Killer whales have been spotted off the coast of Shetland
Killer whales have been spotted off the coast of Shetland

Killer whale spotters descend on the north coast

Whale spotters have descended on the north of Scotland for the Sea Watch Foundation’s annual Orca Watch event.

At the end of May, the Pentland Firth welcomes back the charity’s Orca Watch, when the north coast of Scotland is visited by hundreds of whale enthusiasts, tourists and local media wanting to witness the passage of killer whales close to shore.

Now in its seventh year, this event originated from the collaboration between Sea Watch Foundation and their regional co-ordinator Colin Bird.

With the possibility of underwater turbines installed in the area, a decision was made to establish a seasonal watch to gather information on how killer whales use this area and what might be the consequences of such an installation.

The 2018 event takes place until Sunday, 3 June, where people from all walks of life are invited to join the dedicated volunteers for watches throughout this time.

There will be observers stationed at Duncansby Head, the main view point, but people will also conduct watches in Orkney and Shetland (times and locations can be found HERE). There will also be observers onboard the John O’Groats ferry connecting mainland to Orkney.

Killer whales spotted off the coast of Shetland

This is an open event and anyone interested is welcome to attend the organized land watches at any time during the day, but people are encouraged to look out for whales and collate sightings anywhere else along the coast, and of course if they see anything, Sea Watch would love to hear about it.

Sightings should be reported HERE.

Anna Jemmett, Sea Watch regional coordinator and lead volunteer and organiser of this year’s event, said: ‘We are so lucky in Caithness to be able to sight different cetacean species so close to shore.

‘For me, Orca Watch Week is about involving people and allowing them to experience something they never though they could be part of, it is about collecting vital data for the protection and conservation of orcas and other local cetacean species, and it is about sharing this magical event with people from all other the country and have fun all together.’

Recently there have been some stunning images of killer whales on social media. Observers from around the Shetlands have been witnessing these animals travelling very close to the shore, and some lucky ferry passengers were amazed to spot them frolicking in the waters in the River Clyde.

Killer whales photographed from the land during Orca Watch. (Photo: Colin Bird/ Sea Watch Foundation)

The scientists at Sea Watch Foundation are delighted by this; as their works thrives off the engagement of the public in reporting their sightings of whales and dolphins, collectively termed cetaceans, from all around the UK.

The time and dedication their volunteer sea watchers have spent searching for these species and the subsequent reporting of sightings have allowed the Sea Watch Foundation to improve the knowledge and understanding about the population status of local cetacean species around the British Isles.

The Sea Watch Foundation is very proud of the time, energy and effort that has gone into reporting public sightings, which are the backbone of their national database which spans over four decades, making it one of the largest, oldest and longest-running citizen science schemes in the world.

The north coast of Scotland is one of the best places to see cetaceans and many different seabird species in the UK.

As well as orca, many other species of whale and dolphin can be seen from the shore including the minke whale and humpback whale, Risso’s, common and white-beaked dolphins and the harbour porpoise.

For the bird aficionados, sightings of razorbills, puffins, fulmars, great skuas, and terns are possible too.