JNCC training: A success for seabirds
As part of CalMac's Marine Awareness Program, JNCC have been training volunteers in European Seabirds at Sea (ESAS) seabird survey methods, with a view to launching seabird surveys on board CalMac ferries in 2019. The scheme will generate data that will feed into long term datasets for seabirds and cetaceans, that will shed light on the abundance, distribution and phenology of birds and marine mammals that use the seas off western Scotland. The seabird surveys will be led by mentors, who will work with volunteers to ensure high quality data are collected, while developing volunteers survey and data recording skills.
To pilot this mentoring scheme, JNCC trained eight mentors in February 2018, and assessed how well they could 'mentor' volunteers in May. Both trips were a huge success. Our mentors took to the survey methods brilliantly in February, in spite of some 'challenging' conditions, and were excellent at passing their new-found wisdom on to the volunteers in May. The volunteers, who came from a broad background of survey experience and bird expertise also performed admirably, and all were fluent in the survey methods by the end of the course. That the mentoring scheme works is extremely reassuring, but the fact that both mentors and volunteers enjoyed themselves so much is a lot more satisfying, to the point that all who took part were keen to be involved as the project progresses.
Both training sessions involved lots of time on the CalMac ferries crossing from Kennacraig to Islay, which gave all involved a chance to survey some of the iconic wildlife encountered on Scotland's west coast. We had great views of seabirds such as great northern and black-throated diver, Manx shearwater, black guillemots, gannets, and fulmars. We were also lucky enough to encounter bottlenose dolphin, harbour porpoise, and an otter! Closer to land, we also managed to see stunning golden and white-tailed eagles, and hen harriers, all with the stunning backdrops of the Sound of Jura.
JNCC will be training another pool of mentors on 22nd and 23rd August, a great time of year for common dolphin, minke whale and several interesting seabirds. See our Events pages for more information.