Orca Watch is one of our two annual Citizen Science events (the other one being National Whale and Dolphin Watch Week). It is a nine-day event, based in John O’Groats but with watches taking place all around Caithness and North Sutherland, and around Orkney and Shetland.
2022 saw Orca Watch return to John O’Groats, after the cancellation of the event in 2020 due to Covid-19, and a largely online event in 2021. (All the evening round-ups from 2021 – Orca Watch Live – are still available on YouTube. Just go to the Sea Watch Foundation YouTube channel. And click here to see the full report on Orca Watch 2021.)
You can read more about Orca Watch 2022 here, and check out the (unverified) sightings here. And you can also catch up with our evening roundups and our initial Evening of Talks (including a discussion about recent orca sightings in the area, and a catch up with Dr Chloe Robinson, former Sea Watch alumni now working with orca and cetacean conservation in waters around Vancouver) by going to the Sea Watch Foundation YouTube channel and looking for the Orca Watch 2022 playlist, or by clicking this link.
In the playlist. you’ll also find a recording of the final round-up show from 26th June, hosted by Sea Watch Ambassador, Robin Petch. In this programme we looked back at Orca Watch 2022, including a preliminary look at the data gathered.
If you want to know a little more about the event, click here to see the Frequently Asked Questions we put together for Orca Watch 2022.
If you are interested in joining us for Orca Watch 2023, please do sign up to our Orca Watch mailing list and be among the first to know what’s happening.
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.