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.

June 2015

News this month has been a story of highs and lows. A generally good month for sightings (over 130) was tainted by two reports to HWDT of long-finned pilot whales on the 1st June which were the first warnings of the stranding of 21 whales on the shore at Staffin Bay, Isle of Skye. It is believed the stranding may have been caused by a pregnant female getting into difficulty while giving birth and the rest of the pod apparently staying with her. Rescuers managed to save most of the pod but several re-stranded shortly after. In total seven died or were euthanised and another whale possibly from the stranding was found dead near the Skye Bridge, Kyle of Lochalsh, a week or so later. Since then pilot whales probably from the same pod have been reported around Skye and Lewis and four have been resident throughout the month in Loch Ainort. Pilot whales are highly gregarious, invariably travelling in sizeable groups with females occupying the highest social rank (a matriarchal society). Little is known about why they are especially prone to stranding but when it does happen their size, they can weigh 3 tons, makes them particularly vulnerable in shallow water and very difficult for rescuers to deal with. That so many have apparently survived is in large part due to the alert raised by members of the public but by the end of June there were still concerns for the isolated Loch Ainort group.

Strandings are not unusual. Forty five cetaceans were reported stranded in Scotland in this month alone, and a humpback whale was found dead entangled in two separate sets of creel ropes near Helmsdale. It was therefore good news when there were two sightings this month of humpback whales - one of them from near Staffin Bay. These sightings are interesting in that it is not a species that is often reported in the early summer months in our area. In fact whales featured strongly throughout the June reports with killer whales (orcas) appearing in numerous locations from Fairhead, Northern Ireland and west of Girvan round to Inverallochy on the north east coast. Minke whales too were being reported regularly in a broad spread across the Hebrides but most particularly around the Uists, Harris and Lewis and eastward around Skye. This month produced four different species of dolphin. June always seems to bring a few white-beaked dolphins and this year they showed off the Isle of Lewis. Risso's dolphins were spotted on three occasions and Lewis again featured as the site for a sizeable pod of over twenty. Pabbay, south of Barra, was the other Hebridean sighting, the third being further south at Tears Point on the Gower Peninsular. Common dolphins tend often to congregate in large numbers, and the largest pod reported this month was the estimated one hundred off Loch Dunvegan, Skye. Other notable sightings were forty west of Waternish, and large groups near Callanish, Mingay and Rodel. Bottlenose dolphins seem to have been appearing everywhere but consistently around the whole coast of Mull. There was also a wide spread of locations for basking shark with by far the standout sighting being forty seen near Eriskay on 12th June. Finally, harbour porpoise sightings were topped by twelve seen from shore at Swordale, Isle of Lewis.

Overall then, despite the sad events at Staffin Bay, a notable and eventful month, full of drama and lots of variety.

A map of sightings from 1 to 30 June can be viewed here

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