UK NATIONAL WHALE & DOLPHIN WATCH 2020: Regional Summaries


Total number of sightings recorded around Scotland and the Scottish isles was 323.

Shetland: A total of 68 sightings were recorded around Shetland shared with us by the Shetland Cetacean Group and our Shetland Regional Coordinators. During this year’s event, 12 sighting were recorded of Atlantic white-sided dolphins with three sightings with 100-150 individuals feeding off Linga, east of Whalsay and off Sumburgh Head. Killer whales were recorded 17 times, followed by harbour porpoises which were sighted 23 times. Minke whales were sighted 11 times and Risso’s 5 times.

Orkney: A total of 7 sightings were recorded around Orkney. Two were of minke whales sighted off Northside and Orphir, and two of harbour porpoises seen off Marwick and Hoxa Heads. Atlantic white-sided were also sighted on one occasion at Marwick Head on 26th July. An unidentified dolphin species was also sighted off Kirkwall bay.

Caithness and Sutherland: A total of 17 sightings were sent to us from around Caithness and Sutherland. Harbour porpoises were sighted 6 times, followed by Risso’s dolphins which were sighted five times off Dunnet, Thurso Bays and Murkle. A pod of six killer whales were sighted on one occasion off Scrabster Bay. Minke whales were sighted two times off Gartymore in Sutherland, and the remaining two times 1 mile off the same location as well as from Strathy Point, Caithness. A pod of 12 common dolphins was recorded fast travelling by Scrabster.

Inverness-shire and Cromartyshire: A total of 85 sightings were recorded around Inverness-shire, Ross-shire and Cromartyshire by volunteer observers and by the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Watch team. The six different species sighted include the bashing shark _(n=1) sighted off Stornoway, and the bottlenose dolphin (n=8) off Balmaqueen in Inverness-shire, and off Castlecraig, Nigg and Balintore. The minke whale was recorded 26 times and with the harbour porpoise which was recorded 25 times were the two most sighted species. Risso’s dolphins were sighted once off Shiant Isles in Ross-shire, and common dolphins 19 times mainly in Inverness-shire from key locations like Rigg View Point, The Minch, and Skye Bridge.

Outer Hebrides: A total of 49 sightings were recorded around the Outer Hebrides and shared to us by volunteer observers and by the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Watch team. Eight different species were recorded including the Atlantic white-sided dolphin (n=1), basking shark (n=1), the bottlenose dolphins (n=2), harbour porpoises (n=7), humpback whales (n=2), minke whales (n=17), Risso’s dolphins (n=7), and common dolphins (n=11). One large unidentified cetacean species was also sighted. Humpback whales sighted off Tiumpan Head were a triplet; 2 animals were breached almost simultaneously about 150m apart while the 3rd animal approx 500m further north were tail and pectoral slapping.

Ayrshire and Argyllshire: A total of 48 sightings (n=2 in Ayrshire; n=46 in Argyllshire) were recorded and shared to us by volunteer observers and by the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Watch team. The six species recorded include the bottlenose dolphin (n=5), the harbour porpoise (n=20), the minke whale (n=9), Risso’s dolphin (n=1), the humpback whale (n=2), and the common dolphin (n=10). There was also an unidentified cetacean species sighted off Glendorm.

South-west Scotland: A total of 5 sightings were recorded, 2 from Wigtownshire, and 3 from Dumfries and Galloway. The majority of sightings were of harbour porpoises (n=4, 80%) which were recorded off Balcary Point, Auchenmalg and Corsewall Point (where they were surface feeding associated with diving gannets). Bottlenose dolphins were sighted once off Loch Ryan.

Morayshire: A total of 12 sightings were recorded in Morayshire. Five sightings of bottlenose dolphins were off Burghead, Findhorn and Covesea. The pod of eight animals was feeding with a large flock of gannets hovering on top. Among the dolphins in the group there was Spirtle, the dolphin showing skin lesions due to sun damage. Harbour porpoises were sighted on three occasions 2-4 km off Burghead. Four sightings of minke whales were also reported. One of them was recorded further offshore on the Alba FSU Rig.

Aberdeen-shire and Angus: A total of 23 sightings were recorded around Aberdeen-shire and Angus. Thirteen sightings of harbour porpoises were recorded from St Catherine’s Dub and Donmouth in Aberdeen-shire. Bottlenose dolphins were recorded ten times and sighted from Scurdie Ness and Arbroath Cliffs in Angus, and Donmouth in Aberdeen-shire.

Fife: Eight sightings were recorded around Fife. Six were of bottlenose dolphins, one of minke whales and one of killer whales. A pointed dorsal fin was sighted in the water as soon as a pair of orcas surfaced off Carnoustie, before they speed up and headed offshore. The minke whale was sighted from a window of golf club of Lundin Links.


Total number of sightings recorded around England was 283. The Channel Islands recorded 13 sightings.

Northumberland, Tyne and Wear and Durham: A total of 92 sightings were recorded in Northumberland, Tyne and Wear and Durham. Four different species were sighted. The most sighted were bottlenose dolphins (n=50) with the largest group of 40 individuals which was recorded off Church Point in Newbggin. The second most sighted species was harbour porpoise (n=23), followed by the white-beaked dolphin which was sighted 11 times, and the minke whale which was recorded one time off Newbiggin. Key locations from which white-beaked dolphins were sighted included Whitley Bay, Seaton Sluice, Snab Point in Cresswell, Craster and Howick.

Yorkshire: A total of 32 sightings were recorded in North and East Yorkshire. The most sighted species was the harbour porpoise (n=15) which is sighted almost daily from Marine Drive in Scarbourough, Long Nab and Flamborough Head. Bottlenose dolphins were sighted 10 times with the largest group of 40 individuals recorded off Marske-by-sea. Minke whales were also recorded on 7 occasions and mainly around north Yorkshire.  

Lincolnshire: A total of 4 sightings were recorded in Lincolnshire. All sightings were of harbour porpoises in groups ranging from 1 to 6 individuals, which were recorded off Chapel Point, Haille Sand Fort and Immingham Dock.  

Norfolk: Only one sighting was record in Norfolk. One harbour porpoise was sighted off Kings Lynn Quay, regularly breaking the surface and following the tidal pull of river.

Suffolk and Essex: No sightings were recorded around Essex but one sighting of a harbour porpoise was recorded off Covehithe beach in Suffolk.

Kent: A total of 11 sighting were recorded in the Kent area. All sightings were of harbour porpoises which were viewed from Dungeness and Folkestone Harbour.

Sussex and Hants: Two sightings were recorded in Sussex, both from the promenade at Peacehaven, Sussex. One species could not be determined due to distance but the second species was confirmed to be the bottlenose dolphin.

Dorset: A total of 10 sightings were recorded in Dorset. Nine sightings were of bottlenose dolphins which are regularly sighted from Portland Bill. One sighting was of a large sunfish flipping and turning under the surface off Lulworth Cove.

Devon: A total of 49 sightings were recorded around Devon (31 in the south; 18 in the north). Five species were recorded during the event making this region one of the richest in species in England. The most sighted were harbour porpoises (n=25), followed by common dolphins (n=16), and minke whale (n=2). Last but not least, the humpback whale made its appearance twice, once off Brixham in the south and then off Lundy Island in the north. This species is making a noticeable come-back after many decades of exploitation in the North Atlantic. One sunfish were also submitted during the event, off Prawle point.

Cornwall: A total of 53 sightings were recorded around Cornwall, making it the county in England with highest number of sightings considering the submission which were received until now. Common dolphins were the most sighted (n=30) around Falmouth Bay, St Agnes Head, Rame Head and Porthcurno. Harbour porpoises were sighted 15 times, followed by minke whales recorded on three occasions. Las but not least, sunfish was recorded 4 times from Lizard Point, Keverne, St Agnes, and recorded by kayakers between Newlyn and St. Michaels Mount.

Bristol Channel: A total of 10 sightings were recorded around Somerset. All sightings were of harbour porpoises which are known to be the very common cetacean species sighted from Hurlstone Point, Watchet Harbour and Breakdown Fort in Somerset.


The total number of sightings recorded around Wales was 89.

North Wales: A total of 66 sightings were recorded in North Wales. The most common and widely distributed species is the harbour porpoise (n=57 sightings; 86%), with sightings recorded several locations in Anglesey with highest numbers at Point Lynas – one of the best spots to see the species in the whole of Britain. Schools of bottlenose dolphins (n=7, 11%) numbering up to 6 individuals were seen at several sites Abersoch in Caernarfonshire, and Penmaenmawr in Conwy.

West Wales: A total of 15 sightings were recorded on the Wales coast of Wales. Around New Quay Harbour, dolphins have been seen almost daily. Bottlenose dolphins were also sighted off the north coast of Barnouth, Dinas Dille and Llangelynin in North Wales.

Pembrokeshire: A total of 7 sightings were recorded around Pembrokeshire. The majority of sightings (n=6) were of harbour porpoises which were recorded from Strumble Head and Fishguard. Bottlenose dolphins were only recorded on one occasion from Poppit Sands Beach.

South Wales: One harbour porpoise sighting was recorded off Lavernock Bay in the Vale of Glamorgan.

Northern Ireland

One sighting of bottlenose dolphins sighted off Port Stewart in Co. Londonderry has been reported to Sea Watch so far from this region. The animals were 20 and they were sighted travelling and jumping out of the water.