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Second Standard Survey 2017 Completed
Second Standard Survey 2017 Completed

Second Standard Survey 2017 Completed

The second standard Cetacean Research Survey of the season started last week and finished today. Due to the sunny weather and favourably forecasted south easterly winds, the aim for this trip was to try to survey Stanton Banks; a large shallow rocky area about 35 nautical miles south of Mingulay and 35 nautical miles south west of Tiree.

Silurian departed Tobermory Bay on 3rd May, taking the crew and team of citizen scientists to the Isle of Tiree, anchoring in Balephuil Bay. With sunshine and light winds, the sailing was enjoyable but the sighting of three minke whales - two of which were identifiable by the photos taken - made the day even better. To top it all off several seals and harbour porpoises were also sighted throughout the 42 nautical miles covered during the passage.

The following day, the passage to Stanton Banks required a very early start - with the crew hoisting the anchor at 5am in the morning under a beautiful sky. This early start was rewarded with the first sightings of minke whale, harbour porpoise, basking shark and common dolphin all reported before breakfast. Around 7 o'clock our citizen scientists were woken and enjoyed first breakfast with bow-riding common dolphins. As the day progressed more and more common dolphins were spotted on route. By the time Silurian dropped anchor back in Balephuil Bay, Tiree at 8pm a total distance of 85 nautical miles had been travelled and an array of species recorded: minke whales spotted, common dolphins, basking sharks, seals and harbour porpoise and a plethora of marine birds. This huge diversity of species at Stanton Banks was even more exciting with the first two basking sharks of the 2017 season recorded. This was exciting as basking sharks are more commonly seen later in the year, around July and August. A truly stunning day of the Hebrides displaying its wildlife and proving it can still shock even the most experienced seafarers.

The 6th May was another sunny day with light winds making a great day for sailing. The seas were calm across the Minch as Silurian headed for the small Isles, enabling several of the citizen scientist crew to make it up the crow’s nest to witness the spectacular view across Rum with the Cullins of Skye in the background. Another pod of common dolphins came to bow ride alongside Silurian once more and several hurries of birds as she passed Hyskeir. At the days end, Silurian had surveyed another 53 nautical miles before anchoring for the night in Pean Meanach, mainland Scotland.

A big thank to our volunteer citizen scientists on this trip: Anne, Ben, Jean, Linda, Sophie and Zoe. A fantastic group of people and without their hard work and fantastic teamwork we won’t be able to survey this diverse and unique part of the Hebrides. A total of 255.4 nautical miles surveyed, with 5 different species recorded, totalling 527 individuals.

Photo:  One of the two Basking Shark sighted onboard Silurian during the survey. The First recorded in 2017 in the Hebrides.

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