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 2014

A staggering 302 sightings of six cetacean species were reported to HWDT during September; up 33% on August. This probably reflects the better weather conditions rather than any real change in the abundance of cetaceans in the region. That is to say, better weather means more people out watching, coupled with a greater chance of seeing cetaceans considering that the sea conditions are conducive. Harbour porpoise was by far the most frequently reported species (198 sightings of 695 individuals). We noticed some incredibly large groups including a sighting by the HWDT Sea Change road show team of 30 porpoises feeding in a tidal stream to the south of Eigg. Harbour porpoises appear to become more gregarious in autumn time.

Next in the rankings was the minke whale, which was reported to us on 52 occasions with group sizes ranging between one and eight individuals. As we have become to expect for this time of year, minkes were mostly seen in a region north of Mul and south of Skye. Interestingly, we are still getting sightings of single minkes from the Clyde. Good feeding conditions for this species appear to be persisting in the Clyde into the autumn: minkes have consistently been recorded to the east of Arran all summer. Large breaching animals have been reported to HWDT on several occasions from Arran lately. We are struggling to determine whether these are minkes or basking sharks. Remember - basking sharks tend to breach once and are rarely seen again, whereas a minke will surface to breath following a bout of breaching. Common dolphins, bottlenose dolphins, Risso's dolphins and killer whales were also reported to us during September. Risso's were reported with some regularity off Chicken Rock south of Stornoway, Isle of Lewis. Killer whales were seen in their usual haunts in the Little Minch and around Rum. The number of bottlenose dolphin sightings was lower than expected for this time of year, and most sightings came from the Isle of Mull.

Six basking shark sightings and a single sunfish were also reported. Basking shark sightings were down on 2013 (when 21 were reported), but are in line with 2012 and 2011 where an average of six were reported each September. Baskers were mostly reported from The Clyde. Thanks again to all those who submitting sightings, and please do keep them coming into the winter months… larger baleen whales such as fin and humpbacks will soon be heading south from their Arctic feeding grounds to their tropical breeding grounds. Who knows, they may stop-by along our coast en route!

A map of this month's sightings can be viewed here.

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