We had some incredible sightings, highlighting how valuable winter monitoring is. In November, we had not one but two encounters with minke whales. Although we get reports of minke whales in the winter through our community sighting network, including Whale Track, this was the first ever sighting of minke whales from Silurian in November. Although both of the minke whales were elusive, it was clear that they were feeding, with lunging behaviour observed and rafts of feeding birds in the area. During the survey, we also encountered 20 harbour porpoise, 16 common seals and 6 grey seals.
The December survey didn’t lack any excitement either with a very special encounter with killer whales! As we sailed around the north coast of Mull heading towards Cailleach Point, a shout of sighting could be heard from the mast. “I don’t know what it was, but it was big!” Paul, of our citizen scientists on board explained. We spent a nervous few minutes scanning the water in anticipation. Then two unmistakable huge black fins emerged from the depths! It soon became clear that one of the individuals was none other than John Coe, who is easy to identify due to the large nick at the bottom of his dorsal fin. Looking at the photos we had taken when we returned, we also managed to deduce that the other individual is known as Aquarius, another male who is often seen with John Coe. These individuals are part of the critically endangered west coast community and therefore every sighting of these animals is extremely important and incredibly precious. It was an amazing sighting, with both of the killer whales in no rush to leave the area, staying within the proximity of the boat for over half an hour. At one point they swam over towards us, seemingly wanting a closer look and bobbing their heads above the water just 200 m away, a behaviour known as spy hopping!