Saturday 28th May – Sunday 5th June 2022
Orca Watch is one of our two citizen science events (NWDW is the other one). Running over ten days, the aim of Orca Watch is to collect as much data as possible on the whales, dolphins and porpoises in the waters around Caithness and North Sutherland, Orkney and Shetland. Among the species we regularly see are harbour porpoise and minke whales, as well as that iconic top-predator, the killer whale or orca, the species for whom Orca Watch was originally set up. (See below.) Risso’s and common dolphin may also make an appearance, and there are always seals!
Our base for the event is at John O’Groats, but watches take place all around the Orca Watch area, both from land and from the John o’Groats passenger ferry. Everyone is welcome to take part in the event (subject to any Covid-19 or related restrictions in place) to help us collect data or simply to look out for whales, dolphins and porpoises.
We also hope to hold our popular evening of Orca-related themed talks, as well as smaller events throughout the week.
It is early days in the planning process for Orca Watch 2022, so for now, please simply save the dates.
We had to cancel Orca Watch 2020 altogether, due to Covid-19. Ongoing concerns about Covid, and the potential impact of the normal event on the local population led us to restrict our physical presence in the area for Orca Watch 2021 to a very small group of local people or regular Sea Watch volunteers gathering data for us, which we then presented over the week through a series of online programmes live-streamed through YouTube. We are hoping, therefore, that 2022 will see Orca Watch back to it was pre-covid.
To get a feel for the event, check out our Sea Watcher channel on YouTube, where you can watch the programmes we put on for Orca Watch 2021. 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, over a number of 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.