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.

July 2016

July brought with it a mix of weather, one day a gale, the next flat calm seas and sunshine, however these conditions didn’t prevent another great month of reported sightings! Marginally lower than June, we had 80 recorded sightings of harbour porpoises, however larger average groups were reported with 261 individual animals being sighted, giving an average group size of 3.3 animals.

It was a slightly quieter month for our main 4 dolphin species, 16 reported sightings of bottlenose dolphins, occurring in similar hotspots to last month, particularly round Barra and Mull. We had 22 reports of common dolphins, in average pods of 16 individuals, including one pod of 100 animals being reported! Only 2 white-beaked dolphin sightings were reported to us this month, a large drop from the 8 reports in June. We had the same number of reports of Risso’s dolphins as last month, 5, however this month the average pod size had more than doubled from 7 to 15.

Minke whales continue to do well, with 29 reports of 61 individuals being seen throughout most of the Hebrides. Encouragingly, for the first time this year basking sharks are being reported in increasing numbers, with 18 sightings of 36 individuals this month. Normally basking sharks begin to arrive a lot earlier than this (particularly given that the majority of these sightings occurred in the last week of July), however their diet relies entirely upon plankton, so small seasonal changes in ocean currents and temperature can cause dramatic changes to basking sharks movements.

Last but certainly not least, another great month for killer whale sightings, with 10 being reported to us! Most of these were of 1 or 2 animals, the exception being a sighting of 7 being seen at St. Kilda. This particular pod was not the West Coast Community, instead being a transient pod visiting our waters. A particular hotspot this month was round the small isles, Rùm and Canna, with 3 sightings occurring in that area.

A massive thank you to everyone who reported their sightings to us this month, it makes a huge difference to our research and knowledge of cetaceans in our waters, so please keep it up!

To see a map of the sightings from 1 to 31 July 2016, click here

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