MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report 'MV Balmoral' Sound of Mull 7th July 2017

Rachel Meacock; MARINElife Wildlife Officer (WLO)

Marine Mammals:
Common Seal 1
Harbour Porpoise 2
Bottlenose Dolphin 1
Unidentified Dolphin

Herring Gull
Unidentified Black-backed Gull
Commic Tern

Terrestrial Birds
Barn Swallow

I arrived at the pier at around 13.20 and boarded MV Balmoral with the rest of the passengers at 13.45. Once on board I set up my binoculars and then received a high-vis vest and a stack of leaflets, and I then began making my way around the deck. Sea state was calm as we moved out of Oban harbour and towards the Sound of Mull, getting lovely views of Oban and Dunollie Castle. After around 10 minutes of sailing, the purser announced that I was on board and several passengers approached to ask questions.

On exiting Oban harbour there were quite a few gulls, both Herring Gull and Black-backed Gull, flying around. Shortly after passing the Isle of Kerrera there was a small group of Gannet, both flying and sitting on the surface. As we reached Mull there were some great views as we passed Duart Castle.

Herring Gull Peter Howlett 01

Herring Gull (Peter Howlett)

There were large numbers of Kittiwake on Lady Rock, which some passengers were very happy to see! There were also a few Guillemot sat on the water. Shortly after passing this, I was able to point out a group of Swallow, and then a group of terns (unable to identify species), putting on an impressive display to the delight of passengers. The captain announced that dolphins had been spotted to the Starboard side, however, they didn't hang around for very long.

As we turned around and began to make our way around Kerrera, the weather brightened up considerably and the sea became very calm, almost flat. A group of Kittiwake could be seen feeding, giving us hope of a few marine mammals which sadly didn't show. Several passengers, now keenly watching for animals, were delighted to see a Common Seal checking out the boat!

Common Seal Graham Ekins 01

Common Seal (Graham Ekins)

Plenty of Herring Gull could be sighted as we cruised along the shore of Kerrera. A very excited passenger approached me to tell me he'd spotted a Harbour Porpoise, which I sadly missed, although a second one then appeared a few minutes later.

As we returned to the harbour, I was very happy to see a lone Bottlenose Dolphin jumping clear of the water near to a yellow buoy. Sadly it didn't hang around for long enough to put on a display for the passengers! We arrived back in Oban at 17.00 and having thanked the crew for accommodating me, I disembarked and headed for home!

BND Adrian Shephard 01

Bottlenose Dolphin (Adrian Shephard)