Divers identify visiting humpback whales

Basking Shark Scotland confirm animals seen in the Firth Of Forth have returned

Author: Pat
1st February 2021

Humpback whale identified in the Firth of Forth

A photographer who sighted humpback whales in the Firth of Forth between Edinburgh and Kinghorn (Fife) has had help from a group of Scottish divers to identify the animals.

Greg Maclean, a photographer who spent the day watching them from a sailing boat, posted pictures online after a rewarding day on the water.

a rare sighting around the Scottish coast… this was one of only three on the west coast

Lyndsay McNeill, a citizen scientist who runs the Scottish Humpback ID group, jumped on the images that were posted in order to create a record of the whales. But to her surprise she noticed some familiar features that instantly made her very excited.

Lyndsay said: “The barnacle on the tip on the dorsal fin was very distinctive and I knew I had seen it recently.” She set to work looking back at her catalogue and then contacted Shane Wasik from Basking Shark Scotland, who had sent her whale images from their sighting in summer 2020.

Along with passengers Rosie Barrett and Emma Patten, they had gathered images of both sides of the dorsal fin of the animal along the patterns on the bottom of the fluke (tail). The patterns, scratches, shape and barnacles enabled the team to compare both animals and make a match!

Shane Wasik said,”We were all super excited, furiously messaging each other on Sunday evening, comparing all the images to be 100% sure it was a match. It was an incredible day we spent with them last summer and to have them relighted where I grew up is even more special.

“We believe this is the first re-sighting of a humpback whale between east and west Scotland. They are a rare sighting around the Scottish coast, this was one of only three sightings we’ve ever had personally on the west coast.

“Having spent 18 years growing up in Kinghorn we never saw any Humpbacks there at all. Ronnie Mackie, a family friend who runs the Forth Marine Mammals facebook group has been recording the increase in sightings over the last few years. Perhaps linked to the recovery in fish stocks after previous decades of exploitation”.

The whales may stay in the area for a few days if feeding is good. The report will be submitted to cetacean researchers, including information about the re-sighting.

Humpbacks migrate between the sub-tropics and the arctic every year between calving/mating in warmer waters and feeding in colder areas.

The whales aggregate in both areas and are transient in Scottish waters, passing by on their way up and back.

For more information on wildlife and adventure tours in Oban, visit Basking Shark Scotland.

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