It has been an exciting couple of weeks for lucky members of the public in the north east of the island with a sudden influx of Bottlenose dolphin Tursiops truncatus sightings over the festive period. These 4 metre long, acrobatic mammals are frequent winter visitors to Manx waters and are often seen in pods exceeding 100 individuals. They favour the East coast where they are regularly spotted between Ramsey and Douglas with key watching sights being Ramsey Bay, Cornaa, Port Mooar, Laxey and Marine Drive. On the 27th, 30th December and the 2nd January we had reports of large pods all along the north east coastline displaying a huge variety of behaviour such as leaping, tail slapping, bow riding and fast swimming.
These large pods tend to come very close inshore to feed and can easily be seen from the coastline. Their amazing acrobatic skills and speed can create so much disturbance that they can easily be seen when the sea is calm, just look out for lots of white water.
The Isle of Man is a really special place to see Bottlenose dolphins; in fact there aren’t many places in the British Isles where you can see such large pods together so close inshore. Through a research technique known as photo-identification, we know that some of the Bottlenose dolphins seen here spend the summer in Cardigan Bay, Wales coming north into Manx waters during the winter months where they are commonly seen from October through to March. These two dorsal fin photographs show how we use photo-identification to recognise dolphins by matching up cuts and scars; each dorsal fin is different, just like a fingerprint. The photo’s are of the same individual, one image taken in Cardigan Bay and the other in Manx waters.
Between 2006 and 2014, 70% of sightings were reported between October and March. This is atypical of most cetacean species in Manx waters as other species are seen more frequently during the summer. In 2014 we had 40 sightings compared to 26 during 2013. All but 2 sightings in 2014 were on the East coast.
Be sure to keep a look out for these majestic mammals and spread the word so that more people can experience the thrill of seeing them. We always try to let the Island know when there are exciting things to be seen by informing Manx Radio and updating our facebook page, so please give us a ‘like’ to keep up to date. As always, please let us know if you see anything so we can keep an accurate record of whales, dolphins and porpoises in Manx waters. Good luck spotting!