Minke whale

This is the smallest of the baleen family of whales to be found in Scottish waters, being between 8.5 and 9 metres long. This whale weighs about 10 tonnes and is usually seen singly or as a cow with her calf. When the cow gives birth to a single calf, which is about 2.5 metres long.

Like all whales and dolphins, a minke whale has a blowhole on the top of its head and therefore needs to surface on a regular basis to breathe. Unlike some of the larger whales, minke whales rarely breech and their blow is relatively small and indistinctive.

This predominantly blue/black bodied whale has white on the top sides of its flippers and a white underside. They feed on fish, squid and krill by filtering water through their baleen combs that hang in their mouth.

We don't actually know what minke whales does in the winter. It is thought that they may travel to the waters of the Azores, but there no confirmed evidence.

Minke whales are increasingly seen around the coast of Scotland, however the main hot spot for sightings is around the Small Isles (Rum, Eigg and Muck) between the islands of Skye and Mull. Minke whales, particularly juveniles can be very inquisitive and may approach boats.

In the most recent round of meetings of the International Whaling Commission, Japan once again secured an increased quota for the hunting of whales for scientific research.  The 2007/8 kill will rise to 1035 whales (an increase of 20%). This provides a legitimate source of whale meat for the Japanese market. At present Norway, which also hunts whales for research, is banned under the CITES convention from exporting minke whale meat to Japan.

Bottlenose dolphin

Bottlenose dolphin

Tursiops truncatus

The Scottish bottlenose dolphins are considerably larger than their cousins living in the warmer waters off Florida, USA. These dolphins can be between 3 and 4 metres in length and are normally to be seen in pods (groups) of up to ten animals. Pods can fo...

Common dolphin

Common dolphin

Delphinus delphis

Common dolphins are seen every year off the West Coast of Scotland.  They are seen in larger groups than bottlenose dolphins and these superpods can contain over a hundred of individual dolphins. Common dolphins are smaller that bottlenose dolphins and c...

Common seal

Common seal

Phoca vitulina

Also known as the harbour seal, the common seal is one of two seal species found around the coastline: the two key field identification points are its relatively short rounded muzzle. When seen in profile “hauled out” on land and when seen face on ...

Grey seal

Grey seal

Halichoerus grypus

The larger of the two seals found around the British coastline. Two key field identification points are its relatively deep, long muzzle when seen in profile “hauled out” on land, and when seen face-on in the water their closed nostrils with almost...

Basking shark

Basking shark

Cetorhinus maximus

The dorsal fin may be visible as this plankton-eating shark is seen filter feeding near the surface. Its open mouth is about 2 metres wide. In calm conditions it may be seen close to the shore although is generally in deeper waters. The second largest ...