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Spotting marine animals

Spotting marine animals

Seals, common and grey, harbour porpoises, dolphins, otters, Minke whales, basking sharks can all be spotted from award winning beaches and their surroundings for many spotting marine mammals is the real highlight of a day at the beach.

There regular sightings of whales and dolphins, with minke whales spotted on the west coast, bottlenose dolphin being the more common sighting in the east. Go to the Seawatch Foundation website to see the number of sightings reported.

Over twenty species of whale and dolphin have been recorded in Scottish waters It is possible to see a whale or dolphin all around the Scottish Coast. In some areas there are resident populations of a range of dolphin species. The most commonly reported species are bottlenose dolphin, harbour porpoise and minke whale.

To report your sightings or for information go to Seawatch Foundation or visit Marine Conservation Scotland to report species, such as turtles, sharks and jellyfish.

Where to go

Broughty Castle, near Broughty Ferry Beach and Scurdie Ness Lighthouse, Montrose providing regular sightings of bottlenose dolphins. Minke whale are often spotted off the Ayrshire coast, from places such as Troon.

Bottlenose dolphins

These sleek swimmers can reach speeds of over 18 miles an hour. They surface often to breathe, doing so two or three times a minute. Bottlenose dolphins travel in social groups and communicate with each other by a complex system of squeaks and whistles.

Bottlenose dolphins track their prey through echolocation. They can make up to 1,000 clicking noises per second. These sounds travel underwater until they encounter objects, then bounce back to their dolphin senders, revealing the location, size, and shape of their target.

Bottom-dwelling fish are often the target prey, though they also eat shrimp and squid. Sometimes these intelligent animals can be spotted following fishing boats in hopes of dining on leftovers.

Minke Whale

The minke whale is the smallest of the baleen whales found in UK waters, measuring 7 to 10 metres when fully grown.  The body of a minke whale is slender and very streamlined; the head is narrow and pointed. The small dorsal fin is usually strongly curved and is a unique feature that can be used to identify individual animals.

Minke whales are generally solitary, although they can sometimes be seen in feeding groups of up to 10 animals. The minke whale is capable of swimming at speeds of up to 13 mph. 

The diet of minke whales includes a variety of fish species, including sandeel, herring and whiting, along with some plankton.


For centuries, whales, dolphins, porpoises and seals have regularly stranded around the coasts of the UK. The underlying causes of these stranding events are not always clear and the role that human activity may play in either directly or indirectly causing single or mass strandings remains controversial.

If you see a stranded marine mammal, please report this directly to the Scottish Marine Animal Stranding Scheme (SMASS).

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