Orca Watch – the background

Our former Regional Coordinator, Colin Bird, started this annual national recording event, Orca Watch, over nine years ago and organised it on behalf of Sea Watch for a number of years. The idea for the event originated from the possibility of underwater turbines being installed in the Pentland Firth. Colin held the first seasonal watch to gather information on how killer whales (orca) 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.

With the solid foundations Colin laid, and with the help of partner organisations and supporters, over the years Orca Watch has gone from strength to strength, with record sightings in 2019. Sadly we were forced to cancel Orca Watch 2020 due to Covid, and Orca Watch 2021 was largely online. (See here). We look forward to being back again in 2022!

Orca Watch, 2015. Photo credit: Colin Bird.