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-Spring 2015

We typically receive very few sightings during winter months, which largely reflect the lack of observers, dire weather and short days. It does not necessarily mean that there are less cetaceans around, although the migratory species such as minke whales are thought to be largely absent this time of year. Since January this year, we have received 30 sightings of five cetacean species. Over one-third of these were of harbour porpoises. They seem to be distributed throughout the Scottish west coast at this time of year, albeit in small numbers (mean of 3 porpoises per group). This is very interesting as very little is known about this species during winter. It is assumed that they head offshore during winter and spring to calve, although it is difficult to know for sure! Bottlenose dolphin sightings were confined to Mull and Islay (but perhaps sightings further north have not been reported to us?). This apparent southern bias is interesting as we have seen this in previous winters too. Perhaps bottlenose dolphins head south for winter? Common dolphin, Risso's dolphin and killer whales were reported from Harris and Lewis, while unidentified dolphins were reported on five occasions around Lewis, Mull and Loch Sunart.

It won't be long before the summer visitors start to appear near our shores. Minke whales have yet to be reported to us, but we are eagerly anticipating the first sighting! Since 2009, the first minke sighting has been between 9 February and 16 April. These early sightings are usually of single animals which may appear anywhere from Lewis to Neist Point to Coll, so keep your eyes peeled!

A map of this sightings from 1 January to mid-March can be viewed here


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