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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 email@example.com.
Thank you for getting involved!
The Team at Sea Watch Foundation