Sunday, 27 May 2012

Wildlife over the Rockall Trough

So it’s another beautiful day at Rockall, where we are currently floating on our research ship about 200 miles to the west of the Outer Hebrides. Surprisingly, this area appears to be a far better site for wildlife watching than Mingulay was, and we are seeing large numbers of gannets, fulmars and kittiwakes around the ship. I’m never sure if they follow ships out here, or if we just happen to come across patches of them, but since these are all scavengers I wouldn’t be surprised if they were attracted in to see us.

A young gannet flying by

A fulmar swimming up for a closer look at the ship

 We’ve also had some surprising visitors to the ship as well, and picked up a large group of about 20-30 barn swallows last night which were as tame as anything and spent the entire evening posing for everyone with a camera! We were a bit concerned that they were only here because they’d been knocked off course, but it seems that some swallows will migrate from Africa to Greenland, so it’s possible we’re on their route. Certainly most of them seem to have disappeared this morning so hopefully they’ll be back on their way north for the summer.


Migrating barn swallows en route to the north. They all looked exhausted and were no doubt pleased for the short break.

More surprising than the swallows though was the appearance of a second pigeon (how do you get a pigeon 300 miles offshore?). Both birds are ringed racing pigeons and are (I believe) being fed and watered by the crew since it’s unlikely they’ll be leaving the ship now before we go home. If anyone knows what to do with them, I’ve managed to get partial numbers off their rings which seem to be:

Pigeon 1: (Green) SU10 3660L

Pigeon 2: (Blue) N273 

Anyway, if anyone knows how to contact the birds’ owners they might be interested to know their pigeons are currently enjoying a brief holiday.

Minke whale surfacing beside our ship

Finally, not to be outshone by a group of birds, we had our first whale sighting of the trip when a Minke whale surfaced right alongside the boat yesterday afternoon! I’ve seen a few Minke whales over the years, but I’ve never managed to get a single shot of one, so you can imagine I’m a bit pleased with how these came out!

Anyway, better get back to work watching the ROV dives. Catch you soon!