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 2015

Although the total number of sightings (129) for September was almost half of that for August, the species diversity this month was much higher. During September our community sightings network recorded 8 different species of cetaceans. The highlights of the month include a thrilling sighting of a humpback whale in the Minch which was seen breaching at least 10 times in succession. A sighting of a lone white-beaked dolphin to the west of Coll was an interesting record; between Coll and Barra seems to be a good place for this species, although records are still few... perhaps they are being overlooked or under-recorded due to their preference for waters further from the coast?

The distribution of basking shark sightings this month has been intriguing: lots in the Clyde and lots on the east of the Minch, with few records in between (apart from the Gunna Sound). A glance at sea-surface temperature charts for September shows a striking pattern: cold water in both the Clyde and eastern Minch. The sea is 2 degrees colder in these areas compared to surrounding waters, probably generating good feeding conditions for the sharks.

The most frequently reported species was the harbour porpoise with 40 sightings and some groups of up to 15 individuals. Harbour porpoises mate during September and will give birth 10.5 months later during the summer. This might explain why we see larger groups at this time of year; with individuals often being very active on the surface. Minke whales were the second most frequently recorded species, usually alone but often close to shore (see map). Minkes seem to spend some time around the entrances to sea lochs during the autumn, before they migrate. Perhaps they are stocking up on sprat or herring for the journey.

There was only a single record of killer whales off Ardnamurchan at the end of the month. Commmon dolphins were reported 25 times, bottlenose dolphins were recorded 9 times and Risso's dolphins on four occasions with groups as large as 10 dolphins. We usually get one or two records of deep-diving whales during the autumn, such as sperm or bottlenose whales. Alas, none yet this year, but all the more reason to keep your eyes peeled for these rarer species during October.

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

Top of page ^