Orca Watch 2019

Friday 17th May – Sunday 26th May 2019


Designed by Josella Hunt
Designed by Josella Hunt

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!



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. 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 orcawatch@seawatchfoundation.org.uk.



Event Information:

  • Fri

    Land Watches at Duncansby Head

    Duncansby Head (Grid Reference: ND 405 733)

    Join the Sea Watch Foundation organizers and many other Orca Watchers as they watch for orcas!

    You can come along for as little or as long as you like, but if you think you can stay up to an hour let the organizers know so they can get organized!

    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 the organizers at orcawatch@seawatchfoundation.org.uk or check the Sea Watch’s Orca Watch Facebook page.

    Every day of the week the Sea Watch staff will be at Duncansby Head surveying for cetaceans and welcoming volunteers to join them and also for watches to take place outside of these hours.

    Attached is the time schedule for land-watches at Duncansby Head:

    Duncansby Head time Schedule for land-watches
    Duncansby Head – Time schedule for land-watches

    Volunteer observers will be split into two groups which will conduct independent watches from Duncansby Head.

    Each group will be given a Sea Watch Foundation’s land-watch data form to fill in, and which WOULD NEED TO BE RETURNED to the LEAD ORGANIZERS at the end of each watch, each day. Please do check this page to find out who the lead organizers are and to whom leave your data forms.

    If you have questions contact the organizers on orcawatch@seawatchfoundation.org.uk.

    Training will be provided on site!

Join the Orca Watch Team on social media:

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!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.