Aug 4, 2011

Cetacean watching

Its been a good couple of days for cetacean watching for me. Sunday
Was flat calm and slack water was about lunch time so I shot down to Hoxa for a look. Ten minutes watching produced the thrilling sight of a fin and another trailing after it. A while later and another pair appeared and disappeared. They were highly mobile and moved about from one end of Flotta to the other. These were Harbour Porpoise and they would take two or three breaths and be gone. I was fairly sure I saw at least four separate individuals, Steve Sankey who was watching further round the head thought he had seen at least seven individuals so there was plenty to see.
Monday was another flat calm day and I headed for Stromness and the Black Craig. This was to misty to see anything and I decided to return as soon as possible, that just happened to be today funnily enough. Conditions were good, nice and calm with a mild air. I could see from the jack up rig to Hoy and north to Yesnaby. Little was to be seen, a few birds on the sea and several more in the extended view from the scope. Any distant exotic shearwater shapes resolved themselves into immature gannets over and over again. When this became to much of a strain on the eyes it was back to eyes and bins looking for fins. Still nothing and as time ticked away I began to attract the attention of midges. My tolerance to the wee beasties is pretty lame and I was soon in the mind to move on and make my self a bit of a mobile target. I ended walking half way to Yesnaby and back with little luck. There had been a constant passage of Bonxies heading to Hoy and for a large part of the path I had been accompanied by families of Wheatears and more than a few Rock pipits. By the time I reached the stile below the Emec spy post I stopped to catch my breath and cool off in preparation for the final uphill path. So all peeled off and enjoying the cold perspiration evaporating in the slightest of breezes I was looking to sea thinking that was that for the day a fin cut the water and disappeared only reappear as the first sight was sinking in. This was about half way to the yellow buoy. It didn’t stay in sight for very long and once down it was three or four minutes before I could find it again. At one stage it was obvious that there was a smaller one close behind it. Eventually I lost sight and they headed towards the Jackup barge. I amused my self looking at the photos I had taken that had taken zooming in and out playing hunt the fin….with no success I should add!! My attention was grabbed with a sudden blowing sound and looking up the Dolphin is right below me just off the cliff, snatching up the bins ( I hardly need them!) I can see the back is grey, it has a bluntish head, as it dives shallowly through the water it rolls on its side as it gos down showing a white flank with a smooth line between the grey along the flank. Close in like this the, the sensation of size is large and I wonder if this is a Rissos Dolphin ( there has been one washed up out west this week and they are fresh in my head) anyway it soon is nowhere to be seen and I turn to walk back to the stile three walkers have appeared one of whom is Tim, a stalwart of the camera club. We were soon chatting about sightings and the disappeared dolphin when Tim says there was a huge splash out at the yellow buoy, as we look out there’s another and another. With bins trained on the spot we can see a pod of Dolphins out there leaping clear of the water splashing exuberantly, some clearly spinning. Counting over and over gives the best count of eight at one time although im sure there were more. It’s a thrilling if distant display but it just gos on and on. We get the scope on them and manage a few views before it all eventually gos off the boil. Its not all lost though and they reapear after a while a lot closer in, not jumping as much but still very active moving about the same area . I think these were common dolphins as you could see a dark v in the body colours lateral line (saying all this tho im no sort of expert on cetaceans) Leaving the other three engrossed I was to soon head off though very satisfied with my mad 40 mins watching…..cracking stuff!!

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