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.

November 2014

It has been a very calm and relatively dry November this year, which probably accounts for the very high number of sighting reports (60 in total!). We tend to get more sightings when people are out and about... the cetaceans are always there, they just need to be seen and reported to be counted! In fact, this is the highest number of sightings that HWDT has received for any November since 2008. The diversity of species recorded was also higher than expected for the time of year: seven species, compared to just five in November 2013. There were no basking sharks reported to us, however some species which we consider to be 'summer visitor'í are still around (maybe we need to reassess what we consider to be a summer visitor!). Common dolphins for example were reported on two occasions in group sizes of up to 50 animals. We received 11 unique reports of minke whales, sometimes in pairs, but mostly lone individuals. A pair of minkes associated with a humpback whale in the Sound of Raasay for a few days in early November and common dolphins were also seen in the same area. It seems that there was a rich bounty of food there for several weeks, but at the time of writing, the bulk of the marine mammal activity (being reported to us) is in the The Minch to the east of the Eye Peninsula. Minke whales, a humpback whale, killer whales and harbour porpoises have all been observed here towards the end of November. An intriguing sighting came from Loch Leosavay (inside Loch A Siar), where five killer whales were reported swimming towards the open sea. This loch is only 100 to 150 m wide, so this must have been an exciting encounter.

The reliable (but difficult to spot!) wee porpoise has been the most commonly reported species for this month, with an amazing 19 records of groups ranging between one and 12 individuals. The larger groups have been spotted in the Sound of Sleat, with other records to the north of Skye and in the Sound of Mull. The bumper group sizes observed in the autumn time (of up to 30 porpoises together!) have not been seen, lending weight to the theory that autumn is the peak season in the social calendar for this species which is traditionally seen as non-social or solitary. Bottlenose dolphins were observed on five occasions, with a southerly bias: mostly around Islay with a single record off Mull. A special thanks to Ewan Miles for these records. The most unusual record for November comes from Islay, that of a single striped dolphin. This warm-water species is not typical in these latitudes and certainly not in coastal shallow waters such as Loch Indaal. The dolphin live stranded but was re-floated by members of the public and RSPB in Bowmore. The fate of the dolphin is not known but we are hopeful that it survived. This is the second live-stranding of striped dolphin on Islay in 2014.

A map of this month's sightings can be viewed here.

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