Friday 17th May – Sunday 26th May 2019
If you were worried that you missed the opportunity to take part into the Sea Watch Foundation’s Orca Watch event this year, then never fear – The Sea Watch Foundation in collaboration with Regional Coordinators in Scotland, Orkney and Shetland, and with Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC) will be organizing their very successful 2019 event again in May 2019.
The 2019 Orca Watch event will take place on the 17th-26th May in Caithness, around the Orkney and Shetland Isles!
Sea Watch Foundation in collaboration with their former Regional Coordinator Colin Bird have been organizing an annual national recording event, the Orca Watch for the past 7 years. The idea of organizing this event originated from the possibility of underwater turbines installed in the Pentland Firth, which initiated the first seasonal watch to gather information on how killer whales use this area and what might be the consequences of such an installation. This year’s 10 day-long event will see hundreds of whale enthusiast volunteers scanning the sea of the Pentland Firth to try catch a glimpse of orcas, and any other cetacean species passing by. This annual event has been created to increase public awareness of how and when orcas utilise waters of the Pentland Firth during the summer months. This event also draws attention to the need for conservation, protection and continued research into the status, distribution, and abundance of this iconic whale species around the UK.
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.
The Sea Watch Foundation staff would like to thank in advance the following organizations that are greatly contributing to the success of this year’s Orca Watch: Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC), Scottish Natural Heritage, John O’Groats Ferries, Pulteneytown People’s Centre, RSPB wardens at Marwick Head, Sanday Development Trust, organizers of the Orkney Nature Festival, High Life Highland Countryside Rangers and Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust.
Finally, thanks to all Orca Watch volunteers who have contacted the event organizers and who are going to help making this event a great success!
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. 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, or if you want to volunteer during the event, then please contact Sea Watch Lead Organizers, on email@example.com.
Watch at Hoxa Head, Orkney
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!).
Orca Watch (Facebook): https://www.facebook.com/groups/orcawatch/
Shetland Orca Sightings (Facebook): https://www.facebook.com/groups/shetlandorcasightings/
Orkney Cetacean Sightings (Facebook): https://www.facebook.com/groups/322499874791151/
Thank you for getting involved!