Saturday 26th May – Saturday 2nd June 2018Breaching 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!
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.
Join Orca Watch founder, Colin Bird, as he watches for orcas! You can come along for as little or as long as you like, but if you think you can offer upwards of an hour please drop us a line so we can get organised! Please dress sensibly for changeable weather and bring the food and drink you may require for the length of your watch. Please note that the nearest toilet facilities are three miles away in John O’Groats.Download a watch form here. For further advice or to let us know you’d like to attend, please contact Anna.
Every day of the week we will be at Duncansby Head surveying for cetaceans, we would welcome volunteers to join us. The times of these watches are:
Saturday 21st May 8am until 2pm
Sunday 22nd May 8.30am until 2.30pm
Monday 23rd May 9am until 3pm
Tuesday 24th May 9.30am until 3.30pm
Wednesday 25th May 10am until 4pm
Thursday 26th May 11am until 5pm
Friday 27th May 11.30am until 5.30pm
Saturday 28th May 12pm until 7pm
9:00 amJohn O'Groats to Orkney ferry
Day Trips daily to Orkney Islands departing from John O’Groats at 9am. www.jogferry.co.uk A chance to spot marine wildlife on your 40 mins crossing across the Pentland Firth on John O’Groats Ferry.
Please remember to report any sightings you have during these trips to Sea Watch Foundation here: www.seawatchfoundation.org.uk/sightingsform. We’re interested to hear about all your whale, dolphin and porpoise sightings, not just killer whales!
Drop in any time from 11am until 2pmDuncansby Head Grid Ref: ND 405 733
Drop in session with Sea Watch Foundation. Come and learn how to survey for cetaceans and how to fill in the survey forms. Meet new people and enjoy the stunning scenery.
Duncansby Head is 2 miles from John O Groats (where you will find the nearest toilet) and is the most North Easterly tip of Mainland UK. The site is very exposed and you will need to be warmly dressed and ready for the weather. The nearest toilet facilities are at John O’ Groats.
18:30 – 20:30Pulteney People's Centre
Talk from Rob Lott (WDC) plus guest speakers. Join us for a fascinating talk about Orcas of the world.
For more information and to book please contact The Scottish Conservation Officer at Shorewatch@whales.org /01343820339.
There will be a small charge of £2 but free to volunteers of both WDC and Sea Watch.
2-4:45pmRSPB Forsinard Flows Reserve
This walk is a great way to explore the Forsinard Flows reserve. Discover the peatlands and learn about our conservation work to protect and restore them. Please come prepared for changeable weather, wellies/walking boots and waterproofs are essential. This walk does not follow a trail or path and is over open peatland. Children must be accompanied by an adult.
Meet at RSPB Forsinard Flows Visitor Centre. Grid ref NC891425. Price: RSPB members £3.00; non – RSPB members £5; U16′s free. www.rspb.org.uk/discoverandenjoynature/seenature/events/details.aspx?id=tcm:9-415706
Don’t forget to report any cetacean sightings you may have during your visit! www.seawatchfoundation.org.uk/sightingsform
11am – 1pmHolborn Head
A Highland Council Countryside Rangers event as part of the ‘Orca Watch’ week of events. Join the Countryside Ranger and use our telescopes to watch for whales, dolphins and porpoises in Thurso Bay from Holborn Head. Discover how to identify the different species and learn where the best sites in north Caithness/Sutherland are to see them.
Wear warm/waterproof clothing and bring binoculars if you have them. Meeting place given out on booking.
£4.50 adults, £3 concession, family £15. All children must be accompanied. Booking essential Paul Castle 01847 821531 firstname.lastname@example.org
11am – 2pmJohn O'Groats Tourist Information Centre
WDC and Sea Watch will be holding an interpretation stand outside the Tourist Information Centre. Come and have a chat to learn about the amazing creatures you can see from your local shore!
2:00 pmDunnet Head
Join RSPB staff for a guided walk looking at the puffins and other birds nesting in the seabird cities at the most northerly point on the British mainland. The walk will last approximately 1 hour and covers some uneven terrain – stout footwear is essential, as well as appropriate clothing. Children must be accompanied by an adult. Events may be cancelled in the event of persistent rain or strong winds.
Meet at RSPB Information Point, Dunnet Head car park, grid ref:ND202767. Price: RSPB members and U16′s free; Non RSPB members £5 (refundable if you join the RSPB on the day). www.rspb.org.uk/discoverandenjoynature/seenature/events/details.aspx?id=tcm:9-414042
Don’t forget to report any cetacean sightings you may have during your visit! www.seawatchfoundation.org.uk/sightingsform
1pm – 4pmSea Drift Centre
Come and learn how to observe for whales and dolphins and record your sightings to protect these amazing creatures.
For more information please contact The Scottish Conservation Officer at Shorewatch@whales.org /01343820339.
Join Orca Watch founder, Colin Bird, as he watches for orcas! You can come along for as little or as long as you like, but if you think you can offer upwards of an hour please drop us a line so we can get organised! Please dress sensibly for changeable weather and bring the food and drink you may require for the length of your watch. Please note that the nearest toilet facilities are three miles away in John O’Groats.
For further advice or to let us know you’d like to attend, please contact Anna.
Every day of the week we will be at Duncansby Head surveying for cetaceans, we would welcome volunteers to join us and also for watches to take place outside of these hours. The times of our set watches are:
Saturday 20th May 11am until 5pm
Sunday 21st May 1pm until 7pm
Monday 22nd May 1pm until 7pm
Tuesday 23rd May 9am until 5pm
Wednesday 24th May 10am until 6pm
Thursday 25th May 10am until 6pm
Friday 26th May 9am until 5pm
Saturday 27th May 10am until 6pm
Sunday 28th May 11am until 5pm.
See timetableJohn O'Groats to Orkney ferry
Ferry trips to spot orcas!
Fares: £18/19 (with transfer between port and Kirkwall). Children under 16 half price. Under 5’s, bicycles & dogs free.
Please liaise with John O’Groats Ferries to book tickets and to assure your chosen trip is going ahead. 01955 611353 or book online jogferry.co.uk. There’s a provisional timetable above and please note that on 21 May there will be departures from John O’Groats at 8.45am & 10:30am only. The 10:30 boat will dock in Lyness (Hoy) before returning at 16:30pm
4:15 pmJohn O'Groats to Hoy ferry
This is your only opportunity to sail directly to the Orkney Isle of Hoy from the Scottish mainland on the passenger ferry from John O’Groats. Join the countryside rangers either walking out to the famous ‘Old Man’ sea stack or enjoy a slightly more strenuous guided walk through the Glens of Kinnaird en route to Rackwick Bay.
Plenty of wildlife and stunning views on Hoy – hopefully whales or dolphins may be seen during the ferry crossing.
Limited numbers. Booking and pre-payment to secure places by 14th May essential (credit/debit card booking available).
£46 per person, covers ferry and bus ticket plus ranger event charge.
Further info: please contact Paul Castle on 01847 821531 or email@example.com
Booking:John O’Groats Ferry on 01955 611535 (quote ranger trip when booking).
Join RSPB staff in celebrating the wildlife of the North coast as part of Sea Watch Foundation’s Orca Watch 2017.
Meet at Dunnet Head to join the guided walk to look at the seabird colonies. Learn about the nature of the North coast and if we are lucky maybe even spot some whales or dolphins.
Dunnet Head is exposed. Suitable clothing and footwear are required. Children must be accompanied by an adult. For more details on the site visit: www.rspb.org.uk/dunnethead
Join our volunteer Orca Watch coordinator, Anna, for a watch from Strathy Point. Please dress sensibly for changeable weather and bring the food and drink you may require for the length of your watch. Please contact Anna if you would like to attend on firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
Core watch times will be published closer to the event.
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 email@example.com.
6:00 pmPultney People's Centre, Wick
Marie Mrusczok from Orca Guardians Iceland will be our guest speaker, flying in to tell us all about what she knows about the very same orcas that use Scottish waters at this time of year.
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.
As per JOG ferry timetableJohn O'Groats – Burwick
During Orcawatch, the John O’Groats Ferry is very generously offering Orca-Watchers a discounted rate on all ferry crossings.
From 26th May to 2nd June inclusive, tickets will be available to Orca-Watchers only at a flat rate of £5/journey/person . That means it’s £5 if you want to board the boat at either end and stay on the boat for the return journey, but if you’d like to get off to explore then it will be a further £5 for the second journey. Either way, it’s a bargain! There is no additional discount on this rate for children.
Orca 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.
These discounted tickets will only be on sale during Orca Watch. The details will be made available nearer to the start of Orca Watch, keep an eye here and the Orca Watch Facebook group for information on how to get them.
See the JOG ferry timetable here: http://www.jogferry.co.uk/Ferry.aspx
Photo by Fred Fermor.
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!).
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you for getting involved!
The Team at Sea Watch Foundation