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.

November 2013

This November, despite the chill in the air, many of you have been out and about by the sea, reporting your sightings to us. We have had a total of 26 sightings this November, most of which came during the particularly calm spells of weather we had during the month. Basking sharks are rather uncommon at this time of the year. They are a seasonal visitor to the Hebrides and the majority of basking sharks will leave the area by October. On the 7th November however, one basking shark was seen off of Campbeltown Harbour, Kintyre.

Bottlenose dolphins can be seen in the Hebrides year round and this November we have had three sightings reported to us. 12 bottlenose dolphins were seen South of Carsaig, 20 were seen in Ardalanish Bay and 6 were seen from a kayak off of the Isle of Gigha! Common dolphins are still being seen around the islands. We have had five reports this month from as far south as Colonsay, west to Barra and as far North as Kyle Rhea.

Harbour porpoise are another species that we see year round in the Hebrides. In rough weather they are tricky to spot as their small dorsal fins are hidden amongst the waves, however due to wonderful calm spells of weather, we have had 14 sightings of the animals this month. Another seasonal visitor that we grow used to seeing during the summer months is the minke whale. This November however we have had two reports of Minke whales one between the Point of Sleat and Eigg and one around Mallaig.

Finally I come to a slightly more unusual sighting, this is of an unknown beaked whale that was seen off of Rattray Head on the 12th November. We are currently unsure of the species, however the observer believes it could be a Cuvier's beaked whale. Cuvier's beaked whales are widely distributed throughout all major oceans but they are not found in polar seas; northern Scotland represents their northern-most limit. Live sightings in the Hebrides are very rare but numerous stranded animals indicate they may be more common than sightings data suggest. In 2008, there was a multiple stranding of Cuvier's beaked whales in the Hebrides. There is now a flurry of snow outside my window and the winter is truly upon us. Despite the cold there is still plenty to see out there, so don your winter gear and keep watching!

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