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.

April 2016

We may be into the start of May, but the weather seems to be having second thoughts, after a beautiful start to April, we had a full day of snow last week with a few hail showers thrown in for good measure. However this shouldn’t have affected the cetaceans, and we’re starting to see an increase in sightings as animals begin to arrive back for the summer. The most exciting sightings this month were several reports of a humpback whale seen in/around the Clyde. We had nine reports in total, not including five other unidentified baleen whale sightings seen in the same area. The sightings occurred over a ten day period, so the animal stayed in the area for some time. Humpback whales are rare in the west of Scotland, but it would be great to see a population start to return to pre-whaling numbers, which is why sightings are so amazing and equally important to report.

We had reports of all three of our most common dolphin species this month, with two small pods of common dolphins seen in and around the Firth of Clyde. They should be beginning to arrive in increasing numbers as they can be found in the summer all around the Hebrides and so we look forward to more reports as the season progresses. Risso’s dolphins were also reported twice, with a group of ten being seen off the Shiant isles, and another group of 6 animals being seen off Stoerhead Lighthouse. Our familiar bottlenose dolphins were seen over a much wider area, with an average group size of 7 animals, and 20 being seen just off the south of Kerrera near Oban.

We had four minke whale sightings, two off Stoerhead lighthouse, and two also around the Firth of Clyde, which proved a very busy area this month! No basking shark sightings have been reported to us yet, compared with two in April last year, but the plankton seems to be doing very well for this time of year given the recent sunny weather, so hopefully we’ll begin to get reports of them arriving soon.

Lastly 25 harbour porpoise sightings were reported this month, with an average group size of less than 3, and were seen throughout the Hebrides (including being seen from our office on one occasion!). The proportion of harbour porpoise sightings compared to all our reported sightings (43%) really highlights how important and great these waters are for our smallest cetacean, and reporting your sightings plays a crucial role in helping us better understand their movements.

To see a map of the sightings from 1 to 30 April 2016, click here

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