UK NATIONAL WHALE & DOLPHIN WATCH – 2021: Regional Summaries

SCOTLAND

Shetland: A total of 48 sightings were recorded around Shetland shared with us by the Shetland Cetacean Group and our Shetland Regional Coordinators. During this year’s event, 4 sighting were recorded of Atlantic white-sided dolphins with groups ranging from 2-6 individuals with 100-150 individuals off Catfirth and Lunna Holm. Humpback whales were sighted once off Eshaness and killer whales were recorded 5 times, followed by harbour porpoises which were sighted 25 times. Minke whales were sighted 6 times, same as the Risso’s dolphins.

Orkney: A total of 3 sightings were recorded around Orkney. Two were of Risso’s dolphins sighted off Burwick and Nethertown, and one of harbour porpoises seen off Burwick. All sightings were recorded by the staff of the JOG Ferries.

Caithness and Sutherland: A total of 36 sightings were sent to us from around Caithness and Sutherland. Six species were sighted including bottlenose dolphins and grey seals which were sighted once each, followed by harbour porpoises which were sighted 20 times, and minke whales twice. Risso’s dolphins were sighted nine times off Swiney Hill, Scarfskerry, John O’Groats harbour and the Trinkie, Wick. A pod of six killer whales were sighted on one occasion off Scrabster Bay. Two pods of 4-10 common dolphins were also recorded off Clachtoll and Lochinver, Sutherland.

Inverness-shire and Cromartyshire: A total of 107 sightings were recorded around Inverness-shire, Ross-shire and Cromartyshire by our network of recommended boat operators, local volunteer observers and by the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Watch team. The four different marine mammal species sighted include the common seal (n=2) sighted off Eilean Ban, Ross and Cromarty, and the harbour porpoise (n=32) from different locations including Port Henderson, Balmaqueen and Staffin. The minke whale was recorded 57 times and common dolphins sighted 14 times.

Outer Hebrides: A total of 58 sightings were recorded around the Outer Hebrides and shared to us by our network of recommended boat operators, local volunteer observers and by the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Watch team. Four different species were recorded including the harbour porpoise (n=18), basking shark (n=1), minke whale (n=28), Risso’s dolphin (n=2), and the common dolphins (n=10).

Ayrshire and Argyllshire: A total of 51 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: No sightings were recorded from south-west Scotland although dedicated and casual watches were undertaken.

Morayshire: A total of 44 sightings and five species were recorded in Morayshire. Nineteen sightings of bottlenose dolphins were recorded off Burghead, Spey Bay, and Covesea.  Additional sightings included one of common seals, five of grey seals, five sightings of harbour porpoises and fourteen sightings of minke whales.

Banffshire: A total of 12 sightings were recorded in Banffshire, of bottlenose dolphin (n=5), grey seal (n=4), harbour porpoise (n=1) and minke whale (n=2) which were sighted off Findochty, Nelson’s Seat and Whitehills.

Aberdeen-shire and Angus: A total of 36 sightings were recorded around Aberdeen-shire and Angus. The three most reported species were bottlenose dolphins (n=7) off Scurdie Ness Lighthouse, Souter Head and Arbroath, harbour porpoises (n=22) which were mainly sighted off Collierston, Bullars of Buchan and Donmouth. The last species recorded was the minke whale which was sighted twice off Donmouth and East Haven.  

Fife, East Lothian, and Berwickshire: Eighteen sightings of six species were recorded around Fife, East Lothian and Berwickshire. Eight were of bottlenose dolphins, four of common seals, one of harbour porpoises, one of Sowerby’s beaked whales, and one of striped dolphins. The Sowerby’s beaked whales were a pair of individuals which were sighted swimming under the Firth of Forth Bridge while the striped dolphin was an individual which was recorded off South Queensferry by a passenger onboard the ferry.

ENGLAND

Northumberland, Tyne and Wear and Durham: A total of 83 sightings were recorded in Northumberland, Tyne and Wear and Durham. Five different species were sighted. The most sighted were bottlenose dolphins (n=43) with the largest group of 20 individuals which was recorded off Newbiggin-by-the-sea, Northumberland and Whitley Bay, Tyne and Wear. The second most sighted species was minke whales (n=14), harbour porpoises (n=11), followed by the white-beaked dolphin which was sighted 9 times, and the grey seals sighted 6 times. Key locations from which white-beaked dolphins were sighted included Church Point, Newbiggin, Seaton Sluice, and Snab Point in Cresswell.

Yorkshire: A total of 82 sightings were recorded in North and East Yorkshire. The most sighted species were the bottlenose dolphin and the harbour porpoise (each with n=22) which is sighted almost daily from Marine Drive in Scarbourough, Long Nab and Flamborough Head. Minke whales were also recorded on 12 occasions and all around north Yorkshire.  

Lincolnshire: A total of 10 sightings were recorded in Lincolnshire. The majority of sightings were of harbour porpoises (n=4) in groups ranging from 1 to 2 individuals, followed by grey seals (n=3), and bottlenose dolphins which were recorded once off Marsh Yard, Huttoft.

Norfolk: Only one sighting was record in Norfolk. One harbour porpoise was sighted off Weybourne, slow swimming.

Suffolk and Essex: Thirteen sightings were recorded around Suffolk and two around Essex but one sighting of grey seal (n=13), harbour porpoise (n=1) and common seal (n=1).

Kent: A total of 27 sighting were recorded in the Kent area. Majority were sightings of harbour porpoises (n=21) viewed from Dungeness and Folkestone Harbour. Followed by sightings of grey and common seals.

Sussex and Hants: One sighting was recorded in Sussex, off East Whittering of a large whale which was watches blowing at a distance.

Dorset: A total of 30 sightings were recorded in Dorset. Nineteen sightings were of bottlenose dolphins which are regularly sighted from Portland Bill and Weymouth. Eight sightings were of grey seals and one of harbour porpoises.

Devon: A total of 111 sightings were recorded around Devon (71 in the south; 40 in the north). Six species were recorded during the event making this region one of the richest in species in England. The most sighted were harbour porpoises (n=68), followed by common dolphins (n=22), grey seals (n=17), sunfish (n=2), minke whale and bashing shark (each with 1 sighting). Common dolphins were sighted off Capstone Point, Ilfracombe, a very rare sighting for the area.

Cornwall: A total of 153 sightings were recorded around Cornwall, and nine species sighted it is making this county in England the one with the highest number of sightings and species considering the submission which were received until now. Common dolphins were the most sighted (n=76) around Falmouth Bay, St Agnes Head, Rame Head and Porthcurno. Harbour porpoises were sighted 45 times, followed by Risso’s dolphin (n=8), and minke whales (n=4). Last but not least, sunfish, bashing shark and Tuna were also recorded.

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.

Channel Islands: A total of 16 sightings were recorded around Alderney, Jersey and Guernsey. Bottlenose dolphins were sighted twelve times with groups ranging from 2 to 30 individuals.

Isle of Man: A total of 14 sightings were recorded around the Isle of Man. The bottlenose dolphins were sighted eight times from Peel bay for the most part, followed by harbour porpoises sighted five times and minke whales sighted once off Point of Ayre.

WALES

North Wales: A total of 128 sightings were recorded in North Wales. The most common and widely distributed species is the harbour porpoise (n=86 sightings; 67%), 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=3, 2%) numbering up to 10 individuals were seen at several sites Aberdarson in Gwynedd.

West Wales: A total of 129 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 31 sightings were recorded around Pembrokeshire.The majority of sightings (n=18) were of harbour porpoises which were recorded from Skomer and Ramsey Island. Common dolphins (n=9) minke whales (n=2) and Risso’s dolphins (n=1) were also recorded.

South Wales: Seven sightings of harbour porpoise and bottlenose dolphins were recorded off Southgate, Gower, Newton bay, Worm’s head and Horton in the Vale of Glamorgan.

NORTHERN IRELAND

A total of 8 sighting were recorded in Northern Ireland by our local regional coordinator and the staff at IWDG NI who helped recording the highest number of sightings to date. The most sighted were harbour porpoises (n=4, 50%), followed by minke whales (n=2, 25%), and undetermined cetacean species (n=2, 25%). The most popular locations were sighted from were Portmuck, Blackhead Lighthouse and Larne in Co. Antrim. Other locations included Portaferry and Dundrum bay and Bloody Bridge in Co. Down.