Orca Watch 2018

Saturday 26th May – Saturday 2nd June 2018

Orca Watch Logo Image
  
Breaching killer whale by John Irvine/ Sea Watch Foundation
 

Killer whales (orcas) are rare in the British Isles but can be observed mainly in northern Britain, around the Hebrides and the Northern Isles (Orkney and Shetland). Those from the Northern Isles seem to come from a population that ranges between Norway, Iceland and the Faroes, visiting the northernmost North Sea in the winter to feed upon herring or mackerel, and then coming closer to shore between May and August, where they have been observed chasing seals. This year’s Orca Watch is planned for late May to coincide with the annual passage of killer whales observed in the Pentland Firth as well as to coincide with school holidays to enable as many people to join us as possible! The aim of Orca Watch is to collect vital data on this and other cetacean species in the area, whilst informing the public about these enigmatic animals just off their shores! Originally instigated by Sea Watch Regional Coordinator Colin Bird, the event is now in its seventh year and is growing in popularity. We are really pleased about this and welcome collaboration from other organisations to ensure that this event reaches as many people as possible!

What’s on?!

This year, whilst our main base will be Dunscansby Head, we’re looking for your help to expand the data collection to other sites in North Scotland, Orkney and Shetland. We’re hoping this will be a great way for locals to get involved on their own patch as well as giving you the flexibility to add to the event whenever suits you! Organised watches feature on the event list below, but if you’d like to run a watch of your own at a recommended watch site please click here.

  • Sat
    26
    May
    2018
    Sat
    02
    Jun
    2018

    Duncansby Head, Caithness

    Duncansby Head is the main watch site for Orca Watch and volunteers will be stationed here each day of Orca Watch 2018.

     

    Duncansby Head Dedicated Orca Watches:

    Day

    Date

    Start Time

    Finish Time

    Saturday

    26/05/18

    6am

    12pm

    Sunday

    27/05/18

    6:30am

    12:30pm

    Monday

    28/05/18

    7am

    1pm

    Tuesday

    29/05/18

    8am

    2pm

    Wednesday

    30/05/18

    8:30am

    2:30pm

    Thursday

    31/05/18

    9am

    3pm

    Friday

    01/06/18

    9:30am

    3:30pm

    Saturday

    02/06/18

    10am

    4pm

    Sunday

    03/06/18

    11am

    5pm

     

    There are no facilities at the watch site, the nearest toilets are in John O’Groats. Please come well prepared with supplies and clothing!

    Contact lead volunteer, Anna Jemmett, for more details on annajem@hotmail.co.uk.

  • Sat
    26
    May
    2018

    10-4pmSumburgh Head Lighthouse, Visitor Centre and Nature Reserve

    There will be a watch at Sumburgh Head Lighthouse, as it is the first day of Orcawatch there will be a display about the different cetacean species found around the Shetlands organized by the Shetland Marine Mammal Group.

    There are toilets at the watch site, a car parking, and a visitor Centre with a cafe.

    No need to book, just turn up. Binoculars and a telescope would be useful, and make sure to wear lots of layers!

    Contact Karen Hall for more details on Karen.Hall@snh.gov.uk.

    Sumburgh Head_Shetland_

    Photo credit: Tore Kjelvik

     

  • Sat
    26
    May
    2018

    7:00 pmPultney People's Centre, Wick

    Marie Mrusczok from Orca Guardians, an independent conservation nonprofit dedicated to the protection of orcas in Iceland, will fly in from Iceland and she will provide valuable insight into the seasonal movements of orcas between Iceland and Scotland.

    ChiaraG Bertulli_poster Orca Guardians_2018

    There will be an introduction to Orca Watch by Sea Watch Foundation’s Sightings Officer.

    Tea and coffee provided.

    There is a small charge of £2 per person for this event.

  • Sat
    26
    May
    2018
    Sat
    02
    Jun
    2018

    As per JOG ferry timetableJohn O'Groats – Burwick

    John O’Groats Ferries trips during Orcawatch

    The John O’Groats Ferry company have agreed to offer Orca-watchers a huge discount during Orca Watch week. Each journey, whether return or single, will cost £5/person (infants under 5 go free). That’s a saving of £14/journey. The discount can be applied to as many journeys as you like but only between 26th May and 2nd June.

    All ferry tickets must be purchased from the Ferry ticket office in John O’Groats in person during Orca watch.

    To prove that you are an ‘Orca-watcher’ and are eligible for the discount you will need to be wearing an Orca Watch wristband which will be available during the event only.

    200 wristbands in 2 sizes will be available from the event organisers at Orca Watch. To get your Orca Watch wristband all we ask for is a cash donation at the event to Sea Watch or Whale and Dolphin Conservation or both (Suggested minimum donation of £5).

    The wristbands are made from silicone rubber and are not for just this year’s event. Discounts and other offers may potentially be available next year too so keep your wristbands for future use!

    The Orca Watch Wristbands will be available ONLY from Orca Watch organisers at:

    1) Duncansby Head from 26th May until all gone;
    2)Pulteney People’s Centre, Wick after the Introductory talk by Orca Guardians Iceland on 26th May;
    3) At Burwick aboard the Pentland Venture, John O’Groats Ferries for passengers boarding from Orkney ONLY until they are all gone.

    To get your wristband:
    You will need to make a cash donation towards Sea Watch Foundation and WDC.

    The organisers will have donation boxes with them. The minimum donation is £5, but we suggest a donation of £9 and then buy 2 ferry tickets.

    That way for the normal price of a ferry single £19, you get 2 return trips aboard the Pentland Venture, a souvenir wristband, donate money to help whales and dolphins AND hopefully get an Orca sighting.

    Ferry tickets must be bought from the ferry office in John O’Groats or on the ferry at Burwick. Ferry tickets subject to availability on the day of purchase. There is currently plenty of availability but best to get your wristband and then your tickets as soon as you arrive.

    Orca Watch 2018 - Wristbands

    Orca Watch 2018 – Wristbands

     

    Orca and the John O'Groat's Ferry by Fred Fermor.

    Orcas are often seen close to the ‘Pentland Venture’ as it crosses the Pentland Firth between John O’ Groats on the mainland and Burwick on Orkney. Orca and other whales and dolphins were also seen from the ferry during last year’s Orca Watch.

    See the JOG ferry timetable here: http://www.jogferry.co.uk/Ferry.aspx

    Photo by Fred Fermor.

  • Sun
    27
    May
    2018

    2-5pmHoxa Head, South Ronaldsay

    The Sea Watch Foundation is pleased to offer an event for anyone in Orkney wishing to learn how to look for cetaceans from a land-based vantage point. The event is to be held at Hoxa Head on South Ronaldsay, on Sunday 27 May 2018 in the afternoon, between 2pm and 5pm.

    The event will be led by Steve Sankey of Orcadian Wildlife, helped by family members Sami and Sarah Sankey, and is free to members of the public. Hoxa Head is just beyond the village of St. Margaret’s Hope and may be accessed by the minor road heading beyond the Sands of Wright. There is a small car park at grid reference ND408934 and the path to Hoxa Head is a short circular walk around the headland. Just follow the footpath signs.

    Steve will be on station at the old searchlight housing at the Head itself and is confident about seeing cetaceans given good weather and a good sea state. He has recorded 6 species of whales and dolphins* from Hoxa over the years, and it’s a good reliable spot for Harbour porpoise. With luck and patience, Orcas may appear, as might several other species.

    No need to book, just turn up. Binoculars and a telescope would be useful, although there will be telescopes on site.

    * FYI: Harbour porpoise; Risso’s dolphin; Common dolphin; Orca; Minke whale; and Fin whale (the latter just once in 15 years!).

  • Wed
    30
    May
    2018

    7pm-9pmHillswick, Mousa Sound, Noss Sound, Sumburg Head, Eshaness, Nesting, Shetland

    There are car parking options at all watch sites but facilities are solely available at Sumburgh Head. Please come well prepared with supplies and clothing!

    For more information, you can call our regional coordinator for Shetland islands, Karen Hall,  during office hours at the following number: 01595 693345.

  • Fri
    01
    Jun
    2018

    11:45am- 4:45pmBurwick harbour, Orkney

    There are toilets at the watch site and a car park. Please come well prepared with supplies and clothing! The return ferry is at 17:15.

  • Sat
    02
    Jun
    2018

    10 – 12pmFair Isle, Shetland

    Details for this watch are still to be confirmed.

    For more information, you can call our regional coordinator for Shetland islands, Karen Hall,  during office hours at the following number: 01595 693345.

  • Sat
    02
    Jun
    2018

    11:45am- 4:45pmBurwick harbour, Orkney

    There are toilets at the watch site and a car park. Please come well prepared with supplies and clothing! The return ferry is at 17:15.

Whilst you could certainly plan your own holiday around the event, we are only inviting you to join in with our surveys and other events and we cannot provide accommodation or travel.

 If you’d like to be kept in the loop with plans for Orca Watch this year, then please contact Anna Jemmett, a Sea Watch volunteer who is coordinating the event, on annajem@hotmail.co.uk

Join in on social media #SWFOrcaWatch 

Thank you for getting involved! The Team at Sea Watch Foundation

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