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 2015

October is usually a quiet month as far as sighting reports are concerned. However October 2015 was exceptional, with 126 sightings of an incredible 10 cetacean species reported (also basking shark and leatherback turtle). This is the highest diversity of cetacean species documented in our study area for many years, and demonstrates what incredible species diversity exists in our area. The high diversity last month was probably as a result of the change in the seasons: migratory species such as northern bottlenose, minke and humpback whales move south during the autumn, migrations which take some whales through the waters of the Hebrides. The most exciting record from October was of a pair of northern bottlenose whales near Loch Eishort on the southwest coast of Skye. The pair may have been a mother and calf. They remained within sight of the coast for 2-3 days before apparently leaving without any issues. Sightings of deep-diving species (e.g. northern bottlenose whale) in coastal waters always have us on edge, as they are prone to stranding alive. Thankfully this pair seemed to make it out to sea, unlike the pair that stranded and died on Skye last year.

A humpback whale was again seen in the Clyde which begs the question: was it the same whale spending the whole summer and autumn there, or are several humpbacks paying a visit? As we have come to expect for autumn time, we had some reports of large groups of harbour porpoises. The largest group was of an estimated 60 individuals in the Inner Sound of Raasay and upwards of 30 in a single group off Eigg. Bottlenose dolphin sightings were confined to the southern half of the Hebrides. Common dolphin sightings were evenly spread throughout the region, but Risso's dolphin recrods were confinded to the Lewis coast; a known important location for this species.

The north coast of Skye stands out as a place where the species diversity and number of individual animals was high. The most unusual records both occurred here: that of a single leatherback turtle and a lone killer whale. Basking sharks were recorded many times in the Clyde, with sharks feeding around moorings and close to shore in the Kyles of Bute, enjoyed by many onlookers.

This will be the last monthly report until Spring 2016. We will do a winter summary, but please do keep your sightings coming... every winter sighting record (even of a lone harbour porpoise!) is important to us, as we still know very little about cetacean distribution during this period. Community sightings data can help us challenge current knowledge or assumptions about where these animals go during the winter.

A map of sightings from 1 to 31 October can be viewed here

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