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Cetaceans - Aberdeen and beyond (1 Viewer)

Ian Hay

Well-known member
Kevin Hepworth saw 4 or 5 White Beaked Dolphins from the railway bridge at cove yesterday.

Lots of Porps around also which is suprising as there are still loads of BND about. Upto 30 at the harbour on satuday.

Went over to the west coast and saw very little yesterday which was a suprise given whalewatch scotland have had some cracking trips not far away.

All the best

Ian
 

Ian Hay

Well-known member
First Shetland trip report for quite a while!

Ian

Cetacean survey from the Hildasay, July 2013

Thanks to generous sponsorship by Serco Northlink, the University of Aberdeen have been able to collect sighting data of cetaceans from the freight ships to Orkney and Shetland since 2002. Analysis of earlier results and an introduction to the project are available as a pdf online at http://www.egcp.org.uk/projects/NORCET_Report.pdf . The first trip of 2013 went to Shetland on 23 - 25 July. Nick Picozzi, who has been involved with the surveys for many years, and a Spanish student Susanna Quer, who has a University project on Porpoises, were permitted access to the bridge to make observations. We left the harbour at 18.00 and escaped the approaching ferocious thunderstorms of that night on the mainland. The sea was benign and although visibility was restricted to 4-5 km by a haar, we would have been able to see any dorsal fins breaking the surface up to that range.

The form is for both observers to watch from the port side; the crew on the bridge are most helpful and call out anything they notice on the starboard side so the coverage is as good as the conditions will allow. They also kept up our spirits with strong coffee! It is usual for the main activity of Bottle-nosed Dolphins to be seen around the Aberdeen harbour entrance, but on this trip none were seen on the way out and only one on the return, nor did we see any as we progressed up the coast. Every 15 minutes we recorded the Hildasay’s course noting latitude and longitude from one of the large radar screens. The ship’s speed and direction relative to wind and tide were also recorded along with the sea state and visibility. It takes a fair effort of concentration over the hours of daylight up to about 22.30 at which time every wave in the dwindling can give the impression of a surfacing cetacean. Just as we were about to give up, a huge vertical dorsal fin like the blade of a band saw appeared about 50m away with another shorter-finned individual beside it. Orcas! Only the second time I had seen them on these surveys and a great and unexpected thrill for Susanna. We saw them surface three times. They were about an hour north of a deep narrow marine trench off Fraserburgh where the charts show the water depth to be double that of the main shelf and where it is not unusual to see Minke whale, though not this time.

Back up on the bridge next morning at 04.30 we passed Fair Isle and approached Sumburgh Head – both visible unfortunately only on the radar screen due to the continued presence of haar. There were no further sightings of cetaceans to add to those recorded in detail the previous evening when we had also glimpsed Harbour Porpoise on a couple of occasions. However, seabirds were more noticeable, especially Great Skuas (Bonxies) and the occasional Arctic Skua. One unforgettable sight was that of a Gannet which dived so close to the ship that we were able to follow its progress through the gin-clear water. Black Guillemots were present as we neared Lerwick Harbour. A hearty breakfast was provided by Tina, who was most anxious that we did not go hungry. We then had the day to rest and explore Lerwick and its excellent museum and had time to bus down to Sumburgh or up to the ferry terminal for Yell. Both give a very good feel for the Mainland.

The return trip was rather uneventful although the visibility had improved quite a bit. The sea remained calm, never exceeding sea state 3 (small wavelets just beginning to break with white crests). I had hoped for Storm or Leach’s Petrels but neither were seen, nor were any shearwaters until I saw a flock of 40 or so off Murcar. Guillemots, some with young in tow, were present near the coast and the occasional Great and Arctic Skua harried the gulls for a free meal.

Once again, we were grateful to the master and crew of the Hildasay for their hospitality and ready access to the bridge.

Nick Picozzi
 

TWM

Well-known member
Three Orcas seen going north past Girdleness this morning at 07.00 then reported in Aberdeen Bay at 07.15 with some White beaked Dolphins!
Per Mark Lewis
 

TWM

Well-known member
What were most likely the same 3 Orcas (including 'John Coe')were seen off Findhorn in the Moray Firth yesterday evening.
 

TWM

Well-known member
Out on a pelagic from Macduff today on the Puffin. At least 3 Minke Whales around the Southern Trench about 6 miles north of Banff and also good numbers of Porpoises.
Brief view of some Dolphins well offshore (maybe Risso's)
 

Teamscotch

Well-known member
From the twitter: “@GriffinWildlife: Just had a Humpback Whale from off the ferry!!! Currently opposite Rattray Head(ish!)!! Bloody awesome!”
 

TWM

Well-known member
Yesterday (12/11/2013) I saw a cetacean at Rattray Head that I couldn't identify.
I was just looking out to sea (through 10X bins) at some Eiders when it surfaced very briefly, I did not see a blow and did not see it again. It was not very far offshore
It was larger than a Bottlenosed Dolphin, it was pale brown, had a lot of scarring on its back and a fairly small dorsal fin.
Due to the scarring I thought of Risso's Dolphin but it did not have a large dorsal fin and it was brown not grey.
Having looked at books and photos on the internet the only likeness I have come up with is Cuvier's Beaked Whale!!! Any other ideas?
 

martin kitching

Obsessed seawatcher
If the fin was small and towards the rear of the animal it could well be a beaked whale :eek!: Cuvier's, Northern Bottlenose, Sowerby's and True's all previously reported in the North Sea. Sowerby's is known as the North Sea Beaked Whale as the type specimen was a stranding in the Moray Firth in 1800. Pale brown suggests one of the first two I've listed, extensive scarring good for Cuvier's :eek!:

cheers
martin

Yesterday (12/11/2013) I saw a cetacean at Rattray Head that I couldn't identify.
I was just looking out to sea (through 10X bins) at some Eiders when it surfaced very briefly, I did not see a blow and did not see it again. It was not very far offshore
It was larger than a Bottlenosed Dolphin, it was pale brown, had a lot of scarring on its back and a fairly small dorsal fin.
Due to the scarring I thought of Risso's Dolphin but it did not have a large dorsal fin and it was brown not grey.
Having looked at books and photos on the internet the only likeness I have come up with is Cuvier's Beaked Whale!!! Any other ideas?
 

TWM

Well-known member
Thanks Martin, I've seen Bottlenose Whales and it wasn't big enough and there was too much scarring but the colour was similar. I think I was very lucky to see what was a Cuvier's.
This picture by Hugh Harrop is pretty well what I saw but browner.
 

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TWM

Well-known member
Driving down the beach Boulevard in Aberdeen this afternoon I could see the splashes from the Dolphins at the mouth of the Harbour--they were really doing the biz. Unfortunately I did not have time to go and look closer.
 

Stonefaction

Stuck in Dundee.....
Scotland
Had a pod of Dolphins (Bottlenosed, I assume) heading north past Arbroath cliffs today, which I thought was unusual for so far away from the Moray Firth this late in the year. Very unexpected sight.
 

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