is coming nearer the surface and that means our next visitors will be whales as they follow the fish around! We have also seen lots of dolphins this spring, the picture is of a bottle nose dolphin which is the type we see here most often. Dolphins are like us forming social groups and they love to play. Sometimes they will poke their heads out of the water just to have a look at us as we are looking at them, this is called spy-hopping. Its a great time to be out on the water, come and join us.
Telling seals apart:
Here on the west coast of Scotland we have two types of seal, common (or harbour) seals and grey seals. Almost every day on our boat trips you will get sightings of both types which is great but how do you tell them apart?
Well here are a couple of pictures, it is always helpful if you can to look at a seal sideways on, it makes it much easier with identification because the real difference between the seals when you look at them like that is where the eyes are on the face. The first picture is of a grey seal, you can see that it has a long “Roman” nose, the eyes are set quite far back from the nostrils about half way along the skull and the whole face is quite long. The next picture is of a common seal, the eyes and nostrils are much closer together, eyes about a third of the way back and the face is much shorter and quite like a spaniel. Generally common seals are also quite a bit smaller than greys, however although they are called “common” they are fewer in overall number than the greys. We are really lucky here to have healthy populations of both types
Great News! Proposed Special Area of Conservation (pSAC) for porpoise
There is a new proposed Special Area of Conservation (pSAC) for porpoise which includes the inner Hebrides and the minches and runs all the way down to the Sound of Islay. If it does become a SAC it will be great news for this amazing little cetacean which we see most days on our boat trips. The area around the Corryvreckan has one of the highest population densities of porpoise in Europe and we welcome long overdue protection for them.
The use of tangle nets stoppedwithin the Firth of Lorn SAC in 2001 and scallop dredging was banned in 2006. A 2015 MSc project carried out on our sightings records found a 286% increase in porpoise density in the area over the past 10 years.
Fishery observers on 2 boats tangle netting for crawfish around Barra recorded 107 seals killed in just 2 months - more seals were killed than crawfish were caught. The pSAC would ensure that these static nets which also have a very high bycatch of cetaceans could never be used again here.
Currently there is a consultation on the pSAC. We would encourage everyone to respond welcoming the SAC proposal and stressing how important it is not to reduce the proposed area and also to include protection for Cuan Sound. The UK has 90% of European porpoise within its waters but currently only has one SAC designated for porpoise. Whereas there are 21 SACs to protect the other 10%. Here is the link to the consultation which ends on the 18th of May.
Have you heard the one about the seals using smartphones? Well, it’s true, Seals in Orkney are to be fitted with smartphone technology to enable scientists to gain information about seal behaviour (however, since they don’t have opposable thumbs they won’t get to do any texting). The transmitters will fall off when the seals moult. In the last 16 years harbour seal numbers have declined by up to 90% in some areas including Orkney. Data will be gathered on a seals’ location,dive behaviour and its oceanic environment. Hopefully this study will help scientists understand why there are these changes in harbour seal populations in certain areas and to see what conservation and management options might help.
In our area we are fortunate in that our population of these seals is not in decline although they are still under threat from over fishing or being shot by salmon farms. On our trips we hope to see these amazing creatures most days either sunning themselves on the rocks or surfacing and checking us out!
Sea Eagle spring blog
Here we are at the spring equinox, it’s an exciting time with the promise of good weather and lots of wildlife watching ahead of us. We have been lucky with the weather and sightings so far. Although March isn’t the best time for whale watching in Scotland there are lots of other things to see including porpoise and dolphin and it’s a great time for eagles. Last week we saw four sea eagles together and we think this was the whole family from last year when the parent s raised two healthy chicks. This might be the last time that they will be together for a while because the adults will very soon be nesting again and the juveniles have to make their own way in the world, the adults will not tolerate the youngsters being around while they are nesting and raising their new chicks. Today we saw the two adults together but no sign of the youngsters. Two years ago the adults had one chick which for the summer after the year when it was born flew around aimlessly looking quite lost, it would often fly around the boat as it was obviously used to seeing us and perhaps saw the boat as a reassuring presence! However, after that summers’ chicks had fledged the young adult was allowed back into the family circle and they were all reunited with that juvenile and the new chicks and the adults all flying around together.
Here's a photo of one of the chicks learning to fly last summer.
Update March 2016.
Everyone at Sealife Adventures is getting really excited about the season ahead, we have crew all ready to look after our customers and the boat is all set to go. We have been out today and were lucky enough to see four Great Northern Divers flying across in front of the boat. Great Northern Divers are the largest of all the UK divers and are also relatively rare, it is largely a winter visitor to our shores although some non breeding birds will stay all year round and we also see occasional breeding birds in the spring and summer. The divers we saw today were still in winter colour which is a fairly dark body and rear of head and neck but a very white throat. In breeding colours they are spectacular with checkerboard back, dark head and a stripey collar. Here is a picture of one we saw last summer.
Although we are still early for our whale visitors we will be watching lots of other animals over the next few weeks, right now we can see Eagles, Seals, Porpoise and lots of sea birds, more news and pics to come.
Where do our summer visitors go in the winter?
Terns are among the most beautiful of our summer visitors. The ones we see on our trips are arctic terns and common terns, they are known as “ the swallows of the sea” and the common tern's latin name “hirundo” means swallow. There are very subtle differences between these birds and you have to be quite close to notice, the easiest way with binoculars is to look at the beak, the common tern has a black tip to its orange beak but the arctic tern does not, also the arctic tern's tail is very swallow like with elongated tail streamers.
The common terns migrate to Africa in the autumn and return to the UK in the spring to breed. The Arctic tern is the absolute Olympic champion of migrators having the longest migration of any bird. Incredibly the ones that nest furthest north (in the Arctic) migrate furthest south (the Antartic!) so have almost constant daylight all year round. The furthest round trip is around 50,000 miles, and they do this every year.
The birds that we see will probably not go as far south as the Antarctic perhaps wintering in South Africa leaving Scotland in July to September and arriving back in late April or May.
Terns nest in scrapes on shingle or sand and this makes them very vulnerable to predation. American Mink (released from Mink Farms) have had a devastating effect on colonies of seabirds. In 2001 the Hebridean Mink Project was launched and since then over 17,000 mink have been caught and now there are signs of recovery of species such as Terns. Tern's survival also depends on good supplies of fish species such as sandeels and like the puffins requires strong fisheries management to be in place, especially in the North Sea where sandeel decline has been caused by overfishing and possibly climate change. These are really beautiful, inspiring birds and we look forward to welcoming them back in the spring.
Where do some of our summer visitors go in the winter?
Puffins which are among our favourite seabirds have an amazing lifestyle. They are only onshore in the breeding season from April to early August, the rest of the time they spend at sea including all winter which makes them particularly susceptible to winter storms. Puffins from the east coast will go as far as the Norwegian coast while those from the west coast and Ireland have been found as far west as the grand banks off Newfoundland. Others have also been found south of the UK in the Mediterranean (the sensible ones!). Its seems that puffins will go where the fish stocks are and since their preferred diet of sandeels is under threat they will travel huge distances to find sand eels or even Capelin which is another favourite but only found in the west Atlantic.
When puffins are breeding they live in holes in the ground like rabbit burrows (sometimes it is a rabbit burrow which doesn’t impress the rabbits at all!). Newly hatched chicks are called pufflings and are covered in grey down, the puffling will stay in the burrow for up to 44 days when it flies down to the sea and then has to fend for itself. Oldest known puffin lived for 33 years. Did you know that in the winter puffins lose most of the colour in their beak and it becomes grey and dull colours.
Puffins are under threat because of predation, big storms in the winter when they are at sea and especially declining fish stocks. Let’s hope that robust fisheries management measures will be introduced to help the survival of this beautiful “clown” bird which we all love.
Where do some of our summer visitors go in the winter?
The Osprey that we have seen lots of over the summer has decided to head to its winter home. This is in West Africa and we marvel at how these birds find their way back from Scotland. There have been lots of studies done with birds being tracked through Europe, the route usually takes them through England, western France and then Spain or Portugal. They often cross to North Africa at Gibraltar and then hug the coast line to avoid flying over a desert . The same birds will follow the same route every year which makes sense as they will know the way and where they can rest and feed on the journey. So why do they leave Scotland in the winter, well its not so that they can sit and enjoy the warm sunny African climate (although that must be something to do with it) it is to do with their main diet; fish! Ospreys eat almost nothing but fish but they can only catch fish which are really near the surface as they are not built for swimming. This is fine in Scotland in the summer when trout and other fish are near the surface but in the winter a lot of Scotland’s lochs will freeze over and in coastal waters the fish will be much deeper and therefore inaccessible to Ospreys.
Adults will return to Scotland in March to breed but this year’s young will not come back to Scotland until they are ready to breed, usually after three years. But why do they risk this hazardous journey to breed when it would seem sensible to stay in Africa.
Well, there are several reasons;
- We have lots of lovely rivers with good fish stocks (when they are not frozen!)
- There are some great nesting sites in large trees in quiet areas
- In Scotland there are relatively few predators to attack ospreys or their nests. (probably only pine martins could reach and take an egg). In Africa there are monkeys and snakes to attack the nests and crocodiles to attack osprey as they fish.
- Crucially Scotland has long daylight hours in the summer which is critical as the adults need good light to find lots of food for a hungry chick.
Although the Ospreys have gone we are really lucky to have so many birds of prey that stay all year round including the Sea and Golden Eagles giving us great sightings all through the winter.
Grey Seals: Halichoerus Grypi
Major excitement, the first grey seal pup has been born. This fairly plump little fellow has been wowing our guests with his undoubted cute factor! In the whole world grey seals are one of the rarest seals but we are really lucky as 40% of the whole world population lives around the UK and there are a fair number on haul outs that we visit on our trips. So some fun facts;
- Grey seals are the largest land breeding mammal in the UK! The pups are born between September and December, they are born on shore where there are lots of mothers and pups, this pupping area is called a rookery (daft I know!)
- The pups have a fluffy white coat for about 3 weeks when they moult into their adult coat, until then they cannot swim and are fed by their mother’s milk for 15-21 days.
- Their mother's milk contains 60% fat and the pup gets fat really quickly which it needs to do because as soon as it can swim the mother will leave and the pup has to fend for itself and teach itself how to fish. Unfortunately it’s a tough life for grey seal pups and only about 50% survive their first year.
- Adult grey seals have two layers of fur and a layer of blubber to keep themselves warm in the water.
- Their hands and feet are formed into webbed flippers. Their back flippers are used to propel themselves along while they use their tail to steer. They have really powerful shoulders so that they can haul out on wet slippery rocks.
- Grey seals remain underwater usually about 5-10 minutes although they can stay under for up to 16 minutes. They can do this by slowing their heart rate to conserve oxygen and they also have a much higher number of red blood cells than we do which carries oxygen around the body.
- Grey seals hunt with their eyes, ears and amazingly sensitive whiskers which can pick up vibrations in the water, even without their sight these sensitive whiskers and good hearing allow seals to catch fish, blind seals have been seen catching prey and surviving well in the wild. Diet consists of squid and fish.
Finally the grey seal’s scientific name is derived from the Greek for hook-nosed sea pig!!
Yesterday we came across a dead red deer stag in the water being carried on the current out of Cuan Sound. Its always a sad moment to see such a magnificent animal dead, it wasn’t very old perhaps three years from the number of points on its antlers. So how did he die? Well, one theory is that he was a casualty of the annual red deer rut, which occurs every October. During the rut, males compete for dominance and to mate with a harem of females. Mainly the rut is all about display, showing how big you are, how much noise you can make and how smelly you can be! Sometimes stags will tear off bits of bracken with their antlers and roll around in mud to try and make themselves look as large as the can. The most common feature of the rut is the loud roaring noise that competing stags will make, did you know that this noise actually brings hinds into heat and the noise can carry for more than a mile. Stags can also secrete pheromones from their eyes, toes and genitals which broadcasts information about sex, fitness and age! Mainly the competing stags will strut around side by side assessing each other’s size and strength, very rarely will they actually fight as the risk of serious injury is high. However if they are equally matched (or young and foolish) they may fight and perhaps the poor deer that we saw was the loser in such a battle.
On our trips at the moment we are seeing lots of signs of the rut with broken bracken, muddy areas and lots of large groups of a stag and hinds. It’s great to be out at the moment and see this amazing annual event as well as lots of other exciting wildlife in the area.
We have had an amazing encounter with Sea Eagles this week, we were lucky to be present to watch as an adult Sea Eagle taught two juveniles how to fish! This involved all the birds being in the air, the adult had a bird in its claws which it dropped into the sea, it then flew down and "caught" the prey lifting it out of the water and flying back up to the others. The adult then dropped the prey again and pretty well invited one of the juveniles to go and catch it, the young bird was all wobbly with legs out stretched and took a couple of attempts to grab it and be able to fly off with it. There was then a transfer of the prey mid-air back to the adult who dropped it for the second juvenile, (the sequence of photos shows the first attempted pass, the midair crash, leading to the drop and then the eagles going after the prey).....what an amazing sight! This aerial display went on for a while with the youngsters practising until they had completely "got it".
This was a fascinating insight into Sea Eagle family behaviour, its not so different from our own, teaching our kids how to fend for themselves. We feel very privileged to have been able to watch this and also we feel a we have a stake in how these youngsters get on as we have watched them from the eggs being laid right through fledging and now becoming young adults. Theses juveniles will probably hang around through the winter with their parents but when the parents lay new eggs next year they will have to head off and find their own territories hopefully not too far away so that we still see them
29th August 2015
15th Aug 2015We have been getting some good Minke sightings recently, there are a lot more bait balls in the water which is attracting these amazing mammals closer to our shores. Minke whales are named after a Norwegian whaler Mr Minke, sometimes they are know as stinky minke's because there is a really strong fishy smell when they breath out.The diet of minke whales in this area includes a variety of fish species, including sandeel, herring and whiting, along with some plankton. There are 230 to 360 baleen plates in each side of the upper jaw; these are coarse, hair-like structures formed of keratin that hang down into the mouth, a bit like the teeth on a comb. They feed by engulfing large volumes of prey and water, and they then sieve the water back out through the baleen plates and swallow their prey whole. Sometimes we see these whales lung feeding which involves the whale lunging at its prey at high speed from below and erupting at the surface with the throat grooves extended. Minke whales around here are commonly seen feeding in association with seabirds, in particular kittiwakes, Manx shearwaters and young gulls, we always look out for seabirds feeding when we are at sea as these can be a real help in finding whales and other cetaceans.Minke whales are mostly solitary animals often travelling alone or in small pods of 2-3 whales. This is what we find here, a mother will bring its young into the area and then we see these same animals in subsequent years. Whales can be identified by their dorsal fins,and other markings and colouring on their bodies so that when we study photos of the whales we can tell if we have seen that whale before or whether it is completely new to the area.
19th July 2015
What a fantastic time we have had in the last couple of weeks as the Sea Eagle chicks have just fledged. We are almost as proud as their parents to see them taking these first flights away from the nest. Here is a picture of the second chick to fledge, Quite often they fly a little from the nest and then rest on a rock until they get heir breath back and can try another flight. They always look slightly confused at finding themselves in the outside world but also very proud of themselves. It was only another day until they were soaring confidently above the hills with their parents learning to fend for themselves. We are delighted that both local pairs of Sea Eagles have successfully raised two healthy chicks, it is not uncommon for two Sea Eagle chicks to grow up amicably in the same nest unlike the Golden Eagle where if there are two chicks usually only the dominant chick will survive by depriving the smaller chick its share of food.
12th July 2015
Great news, in the last couple of weeks we have been seeing some very new common seal pups at their favourite haul outs. The common seal pupping season peaks in June and July and pups weigh approx. 10kgs and measure about 85cm long at birth. They are born with their adult coat as the white natal coat is usually shed before birth, they can swim immediately (unlike grey seal pups) and sometimes they are even born in the water. Common seal mothers are great, very attentive staying close while nursing often carrying the pups on her backs while swimming. The pup feeds on its mothers rich milk (45% fat!) for a few weeks, once it is weaned it is completely independent and has to catch fish for itself. During this time in its life the mother will leave the pup alone on the shore for long periods of time while she feeds up. If you see a pup on its own do not approach it as the mother will probably be quite close by and will not come ashore if you are there, also you can transfer you scent to the pup and the mother will then not return to it. If you think a pup has been alone for too long or looks sick call the SSPCA or RSPCA who will come and check it out, sometimes pups are abandoned and they have to be rescued.
Common seals are the smaller of the two types of seals we see on our trips; the other is the grey seal. Common seals are recognisable by their dog like faces, short muzzle and v-shaped nostrils, grey seals have long noses and are much bigger in size.
June 29th 2015
Fantastic time at sea this lastweek, we have seen an amazing variety of cetaceans, porpoise, dolphins and whales, this shows that summer is really here, the water is warming up and there are lots of fish in the water for these mammals to feed on.
Minke whales are the species of whales that we see here most often, they are the smallest baleen whale, they sieve through the ocean water with their baleen and filter and eat plankton and small fish. They can grow up to 30 feet long and weigh about 6-8tonnes. These whales breath air at the surface through two blowholes near the top of the head. They can dive for up to 20-25 minutes but usually they make shorter dives, just before diving minke whales arch their back to a great degree and then dive to the depths. They make very loud sounds underwater, up to 152 decibels (as loud as a jet taking off). These sounds may be used in communication with other minke whales.
Minke whale breeding occurs mostly in the late winter to early spring and in warm waters. Gestation period is about 10 months and the calf is born near the surface, it instinctively swims to the surface within 10seconds for its first breath helped by its mother. Within 30minutes the baby can swim on its own, as with other mammals the baby is nurtured on its mother’s milk. The mother and calf may stay together for a year or longer.
This picture is of a baby minke we saw last year, since minkes tend to come back to the same area every year we hope to see it again this year with its mother.
Here is a picture of two of our local Sea Eagles, all spring they have given us great fly pasts or have looked down on us from their vantage pointon the hill. These two have again successfully bred with two big strong chicks, they are excellent parents and one at least is always around the nest while the other is out getting food. Soon the chicks who are practising flapping their wings in the nest will fledge and then we will see all four flying around together as the parents teach them how to feed and fend for themselves. Sea Eagles are the largest bird of prey in Britain and have the biggest wingspan of all eagles anywhere in the world, up to 2.5 meters, they are actually more related to vultures than to Golden Eagles. In the wild they typically live for 20-30 years and typically feed on seabirds, fish and carrion. We are very fortunate to have two breeding pairs on our wildlife route (the other pair have two chicks) and quite often see all four adults and chicks on trips. We are really looking forward to seeing all the chicks taking their first flights, come and join us and share the excitement of seeing these incredible birds around the nest or in the air.
1st June 2015
Here we are at the start of June and things are getting busy on the boat and at sea. We are generally running two trips every day with a choice of length of trip. We have had our first five hour trips which are really popular as you get longer at the hotspots and more time to search for wildlife which may be further offshore. We saw our first manx shearwater and first Osprey of the season recently which is really exciting, these are signs that summer is really on its way
10th May 2015
Here we are into May already, its been a wee bit chiller than we might like but lots of sunshine and we are now starting to see some changes at sea. There have been a lot more sightings of porpoise which means that their source of food is coming more inshore. Harbour porpoise can be found throughout the northern hemisphere and prefer shallow water less than 500 feet. They survive mainly on small fish and are among the smallest of all the cetaceans reaching an average size of 5 ft. They can dive really deep, sometimes to more than 200 metres but they are usually near the surface coming up every 25 seconds or so to breath, they make a very clear puffing noise which sounds like a small sneeze. The Firth of Lorne where we operate is one of the best areas in the UK to see porpoise, we often see them in groups of 15 or more around the boat, we look forward to seeing you on board to share our love of these little mammals. Other bigger mammals have similar tastes in food and will be following the porpoise inshore, hopefully we will be seeing minke whales soon, we will be operating whale watching 5 hour trips from the middle of May, these trips take more time offshore to look for whales and Davids knowledge of the hotspots for whales gives you the best chance of seeing these amazing creature.
Another cracking week out on the boat, the weather was just amazing, blue sky and calm seas. The start of the week saw us running our Whirlpool Specials, these are run when the tides are at their biggest and the whirlpool will be most impressive. This week we had huge spring tides and even when the sea was calm all around, the whirlpool was still amazing. We are also continuing to see the Sea Eagle parents in and around the nests, great sightings to be had. Because of the sun the seals were taking the opportunity to bask and relax between feeding, the big tides were catching out some of the lazier ones and they were just sticking their noses above the water but refusing to get off their rock! Big thrill this week was seeing bottle nose dolphins, they were jumping and playing which made us think they were probably young lads showing off! I hope the girls were impressed!
Porpoise 2 is back in the water after six weeks being polished, painted, pampered and new toys fitted. It’s great to have her back on the pontoon and we are looking forward to a wonderful season. Yesterday we had our first wildlife trip and it was just amazing! We saw both local pairs of sea eagles sitting on eggs, what a privilege to see all four adult birds on one trip and very exciting that we may soon see youngsters in the nests. It’s a great time to be seeing these eagles as they are good parents and are always on or around the nest most of the time. We take great care approaching the areas where the nests are and do not get too close as we do not want to disturb the birds at this critical time, if an eagle were to leave an egg for long it could get cold and the chick would not survive. On our boat we have great binoculars so you can get a good view of the birds and the nest from some distance.
Winter with Sealife Adventures February 2015
We operate throughout the year and perhaps surprisingly there is a lot to see even when it is a bit colder. We had a trip recently and this is how it went.
Before we left the pontoon we were looking out for an otter which has been visiting our pontoon on a regular basis. He often leaves some nice evidence of his visit such as empty crab shells, of course he also leaves some otter poo (scat) which although sometimes slightly smelly is also interesting as you can see what he has been eating,
On the way out to Cuan Sound we saw 3 red throated divers…. these are quite rare birds and its a treat to see them, they have avery rapid wing beat which distinguishes them from ducks when they are flying past. I the sinner they have beautiful patterned breeding plumage, their winter plumage is not quite so distinctive but you can still early identify them.
Winter is also a great time to see otters and birds of prey, food is scarcer and they have to spend more time out and about feeding. On this trip we saw an otter out looking for lunch, while we were watching he carried on diving and eventually came out on a rock to eat his catch.
In Cuan Sound itself we saw a couple of common seals in the water looking curiously at us as we looked at them, there is so much incentive to bask o the rocks at this time of year, the seals prefer to be in the water which will be significantly warmer than the air temperature.
As we approached the Gulf of Corryvreckan we saw a flying sea eagle, very distinctive by its size a wing shape. These birds are with us all year round, soon they will be starting to nest again, in 2014 they produced a healthy chick who is still around with his parents but will be sent packing in the spring to make way for the new generation.
Once we were in the Gulf of Corryvreckan we were amazed at the movement in the whirlpool, it was especially dramatic, the whirlpool forms as water rushes out of the gulf and is forced up over a shallow pinnacle, We run Whirlpool Special Trips for guests who want to see the whirlpool at its most active. The movement in the water column pushes up small fish which make it a great feeding area for cetaceans, on this particular day we saw a number of porpoise rushing around catching a meal. Scientific studies show that this area is probably the best in Scotland for seeing porpoises which are here all year round.
On the way home up Shuna Sound we saw a large number of greylag geese, they make a distinctive honking sound and are large heavy birds.
Quite often he winter light provides ideal conditions for photography of landscape and wildlife,the low sun gives great colour and contrast.
Out on the water we were kept warm by hot drinks and lots of warm clothing. There is lots to see in the winter on the water. Come prepared with good clothing and you will have a great Sealife Adventure.
Update 26th June 2014
We are having the most amazing spell of weather and sightings. Here is a picture of one of the Minke whales that we saw today. We photograph the whales we see and find that the same individuals come back year after year, we can identify them from the shape of the fin and markings on the body. Some whales have been coming back for many years and it is always really exciting when we recognise individuals and family groups.
Update 19th June 2014
This week there have been amazing bait balls forming around the Gulf of Corryvreckan. Bait balls form when predators such as porpoises, razorbills and guillemots find a shoal of fish and force it up to the surface corralling it into a tight ball. These bait balls can become so dense that you can see patches of black from the surface and all the seabirds come in from above to fill up. These pictures show a black- backed gull just dipping its head into the water and coming up with a beak-full of sand eels. These sand eels are the staple diet of lots of seabirds and also porpoise, whales and dolphins, large bait balls indicate that the seas are healthy and that there is lots of food for all our wildlife. It's a wonderful time to be out on the boat, great weather and superb sightings, we have also seen the Sea Eagle chick flapping about in the nest, we are really excited as once it feels confident it will take its first flight. We are still keeping a good distance from the nest area but we can see it clearly through our complimentary binoculars.
Update 17th May
The tides have been building all week and the Corryvreckan has been becoming more spectacular as the week has gone on. We have also noticed more feeding activity in the Corry with lots of seabirds and porpoise around. One of our most impressive seabirds is the gannet, it is the biggest seabird in the North Atlantic with a wing span of up to 2 metres. Gannets are amazing in many ways, they have cushioning in their face and chest which acts like bubble wrap protecting them when they dive into the water at speeds up to 100km/hour. This speed means the can catch fish up to 20mtrs deep. Their nostrils are not external but are inside their beak and they have binocular vision like us so that they can judge distances accurately. Because they eat lots of fish their name has become a term if someone is becoming greedy, however, you would be forgiven behaving like a gannet in any of our lovely local seafood restaurants.
Update 26th April 2014
Wow, haven't we been lucky with the weather. A great Easter to kick off the season and lots of visitors from home and abroad. Just amazing sightings, with both sets of sea eagles flying and perched around their nests and hopefully with chicks, we are very careful not to go too close as we dont want to disturb them. Very soon we will be able to see the little (relative term for sea eagles) chicks sticking their heads above the edge of their nest. Also this week we saw our other permanent residents, seals, porpoises and otters and something very special both Black and Red throated divers, very distinctive and rare birds. The black throated diver is bigger and has very distinctive plumage, black throat and black and white stripes on the side of the neck and a checkerboard of white spots on its back, the red throated diver has a blue grey face and a red throat with black and white streaks on the nape. The Corryvreckan was in good form this week with some great whirlpools setting up, next week we will be running whirlpool specials on some big spring tides. We had an Italian family on the boat this week with a little boy, he had hardly any english but he thought the Corryvreckan at full tilt was "awesome", I think that sums up our week and all our sightings, its been awesome!
This week we have seen a good number of porpoise feeding in the tide round the Corryvreckan and also we have seen our two pairs of Sea Eagles around their territories. On Friday we saw a Sea Eagle being mobbed by a pair of buzzards, this is quite normal activity and generally happens if the Sea Eagle is too close for comfort to the buzzards nest. The Sea Eagle was just sitting on a rock and ducking every time the buzzards dive bombed. Eventually he got the message and flew off.
Other sightings this week were otters, seals and gannets, the Corryvreckan has been spectacular as well in the big tides with some huge whirlpools set up on the ebb tide.
We also had the BBC on board for a couple of days filming for Landward around the Corryvreckan, we will let you know when it will be screened.