Despite the dismal weather in most parts of the UK the National Whale and Dolphin Week turned out to be a great success. Sightings are still being sent in and the total number of sightings is expected to be near 600.
Seventy-seven manned sites were advertised to the general public, but watches were carried out in several hundred locations around the country. The harbour porpoise was the most frequently seen cetacean with 330 sightings, the bottlenose dolphins were reported 129 times during the week. The third most common cetacean species was the minke whale with 40 sightings. Other species spotted were Atlantic white-sided, short-beaked common dolphin, white-beaked dolphin, one humpback whale and two killer whale sightings.
However, just after the watch week there were sightings of fin whales in the Irish Sea, close to West Wales coast, a group of four killer whales in the Bristol Channel, two Sowerby’s beaked whales sighted in the Moray Firth and three Northern bottlenose whales spotted in the Inner Hebrides.
Notable sightings from this years watch include:
- Harbour porpoise hotspot confirmed near Ilfracombe, North Devon
- Dolphin species spotted in Blackwater estuary, Essex
- Large groups of harbour porpoise off Cresswell, Northumberland
- Common dolphins in Cardigan Bay
- Killer whales of Mull of Galloway
- Abundance of harbour porpoises in Cumbria and Yorkshire
- A humpback whale near Alderney, Channel Islands.
Sea Watch would like to thank all the regional coordinators, local organisations, manned site organizers, volunteers and each and every single person who contacted and reported their sightings. Please remember that we collect data all year round so do continue to send in your records. A detailed report of this and other years’ watches will be available on the website soon.
28 August – Three Northern bottlenose whales sighted in North West Scotland
Three northern bottlenose whales were spotted from the MV Sheerwater, a ferry that runs between the Inner Hebrides. Ronny Dyer, an experienced cetacean observer, reported the whales between Arisaig and the island of Eigg on late afternoon on the 28th August. The animals were seen on the surface of the sea and blowing for several minutes, giving all aboard the ferry a good view.
Beaked whales are one of the least-known families of large marine mammals and are normally found in off-shore deep waters in the Atlantic, the Bering Sea or North Sea. Northern bottlenose whales are easily identifiable by their bulbous foreheads and can grow to eight metres in length.
Since this sighting, two northern bottlenose whales were stranded on the 1st September on the coast of Skegness, both of which died after rescue attempts. Another northern bottlenose whale has been reported on the 6th September from Sunderland, entangled in fishing gear but self-freed.
24 August – Fin whales off Pembrokeshire – again!
Fin whales were sighted on a Sea Watch Foundation’s common dolphin survey off Neyland, Pembrokeshire, onboard the MV Liberty of Blight. Four animals were sighted on the 22nd and another two animals were seen on the 23rd. The animals on the first day were successfully photographed and do not seem to be the same animals as seen on last year’s survey. More fin whales were reported to the media during the same week from the region.
23 August – Killer whales in the Bristol Channel
Four killer whales were sighted from the MV Balmoral travelling between Ilfracombe and Lundy on the evening of 23rd August. The sighting was reported by an experienced observer Chaynee Hodgetts, conducting a cetacean watch from the vessel. Four animals, including a young calf approached the vessel and travelled south. This is the first sighting of killer whales reported in the Bristol Channel, since systematic recording begun in the 1970’s. Although killer whales are rare in the region, they are sometimes seen off the Southwestern tip of Cornwall and South Devon coasts.
22 August – Two Sowerby’s Beaked Whales in the Moray Firth
A pair of Sowerby’s beaked whales were seen in the inner Moray Firth from Fort George by Alan Airey on the 22nd August. He reported them surfacing four times in perfect unison, and showing their beaks before disappearing from view.
There has been only few records of live Sowerby’s beaked whales in the UK. They tend to stay well away from shipping lanes and are usually only seen when washed up or stranded. Last live strandind occurred in West Wales in September 2004. Sowerby’s beaked whales grow to around six metres in length, and have slender bodies with distinct narrow beaks, which in mature males have two flattened teeth protruding from the lower jaw.