There’s less than a week to go until Orca Watch, wristbands are ready, map locations have been finalised, and we are looking forward to meet you all in Caithness, Orkney and Shetland between May 26th and June 2nd!
Stunning close-up images and video footage of killer whales have recently been reported on social media. Observers in Scotland and Shetland have been witnessing orcas travelling very close to the shore, and lucky ferry passengers were amazed to spot them frolicking in the waters in the River Clyde. The scientists at Sea Watch Foundation are very pleased to realize how positively the general public responds to these encounters and how much they enjoy getting involved in reporting sightings of whales, dolphins and porpoises around the UK. The time and dedication our volunteer sea watchers have spent searching for these species and the subsequent reporting of sightings have allowed the Sea Watch Foundation to improve the knowledge and understanding about the population status of local cetacean species around the British Isles. The Sea Watch Foundation is very proud of the time, energy and effort, that has gone into reporting public sightings which are the backbone of their national database which spans over four decades.
At the end of May, the Pentland Firth welcomes back the charity’s annual Orca Watch event during which the North coast is visited by hundreds of whale enthusiasts, tourists and local media wanting to witness the passage of killer whales close to shore.
Now in its 7th year this event originated from the collaboration between Sea Watch Foundation and their Regional Coordinator Colin Bird. With the possibility of underwater turbines installed in the area, a decision was made to establish a seasonal watch to gather information on how killer whales use this area and what might be the consequences of such an installation. The 2018 event takes place from May 26th to June 2nd where people from all walks of life are invited to join the dedicated volunteers for watches throughout this time. There will be observers stationed at Duncansby Head, the main view point, but people will also conduct watches in Orkney and Shetland (times and locations can be found online at www.seawatchfoundation.org.uk/orca-watch-2018/). There will also be observers onboard the John O’Groats ferry connecting mainland to Orkney. This is an open event and anyone interested is welcome to reach the organized land watches at any time during the day, but people are also free to look out for whales and collate sightings anywhere else along the coast, and of course if they see anything, Sea Watch would love to hear about it! Sightings should be reported here www.seawatchfoundation.org.uk/sightingsform.
“We are so lucky in Caithness to be able to sight different cetacean species so close to shore!” says Anna Jemmett, Sea Watch regional coordinator and lead volunteer and organiser of this year’s event.
“For me, Orca Watch Week is about involving people and allowing them to experience something they never though they could be part of, it is about collecting vital data for the protection and conservation of orcas and other local cetacean species, and it is about sharing this magical event with people from all other the country and have fun all together!” continues Anna.
The north coast of Scotland is one of the best places to see whales, dolphins, porpoise and many different seabird species in the UK. As well as the orca, many other species of whale and dolphin can be seen from the shore including the common minke and humpback whale, Risso’s, common and white-beaked dolphins and the harbour porpoise. For the bird aficionados, sightings of razorbills, puffins, fulmars, great skuas, and terns are possible too. If you live locally and want to organize your own land or boat watches the recording forms can be found online (www.seawatchfoundation.org.uk/recording-and-submitting-sightings) and please get in touch with Sea Watch if you have any questions about it.
Sea Watch Foundation is also very proud to announce an evening of whale talks on May 26th at 7 pm, at the Pultney Peoples Centre in Wick during the Orca watch. The guest speaker for the evening is Marie Mrusczok from Orca Guardians, an independent conservation non-profit dedicated to the protection of orcas in Iceland, who is going to provide valuable insight into the seasonal movements of orcas between Iceland and Scotland.