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Bottlenose dolphins © Christopher Swann

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Shorewatch’s Big Watch Weekend at the Scottish Dolphin Centre

Here at the Scottish Dolphin Centre we are putting together the final arrangements for our Shorewatch programme’s annual Big Watch Weekend. A weekend where all our volunteers pull together to conduct as many Shorewatches as possible! This data will give us an in-depth look at what the whales and dolphins are doing around the Scottish coastline in a ‘seasonal snapshot.’

Over 28 species of whale, dolphin and porpoise have been recorded around UK waters, with 20 species spotted regularly. Did you know that Scotland is the best place in Europe for catching a glimpse of these remarkable cetaceans in their natural environment?! The Shorewatch programme itself consists of a network of trained, local volunteers who monitor the presence and absence of cetaceans at selected sites around the Scottish coastline. This allows us to not only raise awareness of our oceans inhabitants but to also capture vital data, crucial to the long term future of these amazing animals. WDC Shorewatch records every watch, whether a dolphin or whale was sighted or not. This data can then tell us whether cetaceans were sighted say 1 in 10 times or 1 in 100 times. This sighting rate (frequency) can then be compared between seasons and years.

©Fiona Hill

All year round our dedicated Shorewatchers conduct 10-minute surveys at our 24 specific Shorewatch sites. These Shorewatches are conducted as often as is possible for the volunteer but not more than once an hour. This allows sufficient time for the individual dolphin, whale, or porpoises to leave the area without being counted twice.

During Big Watch Weekend we all endeavour to complete as many Shorewatches as is humanly possible over the span of the weekend. Here at the Scottish Dolphin Centre we are entering the Big Watch Weekend spirit by running a couple of public events at our Spey Bay Shorewatch site. On the 7th June we will be starting the morning nice and early with a Dawn Watch. From 4am to 7am Sara and any other willing helpers will welcome the morning sun whilst doing their hourly Shorewatches at Spey Bay. These hourly Shorewatch efforts will then be continued late into the evening with the added bonus of a Beach Fire to warm everyone! The Beach Fire is set to be an exciting event for everyone with wildlife wanders, storytelling and marshmallows.  We’d love for people to join in the fun and bring along their own picnics to enjoy the evening with us. And who knows what superb wildlife sightings we’ll have!

©Fiona Hill

So what exciting sightings have our Shorewatchers been treated to recently? Our team at Stoer had their first minke whale sighting of the season on the 8th May and have had a few more minke sightings since. At Macduff, on the 16th May, three consecutive watches resulted in three sightings, a total of 22 bottlenose dolphins, each sighting a different pod! Over at St Cyrus on the 24th May our Shorewatchers, who hadn’t seen anything for quite some time, were treated to a spectacular display of 20 breaching bottlenose dolphins. And as I write, 9 bottlenose dolphins are having a wicked time spy hopping at Spey Bay. The Scottish coastline really is an incredible viewing point. The Shorewatch team at Spey Bay would like to take this opportunity to thank all our wonderful volunteers for their hard-shorewatching work.

Big Watch Weekend is set to be a fantastic event, with lots on offer at the Scottish Dolphin Centre for everyone to get involved with. So if you fancy joining us for our Beach Fire please do! For more information about these events or to get involved in the Shorewatch programme yourself please contact us at [email protected] or by calling 01343 820339. 

©Fiona Hill