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.

August 2015

For a change, this month’s report opens with mention of a not very numerous, but quite regular and exotic, summer visitor. The sunfish is the largest bony fish in the world and can grow up to 3.3m, though most often less than 2m in our waters (still a very large fish by any standards). They have been sighted three times this month, at Ardlamont Point, near the Cairns of Coll, and further north off the entrance to Loch Nevis. They prefer warm water and spend much of their lives at depths of between 200m to 600m meaning they may well be an underreported species that we would love to hear more about.

Once again, this month’s HWDT’s Community Sightings Network demonstrated that we shouldn’t rush to conclusions when it comes to marine wildlife behaviour. In July we noted that basking shark numbers appeared to be very low so, as if to disprove a point, by August shark sightings had swelled to the extent of being the most reported species with a healthy 66 sightings and over two hundred individuals. These placid animals normally paddle along at around 2.5 to 4mph so it can be quite a shock to appreciate the speed and energy that goes into the spectacular breaching that they occasionally perform, especially when there are large congregations of them. With a calm sea it is worth patiently looking out from a high point for the huge splash and waves caused by their massive bulk landing back in the sea. They can also be seen following plankton trails very close to land and the most numerous sightings were in the catchment off the north coast of Mull, south of Coll and Tiree and off Ardnamurchan. We reported last month that the poor weather might have been a reason for low numbers and it is a point to note that the sea at last warmed up a little and the wind blew less in August.

Last month we also noted the absence of the occasional common dolphin “superpods” that are witnessed most years. That was rectified in August when a very big pod of around 500 dolphins was seen north of Coll. The 47 common dolphin sightings this month were spread across the whole extent of Hebridean waters with highest concentrations around Skye. There was a similar number and spread of harbour porpoise sightings whilst minke whales were the other frequently reported species with a healthy 44 sightings, up on last year. Of the rest of the whales, the mini influx of humpbacks reported in July seems to have abated this month but killer whales continue to appear occasionally, albeit unpredictably. Finally, and more predictably, bottlenose dolphins were reported regularly - mainly moving round the coast of Mull - and Risso’s dolphins put in a handful of appearances south of North Uist and Lewis.

Thanks for your sightings. A total number in excess of 240 is very healthy for August but we always wish for more. It is very simple to report what you have seen through our website so please keep them coming in.

A map of sightings from 1 to 31 August can be viewed here

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