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 2010

There was a relatively small rise in sighting reports this May compared to previous years; there were only 2 sightings of minke whales reported throughout May which is much lower than we would expect for this time of year. Usually, the month of May sees minke whales arriving in the area in their numbers to feed, but the low numbers reported this year of not just minkes, but other seasonal visitors too, may indicate a late start to the season.

There was just one probable sighting of common dolphins, whereas previous years have seen a handful of this species being reported in May.

There was a good spread of harbour porpoise sightings through the month; many of the sightings were reported in areas for where we have little or no survey coverage, which was very encouraging. For example, we had a good number of sightings around the Clyde region, and this is an area for which we have very little information on cetacean distribution and abundance.

There were an impressive three sightings of killer whales reported in May, two of which were reported along the north coast of Scotland (Durness and Dunnet Head). Analysis of photographs from one of these sightings revealed the whales to be ‘type-2’, or North Sea fish eating whales rather than belonging to the ‘type 1’ west coast group. The group of four whales seen off Durness had a calf with them and these same whales have previously been seen off Iceland and, more recently, Shetland. For more information on the research being carried out on killer whales in the North Atlantic, please click here.

The third sighting, again of four whales, was from Broad Bay, just north of Stornaway, Isle of Lewis. We have contacted the reporter for images which may hopefully reveal whether these whales were ‘type 1’ whales usually seen off the west coast of Scotland, or ‘type 2’ whales usually seen further north. Given the northerly location of this sighting, it is possible that they could be either!

Finally, we received the first sighting of a basking shark on the 19th May. The shark was seen in Loch Caroy (north Loch Bracadale), Isle of Skye. As with the other seasonal species, basking shark reports during May were down on previous years.

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