Killer Whale Update! John Coe's Friend Identified

Aquarius, one of four bulls from the West Coast Community, seen from  Silurian  in 2014.

Aquarius, one of four bulls from the West Coast Community, seen from Silurian in 2014.

Following on from yesterday’s excitement, the HWDT Team has now confirmed the identity of the second killer whale, seen with John Coe, as Aquarius (W08).

This latest update is only possible, thanks to the help of local fishermen Kenny Turnbull and David Macfarlane, who sent in an additional video (below), showing the second bull clearly swimming across the bow of their boat, as they observed the animals hanging around off Caliach point, yesterday morning.  

Aquarius (W08) one of the bull killer whales from the West Coast Community, seen off the north coast of Mull by fishermen David Macfarlane and Kenny Turnbull on the 26th February 2018.

Identifying Aquarius as the second male, alongside John Coe (the most distinctive individual in the group), does not come as a shock to HWDT, as these two are frequently seen navigating the Hebrides together.

Although the West Coast Community only consists of a maximum of eight individuals, our researchers require high quality images, and videos to be sure of the identity of individual animals within this group. Many of the animals look similar from a distance, and positive ID is confirmed by looking for subtle differences in the shape of their fins and saddle patches as well as the presence/absence of nicks.

Most of what we have learnt about the movements of this unique group are thanks to people like Kenny and David who have shared their encounters of these incredible animals with us. It is now easier than ever before to report sightings, using HWDT’s marine mammal sightings platform Whale Track. Sightings can quickly and easily be submitted using the free Whale Track smartphone app (available on Google Play or the App Store) or by using the online sightings form. One of the great features of this latest development, is that you can now upload photos to the online database, via the Whale Track interface and you can view a live sightings map in the app and online too. If you haven’t already had a look, we would strongly encourage doing so, as sightings of cetaceans will start to be a more frequent occurrence, as we move closer to spring.

You don’t have to be a fisherman to get stunning views of these majestic animals however. After hearing the alert, local naturalist and wildlife guide from Nature Scotland, Ewan Miles headed out to Caliach Point, where he watched the two animals, through the afternoon into the evening from on top of the cliff. You can see his fantastic video here, as John Coe and Aquarius swim past the headland, right by him.

Watching killer whales from land is possible right across the Hebrides, with sightings reported from many prominent headlands across the coast, including spots on Mull, Skye, Lewis and Assynt. It’s always worth keeping an eye on the water, whatever the time of year, as you never know when these incredible animals are going to break the surface, pop up for a breath and give us a glimpse into their mysterious lives.