Basking shark
Basking shark

Monthly Sightings Reports

HWDT’s Community Sightings Network encourages residents, local wildlife operators and visitors to the area to report their sightings of whales, dolphins and porpoises to HWDT. This information is important because it contributes to our understanding of where and when particular species occur. Report your sighting HERE.

Each month HWDT publishes a summary report of the sightings recorded via our Community Sightings Network. In summer we receive the greatest number of sightings while winter is a quiet time. This is partly due to the number of species present but also reflects the sea state and number of people on the water watching for whales, dolphins and porpoises. In winter, fewer people are watching and the sea state more frequently makes sightings difficult, or even impossible. Also non-resident species have migrated for the winter. At this time of year HWDT receives more strandings reports than at other time as storms can wash animals ashore. These seasonal variations will be reflected in our reports.

Select the monthly report you wish to view from the panel on the left of this page.

May 2009

The report-a-sighting page on our brand new website is busier than ever with regular sightings of whales and dolphins being reported all over the Hebrides. These sightings are invaluable and help us to understand which species are around and where. They are especially important for keeping track of our resident bottlenose dolphins as there are so few dolphins in the group, probably fewer than 40. For this reason they are extremely difficult to keep track of and seem to be constantly moving around the coast, rarely staying in one area for very long. However, with the help of the public sightings we have learnt a great deal about their wide-ranging habits. A group of dolphins appear to have been cruising in the Gairloch area, with multiple sightings of about ten individuals seen throughout May. Other sightings included a similar sized group off the west coast of Mull and a smaller group off Islay. Two sightings were also reported of a solitary bottlenose dolphin.

This month has been a reasonable month for minke whale sightings with again most reports coming from the Gairloch area. Elsewhere, minke sightings have been thin on the ground. Even from our survey vessel, Silurian, only a few minke sightings were recorded. However, the weather has been particularly unsettled this month and cetaceans may have remained undetected because of this. Although there may be another explanation; a major NATO military exercise ‘Joint Warrior’ took place on the west coast of Scotland for two weeks in May. During one of our Silurian surveys, two minke whales were observed within an hour of each other displaying unusual behaviour. Military sonar could be heard both times on the hydrophone. The whales were observed moving in the same direction at high speed, regularly leaping clear of the water. This behaviour, known as ‘porpoising’, is more typical of dolphins and rarely seen in undisturbed whales. Another local boat operator and wildlife photographer witnessed a very similar event on the same day in the area. The impacts of this kind of military activity on minke whales remain unknown, although declines in minke whale sightings have previously been linked to naval activity.

On a more positive note, sightings of feeding groups of common dolphins and basking sharks flooded in right at the end of May as the weather finally settled and the seas were calm once again. Long may it continue!

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