Land-based surveys

Surveying from land is one of the most important parts of our work. It allows us to observe these splendid animals from the coastline, undisturbed in their natural habitat, giving us a true insight into their world. From these studies we can learn about when and where each species is most frequently seen and at which times of year each species visit different locations. As we watch from land and so don’t disturb the animals, these surveys are particularly useful for observing behaviour and social interactions.

How do they work?

Land-based surveys typically last for 3 hours and are carried out at particular sites along the coastline. Throughout a survey, 2 types of data are collected; effort data and sightings data. Effort data is taken every 15 minutes and records time of day, wind direction, sea state and visibility. Sightings are recorded on a separate form where we note the species seen, the group size, presence of calves, behaviour and direction of movement. The two types of data work hand in hand, gathering an insight into the inshore presence of cetaceans in Manx waters and can even look into the effects of, for example, tides on cetacean presence.

In spring 2016 we embarked on a new project with funding from the Manx Lottery Trust to develop a network of local land-based surveyors. We ran 3 training courses in May 2016 and trained a total of 55 people in species identification and survey methods. As expected, out of these 55, a small number of truly dedicated people are actively conducting surveys for us and have so far recorded Risso’s dolphins, Minke whales and Harbour porpoise.

The project continued in 2017, with a further 21 people taking part, giving us a total of 76 surveyors.

A report on the project at the end of 2016 is available to download Land-based surveyors project report 2016

Conducting a land based survey.

Minke whale off Marine drive taken by Land-based surveyor Mike Kelly