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.

October 2016

October is usually the time when we start to see fewer cetaceans in the area as some of our species begin their migration to other waters in search of food. The weather can also become more unpredictable, presenting challenging conditions for sightings and generally less people are out and about both on the water and along our coastline. This October however, we have had some lovely weather and have received a total of 147 cetacean sightings resulting in over 770 individual animals spotted in the Hebrides! The most commonly sighted cetacean was the harbour porpoise with a total of 318 individuals seen in 62 sightings. Group sizes have been very large this month, with one sighting of approximately 50 individuals! The autumn months are a great time to see harbour porpoises but unfortunately the sea state does not always allow us to spot the smallest cetacean found in these waters. One of our other resident species, the bottlenose dolphins have also been spotted this month, with 89 individuals spotted over 11 sightings. Bottlenose dolphins are a coastal species and even in the wintery conditions they can still be spotted close to shore, so keep your eyes peeled! We also had a total of 6 Risso’s dolphin sightings (36 individuals) reported to us and these have been in the northern parts of the Minch and close to the Butt of Lewis, areas which are known to be important for this species.

We received 23 sightings of common dolphins this month, with 257 individuals seen in areas ranging from the west of Mull, across the Little Minch and up towards Ullapool. The average group size of the common dolphin pods was noticeably smaller this month, and as common dolphins are a summer visitor to these waters, the number of encounters are expected to decrease as we move further into winter. The most common baleen whale in the Hebrides, the minke whale has continued to be spotted throughout October with a total of 23 sightings (33 individuals). This month many of the minke whales were described as lunge feeding, a behaviour which allows them to consume huge quantities of fish in each lunge (mouthful) when their prey is tightly packed together in the water.

As the days are shortening and the summer months are coming to an end it is to be expected that the number of basking shark sightings have fallen. This month saw 2 sightings of 2 individuals, compared to the 7 individuals seen last month. This month they have been spotted close to the Isle of Arran.

Having had a great October for sightings here in the Hebrides, we would like to encourage you to continue getting out and about and having a look at the sea when you can; even if it’s just a short walk with your dog or a trip to the mainland for some Christmas shopping! Although typically cetacean sightings drop in the winter, particularly as the weather makes them harder to spot, you can still be rewarded with a surprising encounter. If you are lucky-then please do report them to us!

Thanks to all who have reported your sightings to us this month. To see a map of the sightings from 1 to 31 October 2016, click here


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