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Wildlife spotting on Hopscotch 31

Map of Hopscotch 31


Our Wildlife Officer shares her experience of her first trip out on the CalMac network....

Recently I have been very lucky, I was invited to board the CalMac fleet and collect whale and dolphin data albeit it in a different manner due to current restrictions. I was able to board on the proviso that my role did not stretch to engaging passengers or encouraging people to gather or group. This is a very difficult task for me, as if I see a whale, dolphin, or porpoise I have to shout "sighting!", but I also understand the risk involved at the moment, so remained cautious. Mask and anti-bac in hand, I drove to Mallaig full of hope that I would see this season's first common dolphin! I was about to embark on an the 'Hopscotch 31' tour from Mallaig to Ullapool, route shown below:

Mallaig, the Uists, Lewis and Harris and Ullapool were absolutely beautiful places and so very different. Each ferry seemed packed with people going on staycations, push and motor bikes, cars, and HGV's packed into each ferry so delicately and with absolute precision I was aghast at how much room was always left! As we haven't been able to do any surveys this year I am going to write this in a survey report style for a little variety.

15/09/20: Ferry 1: Mallaig - Lochboisdale - MV Lord of the Isles

Weather: Overcast, little wind and sea state 2-4

Sightings: Began with a swimming common seal and a few rolls of harbour porpoises, then we had a chorus of common dolphins (ca. eight individuals), after that we were treated to two minke whales and to sandwich it all in common dolphins (ca. five individuals), finished off the survey.

16/09/20: Ferry 2: Lochmaddy - Uig - MV Hebrides

Weather: Overcast, little wind and sea state 2-4

Sightings: None

16/09/20: Ferry 3: Uig - Tarbert - MV Hebrides

Weather: Overcast, little wind and sea state 2-4

Sightings: After the previous survey, eyes were peeled, and I was hoping for a sighting across the Minch...and it finally came! Common dolphins, the whale-watchers best friend, thank you. There were ca. three individuals and they made my day!

17/09/20: Ferry 4: Stornoway - Ullapool - Loch Seaforth

Weather: Overcast, windy and sea state 3-6

Sightings: As we were leaving I spotted a minke whale a lot earlier than I would have predicted! Throughout the survey I was lucky to see around 30+ common dolphins, energetically headed towards the ship. As we approached Loch Broome I was sitting in the lovely observation lounge and saw two harbour porpoises, one of which was a small calf!

Birds seen throughout trip:

  • Arctic skua
  • Black headed gull
  • Black throated diver
  • Carrion crow
  • Cormorant
  • Gannet
  • Great black backed gull
  • Great northern diver
  • Great skua
  • Guillemot
  • Herring gull
  • Hooded crow
  • Kittiwake
  • Manx shearwater
  • Mute swan
  • Razorbill
  • Shag

Hopscotch 31 Wildlife

I wanted to say a great big thank you to Ruth and all those that work in the ticket offices, and the CalMac crew on each vessel that made me feel very welcome and I would like to thank them and CalMac for supporting our conservation work.

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