Saturday 29th May – Sunday 6th June 2021
Orca Watch is a ten-day event, usually based in John O’Groats but with watches taking place all around Caithness and North Sutherland, and around Orkney and Shetland. However Covid-19 meant that Orca Watch 2020 was cancelled, and Orca Watch 2021 was held online.
All the evening round-ups – Orca Watch Live – are still available on YouTube. Just go to the Sea Watcher channel. And click here to see the full report on Orca Watch 2021.
The background to Orca Watch
In collaboration with our former Regional Coordinator, Colin Bird, we have organised this annual national recording event, Orca Watch, for the past eight years. The idea for the event originated from the possibility of underwater turbines being installed in the Pentland Firth. This possibility 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. Since then, the event has increased public awareness of how and when orcas utilise waters of the Pentland Firth during the summer months. Orca Watch also highlights 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.
Sea Watch would like to thank the following for their support of Orca Watch: John O’Groats Ferries, RSPB wardens at Marwick Head, Orkney Marine Mammal Research Initiative, High Life Highland Countryside Rangers, The Cabin at John o’Groats, Scottish Natural Heritage, Shetland Wildlife, John O’Groats Development Trust, Dunnet & Cannisbay Community Council, CNSF, NatureScot, and our Official Accommodation Partners.