Whales and Dolphins of Moray Firth.
On the Expedition.
Spotting threatened whales and dolphins on Scotland's scenic northeast coastline.
Working with Robinson and his colleagues from the Cetacean Research & Rescue Unit (CRRU), you will take to the Moray Firth in 5.4-meter rigid-hulled inflatable boats to conduct systematic surveys of the southern Firth. You will be trained to spot and identify whales and dolphins and to record data such as the composition and structure of groups, their behavior, and geographic positions. You will also take photographs for individual identification. Back at the lab, especially during inclement weather, you will help identify individuals from photographs, catalogue images, and enter data. Your team may also be called upon to help with live whale or dolphin strandings, as the need arises. In your recreational time, there are rare seabird colonies, coastal wildflowers, castles, and Pictish ruins to investigate.
Meals and Accommodations.
Your team will share a rented cottage in the heart of a traditional fishing village, rich in local history and colorful characters. You will share a bedroom with one or two of your teammates, sleeping on beds in your own sleeping bag. The cottage has modern bathroom facilities and a full kitchen. Cooking and cleaning duties will be shared, on a rotational basis, using locally available foods. After dinner, the local pub is pleased to serve a very good range of ales in a friendly atmosphere.
About the Research Area.
Surrounded by majestic cliffs and rolling farmland, the village of Gardenstown in the parish of Gamrie boasts commanding views of the Moray Firth, the largest firth or embayment of its kind on the east coast of Scotland at approximately 5,230 square kilometers. Considering its northerly latitude, the climate of the area is well favored by abundant sunshine and below average rainfall for the UK. Afforded protection by the Scottish Highlands, this vast coastline is comprised of tidally exposed mudflats, dune systems and cliffs, and a composite of headlands and small bays providing a relatively sheltered environment with a vast diversity of habitats.
The research area is an absolute haven for wildlife. Fed by warm and cold waters from the Atlantic and Arctic oceans, the productive, turbid waters of the Moray Firth attract an abundance of fish and cephalopod species, providing rich feeding grounds for numerous species of whale and dolphin, grey and common seal colonies and nationally important concentrations of wintering sea ducks, saw bills, auks and many other families of offshore and nesting seabird - including a mainland gannetry and local puffin colony at Troupe Head, just a few miles from the base. In addition to the large numbers and diversity of marine fauna that exist in the project area, there is a fantastic assemblage of wild coastal flowers, rare birds of prey (such as red kite, osprey and merlin), and many other interesting plants and animals including orchids, otters, badgers, foxes and roe deer.
East of the village of Gardenstown and the Bay of Gamrie lies Pennan, made famous as the main location for the movie Local Hero. Loch Ness lies approximately 100 miles to the west, and the coastline of the surrounding landscapes is scattered with ancient remains and magnificent Pictish and early Christian carved stones.
Dates: Jun, Jul, Aug, Sep 2009.
Duration: 11 days.
Contribution: £895 - £1095.