2013 has truly been one of our best years to date here at Manx Whale and Dolphin Watch, with record numbers of sightings around the Isle of Man and some interesting patterns being observed.
This season has been particularly good for Risso’s dolphins Grampus griseus with a massive increase in numbers compared to previous years. In total this year we have had 15 encounters aboard our research vessel and 55 opportunistic sightings compared to 2 and 30 respectively in 2012. Our Photo-ID Catalogue, which started in 2007, has doubled in size in just one season and now stands at 89 individuals. The Risso’s dolphins this year seem to be incredibly active with a high level of playful behaviour being observed. There have been youngsters too; in July we encountered what appeared to be a ‘nursery’ pod comprising of 5 very young calves being taught to feed and play by the same of adults. These calves and their guardians stayed around for the rest of the summer about 6 miles offshore to the south and west of the island.
Our two other dolphin species have also had a wonderful season over here. This year has become increasingly good for the short-beaked common dolphin, Delphinus delphis, a species uncommonly seen in the last few years around the Isle of Man. We have had three encounters this year, having only had three encounters in total between 2007 and 2012. Five further sightings have been reported to the website.
Bottlenose dolphins, Tursiops truncatus, have been particularly abundant; normally only seen with any frequency during the winter months, they have been reported to us this year in every single month except March, with group sizes remaining fairly large even during the summer months.
The richness of our waters and the high level of food available this year were highlighted beautifully by a confirmed Humpback whale, Megaptera novaeangliae, sighting off the east coast on the 19th June. Humpback whales are very rare in Manx waters with the last sighting taking place back in 2010.
For Manx Whale and Dolphin Watch, this season hasn’t just been incredible in terms of sightings alone, but also for us as an organisation. In March we began working with The Isle of Man Steam-Packet Company for the first year, conducting surveys and guiding the public aboard their vessel Manannan to Dublin and Belfast. We have been able broaden our outreach activities and appear regularly at local events to promote our work and have began dipping our toes into the field of education.
With never a dull moment and plenty of work to be done, we are looking forward seeing what the winter months have in store for us around our diverse and mysterious little island.