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.

September 2013

We have had an incredible month this September with a whopping 90 sightings reported to us compared to just 37 last September! September 2012 was very stormy, and despite 2013 having it’s fair share of rough weather, we were also blessed with some perfect sighting conditions with hardly a breath of wind.

As usual, our most commonly reported cetacean was the harbour porpoise, with 34 sightings from around the coastal areas of the Hebrides. The number of individuals seen in the same location were also quite high, with pods of 8 to 10 not being uncommon. On the 23rd multiple groups of 5-10 animals were seen off of Grass point on Mull, with a grand total of 80 individuals!

Basking shark numbers are usually dwindling at this time of the year, however this September we had 21 sightings of these animals compared to just 7 last September and only 6 in the September of 2011. Many reports came to us from Calgary bay on Mull, where for several days running, people driving along the coast were able to watch large numbers of these huge creatures from their cars! Other sightings came from as far south as the Isle of Arran up to the Isle of Skye.

Along with the basking sharks, minke whales are also seasonal visitors to the Hebrides. They can be seen in our waters between April and October and despite the end of the minke whale season drawing near, we still had had 7 reports of these fantastic whales. The majority of sightings were from around the Isle of Skye, with one sighting off of chicken rock, Lewis.

Unlike the basking sharks and minke whales, killer whales can be seen in Hebridean waters all year round. This September we had 7 reports of killer whales. Four sightings were from around Skye (with two at a Neist point) and the rest were from Lewis and the Outer Hebrides.

A less common species in Hebrides was seen this September from Ardnamurchan point at the very end of the month. Five Risso’s dolphins were seen by a HWDT volunteer on the 28th travelling slowly west, even stopping as they drew closer to Coll to log at the surface for several minutes. Risso’s dolphins usually inhabit deeper waters where they can prey on squid octopus and cuttlefish. Risso’s dolphins are easily recognisable due to their bulbous heads, tall dorsal fins and white scarring. Unlike many other animals, the risso’s dolphin’s scars do not regain any pigmentation, causing the white scars to be permanent. These marks enable us to recognise individuals through photo id, and we can also gain a rough idea of how old an individual may be. The animal appears whiter with the more scarring it has and therefore an older risso’s dolphin, with years of accumulated scars will appear almost all white.

Common dolphins were seen in vast numbers this September. We had a total of 7 sightings with number ranging from 3 individuals to 35 in a pod! Common dolphins are not too shy of boats and some were seen bowriding with vessels and leaping. Another dolphin species common to the Hebrides is the bottlenose dolphin. There were 8 sightings of these playful and energetic cetaceans from around Mull at Calgary bay, the Sound of Iona and from Duart Castle near Craignure and other sighting reported from Kerrera, North Minch and the Firth of forth.

After an incredible September, we wonder what October might bring?

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