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.

October 2013

It is that wonderful time of the year when the Hebridean islands turn a rich auburn hue as the trees cast away their leaves in preparation for winter. Autumn in well and truly upon us and with it we have had some extremely varied weather. From summer-like calm days, perfect for spotting porpoise through to stormy, rainy days which can make it incredibly difficult for spotting cetaceans. With just 32 Sightings this October, sightings are down from last month. This is to be expected as our seasonal visitors such as minke whales, basking sharks and common dolphins have start to leave Hebridean waters for the year. This month we have had three reports of minke whales. The sightings were spread throughout the Hebrides with one report from Gruinard bay, one off of the Point of Sleat on Skye, and one off of The Isle of Jura to the South.

Common dolphins are another of our seasonal visitors, typically visiting the Hebrides from between May and October when their food is most abundant. There are still some of these dolphins around in our waters, with three sightings reported to us during October. They have been seen between Coll and Mull, off of Craignure on Mull and Ardnamurchan. You don't always need to brave the cold at this time of year to spot cetaceans, some tourists staying at a hotel in Craignure looked out of their window and witnessed common dolphins leaping and splashing around Craignure Bay from the comfort of their arm chairs!

This October we have had an exciting report of a cetacean that is not often seen in these waters. On the 11th of October a humpback whale was seen in the Firth of Clyde by a research vessel carrying Glasgow MSc students. They witnessed this large baleen whale breaching several times at 15-20 minute intervals. They observed that its dive time was also around 15 to 20 minutes and there was no mistaking its identity as they could clearly see its large white pectoral fins. The Latin name for the humpback whale is Megaptera Novaeangliae meaning 'the big wing of New England.' It's no wonder they were given this name as their pectoral fins measure around one third of their total body length, looking like huge wings! We only receive around one or two sightings of these whales in Hebridean waters each year as they migrate from their summer feeding grounds off of Iceland to their winter breeding grounds off Africa.

All of our bottlenose dolphin sightings this month have come from around the Isle of Mull. We received two sightings from Loch Na Keal, one from Loch Scridain and one from the sound of Iona, where they frequent fairly often. There were also 13 sightings of our harbour porpoises this October, very similar to this time last year when we received 11 sightings of these small cetaceans. Four killer whales were seen on the 16th October off of Balevuillin, Tiree. We had two separate reports of these animals as they were seen heading East to West a mere 400-500 meters away from a fishing vessel. The spectators watched these animals for around 40 minutes before they travelled out of view. Orca can be seen in these waters all year round, so keep your eyes peeled throughout the winter for these incredible animals! Thank you once again to everyone who has reported their sightings to us. This information is incredibly important in order to help conserve the habitats in which these animals are seen, in turn helping to protect them. Happy spotting!

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