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 2016

August has come and gone, and with it our best month of sightings so far this year! We had an amazing 140 reported sightings of harbour porpoises, of a total of 523 individual animals, showing how fantastic the Hebrides are for our smallest cetacean species. It was a good month for dolphin sightings too, with 20 reported bottlenose dolphin sightings, in average groups of over 9 animals, with 6 of those sightings occurring in the Sound of Iona and a further 5 close in around Mull’s coast.

We had 26 reports of common dolphins, in average pods of around 25 animals, the areas around Skye and Gairloch proving to be the places they were most frequently reported this month. We had 6 reports of Risso’s dolphins, the east edge of the Outer Hebrides proving to be the most commonly reported area. We had only one report of white-beaked dolphins this month, of 3 individuals, but we did have 9 sightings of unidentified dolphin species, which is still very useful information for us.

Minke whales had a very good month for sightings, with lots of reports around the small isles and off the north of Skye, 45 sightings reported to us in total. Basking sharks also had a reasonable month, 13 reports of 36 individuals, including one report of 14 sharks in Gunna Sound!

We also had some more unusual sightings this month, with a surprising 9 reports of sunfish! Sunfish are uncommon in Scotland, but can sometimes be seen with their dorsal fin just breaking the surface of the water. Unlike basking sharks, these fish have a bony skeleton, in fact they’re the largest bony fish in the world, reaching up to 3m across! We also had one sighting of a turtle, an even rarer sight in the Hebrides, but which species is unknown.

Lastly, we had 5 reports of killer whales this month, including one sighting of a pod of 10 animals in the Sound of Raasay! This pod are not from our resident West Coast Community, and are instead a transient pod, most likely visiting our waters from Iceland or Norway, but to see them so far south is rare.

Thanks to everyone who submitted a sighting this month, please continue to do so as it makes a huge difference, let’s hope September brings another fantastic month of sightings!

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

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