At the start of May I headed up to Isle of Skye to meet with Andy, who is going to be in charge of conducting the photo-ID trips at Loch Dunvegan this summer. To do so, we are collaborating with the Dunvegan Castle seal boat trips team, who run regular boat trips to see the seals (mainly common seals) hauled out at the nearby small rocky islands of Loch Dunvegan. The traditionally built clinker boats can get within a few meters of the seals without disturbing them as seals are used to having them close by.
We arrived at Dunvegan Castle (which is the oldest continuously inhabited castle in Scotland!) as doors were opening to the public, and headed down to the pier below the castle, where Colin, one of the boat skippers, was waiting for us. We were very lucky with the weather and seemed to catch the only dry weather window of the long weekend as we made our way to photograph the seals.
Getting so close to the seals means the quality of the photographs is exceptional, so we expect lots of great data coming out of Loch Dunvegan this summer. Andy will go out on the boat a couple of days every week and photograph as many seals as possible as the boat goes around the skerries. On a single trip he may encounter over 100 seals, which means long hours in front of the computer trying to identify and match each seal based on the pelage pattern.
As we approach the end of May we are getting closer to the start of the pupping season for common seals. It is still too early to see any pups, but we can already see big females that look very pregnant. Check this seal on the photograph below, with that extra belly resting in the water. Hopefully we will see her with a new pup in a few weeks.
Written by Monica