Marine mammals of Scotland

On 22nd and 23rd March we attended Dunbar SciFest ( Our stall, located inside the marquee, focused on marine mammals of Scotland. More specifically, what you can see and where. We had information leaflets, colouring in, a quiz, and a life size model of a harbour porpoise. Thanks to everyone who visited us and gave our quiz a go.


The Scottish coastline is home to a diverse range of marine mammals. Some of the most commonly sighted species include; grey seal (Halichoerus grypus), harbour seal (Phoca vitulina), short-beaked common dolphin (Delphinus delphis), bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus), killer whale (Orcinus orca), harbour porpoise (Phocoena phocoena), and minke whale (Balaenoptera acutorostrata). In case you missed us at SciFest, here is our map that shows the best viewing spots.

©OSC_2014_SciFestMapIt is no surprise that spotting marine mammals requires a lot of patience, determination, and luck, but in addition binoculars, an identification guide and a camera helps. Some species can be seen easily from land, for example, grey seals are sighted regularly in Dunbar Harbour and Aberdeen Harbour is a great place to watch bottlenose dolphins jumping. Other species require a boat trip out to deeper waters; the ferry to Ireland is a good vantage point for short-beaked common dolphins.

Once you have located your viewing platform, pick your time. Marine mammals can be sighted in all weathers, but it is far easier to spot them when the sea is calm. They do prefer some areas to others, but this will change throughout the year, and not all species are present all year round. Look out for diving birds, blows, splashes, fins or dark patches on the surface of the water, and don’t be fooled by deceptive waves that can resemble a surfacing cetacean.

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