Day 4 of Orca Watch was a very exciting day in John O’Groats! Early in the morning at 7:24, eight Risso’s dolphins (including two calves!) were seen heading north at Duncansby Head. Shortly after at 8:23, a bull orca was seen from Orkney at the back of Muckle Skerry heading north. Naturally, observers flocked to Duncansby Head and, thanks to great spotting conditions (calm seas and minimal glare), a lot of marine mammals were spotted! These included:
- 8:42: 1 minke whale from Duncansby Head heading towards South Ronaldsay.
- 9:02: 8+ Risso’s dolphins with a calf from Duncansby Stacks.
- 9:02: 1 minke whale 300m from North East Skerry.
- 9:13: 2 harbour porpoise off Duncansby Head heading west.
- 9:51: 11+ Risso’s dolphins off Duncansby Head.
Finally, at 10:08, the bull orca was spotted again from the John O’Groats ferry. Thanks to the reports from our volunteers onboard, it was also visible from Duncansby Head! This individual bull is believed to be orca #18 who is often seen alone around John O’Groats. The Orca Watch organisers were lucky enough to be able to get to Duncansby Head in time and were able to help people locate the orca. It was many people’s (including my!) first ever orca sighting and it was so gratifying to see so many happy faces. Bucket list ticked!
After the excitement, the bull orca made its way back to Orkney, but between 11:00 and 14:00, plenty more Risso’s dolphins with calves were spotted in Brough Bay, Stroma Lighthouse, Staxigoe, and Latheronwheel. At 14:39, minke whales were seen again at Duncansby Head Lighthouse and Risso’s were back at Latheronwheel foraging in a group at 15:08. At 15:09, the first harbour porpoise of the day was spotted at Holborn Head.
The afternoon trip on the John O’Groats ferry saw more exciting sightings. A minke whale and a porpoise were spotted close together and another orca was reported directly in front of the ferry! The bull orca was last seen moving fast east along the east coast of Stroma. That was until 20:00 when the same bull orca was spotted from Duncansby Head! A few people (including the Orca Watch organisers) rushed over to the head and were lucky enough to see the orca and a few minke whales travelling in the sunset. It was a great end to an exciting day!
The quantity of sightings today would not have been possible without the great weather permitting ideal spotting conditions. The skies were clear, the seas were calm, and there was a light breeze. We are crossing our fingers that these conditions continue into the rest of the week!
- Mainland: Mostly sunny, with a high of 16 degrees Celsius and a low of 6 degrees Celsius. Wind 10-15 knots from the west. Sea state 1-2.
- Orkney: Sunny, with a high of 17 degrees Celsius and a low of 7 degrees Celsius. Wind 10-15 knots from the west. Sea state 1-2.
- Shetland: Mostly sunny, with a high of 18 degrees Celsius and a low of 8 degrees Celsius. Wind 10-15 knots from the west. Sea state 1-2.
Juliet Maxted/ Orca Watch Communications Manager
Claudia Afeltra/ Communications and Outreach Officer