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.

Winter 2013/2014

HWDT’s last monthly sighting report was in November, however that by no means suggests there were no sightings, far from it! In the following sightings report you will find a summary of all the sightings we’ve had reported to us through our Community Sightings Network (CSN) over the winter months. From December to March we had a grand total of 34 sightings comprising of 5 different species.

In December last year HWDT had three reports of killer whales in Hebridean waters. Two sightings were from the ferry slipway in Arinagour Bay, Coll on the 7th December. One large male and four smaller individuals were seen close to shore, heading up the east side of Coll. Just nine days later a report came in from Galtrigill, Dunvegan Loch, where four killer whales were heading out to the Little Minch. The observer managed to photograph three of the individuals and as one large male had an incredibly distinctive dorsal fin, we were able to positively identify him as John Coe, one of our West Coast Community (WCC) of killer whales.

The first sighting report for 2014 was of more killer whales! On 15th January, Hebridean Whale Cruises spotted three of these magnificent animals just three miles west of Longa Island, Gairloch. What better way to start the year? We then received eight reports of harbour porpoise from Loch Scridain, Mull, right up to Eigg and Skye. Off of the Point of Sleat, Skye, a long line of porpoise were seen following a trawler. The animals appeared to be feeding and surfacing in the boats wake. In amongst the porpoises, our observer noticed at least one animal with tall elegant, falcate dorsal fin, which appeared to be a dolphin of some kind!

February saw our first minke whale sighting of the year, which was unusually early. The solitary whale was spotted from a vessel fourteen miles North East of the Butt of Lewis. Minke whales are seasonal visitors to the Hebrides and can usually be seen in our waters from April until October. Common dolphins are also seasonal visitors to the Hebrides, normally seen between May and October, however on the 6th February, five common dolphins were seen from Ormsaigbeg Shore, Kilchoan. The pod comprised of three adults, one juvenile and one calf.

In March sighting reports started to fly into the HWDT office. We had thirteen reports of harbour porpoise, another common dolphin sighting (this time off of Rum) and our second minke whale report for the season came from a fishing boat in Loch Torrindon.

On the 11th March in Gedintailor, Skye, we had a more unusual sighting of two sperm whales that were seen logging at the surface of the water. The observers were at first unsure of the species, believing that the unusual behaviour they were witnessing was that of an unwell minke whale. Sperm whales are deep diving mammals usually found off of the continental shelf. They typically dive for approximately 45 minutes before logging or lying almost motionless, breathing at the surface for a further 7 minutes. This would have been what our two lucky observers saw on that day. It is often a worry when these 15 meter long cetaceans come into shallow areas, but thankfully these animals made their way out to deeper waters.

Thank you once again for reporting your sightings to HWDT. The information we gain through our Community Sightings Network helps us to increase our knowledge and understanding of cetaceans on the west coast of Scotland.

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