Summer visitors return to the Hebrides

The Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust (HWDT) have received the first reports of the year of minke whale and common dolphin off Scotland’s west coast.  While some species, such as the harbour porpoise and bottlenose dolphin are resident year round, other species migrate to the area, usually arriving in the Spring, to take advantage of the increased food stocks available.  The first common dolphins of the season were sighted in the Sound of Raasay on the 13th April. The following day, Susannah Calderan and Russell Leaper, who sit on HWDTs Scientific Committee, reported the first minke whale sighting of the season and a group of common dolphins, off the Isle of Canna. Susannah commented, “It was great to see our first common dolphins of the season. The group was at least 100-strong, and the animals were bow-riding our yacht for over half an hour. To see a minke whale too really made our day. It’s good to know our summer visitors are back again.”

If you spot a whale, dolphin or porpoise (cetacean), HWDT would be very keen to hear of the sighting.  Moreover, if you manage to take photographs of the animal’s dorsal fin researchers can attempt to identify the individual from image profiles in HWDTs catalogues of bottlenose dolphin, minke whale, killer whale, white-beaked dolphin and Risso’s dolphin.  This technique is known as Photo Identification and allows HWDT to better understand population dynamics and the home range of the species present off the west coast of Scotland.

HWDT encourage people who have spotted cetaceans (and basking sharks too) to report their sighting using their online sightings form at www.hwdt.org.  HWDT are also keen to learn of any stranded animals, please contact the office directly if you come across an animal on the shore by contacting 01688 302620.  By getting involved you’ll be helping build a better picture of the local marine environment and our understanding of particular species distribution.  HWDTs Biodiversity Officer, Olivia Harries says, “By getting members of the public to report their sightings, HWDT can build up an extensive spatial and temporal data set that is invaluable to the management of the diverse range of species that inhabit Scottish waters. Without our supporters we would know a lot less about these animals.”

These sightings coincide with the NATO exercise Joint Warrior, which occurs bi-annually in the waters off western Scotland.  HWDT raised concerns, in particular on the effects of sonar on cetaceans, following an unusual encounter with a minke whale in 2009.  HWDT asks that the public be extra vigilant during this time and report any unusual behaviour.

EDITOR’S NOTES

  • The Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust (HWDT) is dedicated to enhancing knowledge and understanding of Scotland’s whales, dolphins and porpoises (cetaceans) and the Hebridean marine environment through education, research and working within local communities as a basis for the lasting conservation of local species and habitats.
  • For more information please contact HWDT on 01688 302620