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.

April 2013

April may not have been the busiest month for sightings, with only 25 submissions, but it has certainly been a very interesting one. The unexpected arrival of a sperm whale in Oban Bay created quite a splash in the region, generating a total 12 sightings reports, as well as photos and videos of the animal. HWDT first received reports of the sperm whale - the largest predator on the planet - on Friday evening when the Oban lifeboat crew alerted HWDT staff of a large whale in the bay. Sperm whales normally inhabit very deep waters, where they famously dive to incredible depths to hunt squid and other prey, so it was very unusual and very exciting to see one so close to the shore. There was some concern over the welfare of the sperm whale, as many cetaceans have a tendency to come closer to shore when in questionable health and will often strand. However this individual simply seemed to be confused and after spending 11 days in the bay it left the area and it is hoped it has returned to deeper waters. Sightings of sperm whales are rare in the Hebrides but not unheard of; the last reported sighting to HWDT was a group of five individuals in the Sound of Raasay in February. Although, HWDT have recently learnt that sperm whales were present off north Skye during March also Dr Peter Evans Director of HWDT and Director of Sea Watch Foundation confirmed that the Oban Bay whale was one of the five sighted in the Sound of Raasay in February. Dr Evans suggests that sightings of sperm whales may become more commonplace round the British Isles as squid, the main prey of sperm whales, is reportedly increasing.

After the sperm whale the most commonly reported species were the bottlenose dolphin and the harbour porpoise. Of the 6 reports of bottlenose dolphins 5 were around the coast of the Isle of Mull, with the sixth encounter at Loch Long. Surprisingly there have only been 4 reports of harbour porpoises this month, from Gairloch, the Point of Sleat, Loch Fyne and off Salen. This is surprising as harbour porpoises are one of the most common species of cetaceans in Hebridean waters and the number of harbour porpoises in Hebridean waters is amongst the highest in Europe.

April has seen the return of some summer visitors to Hebridean waters with the first Minke whale sighting of the year occurring in the Minch, East of the Shiant Islands and the third sighting of common dolphins this year, in the waters near Loch Ewe. The first sighting of orca (killer whales) also occurred in April, a group of 3 animals were seen from the Uig to Loch Maddy ferry on the 24th. The killer whales of the Hebrides belong to a resident population known as the West Coast Community. The population is very small with only 9 individuals, who are consistently on the move and range over large distances. As a result sightings are quite rare.

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