THE SeaWatch Foundation’s annual Orca Watch Week returns to the Pentland Firth at the end of this month with hundreds of whale enthusiasts hoping to witness the passage of killer whales close to shore.
“We are so lucky in Caithness to be able to sight different cetacean species so close to shore,” said Anna Jemmett, Sea Watch Foundation’s regional co-ordinator and organiser of this year’s event which runs from Saturday, May 26, to Saturday, June 2.
The scientists at SeaWatch say they are delighted by the pictures the public are posting on social media as their works thrives off the engagement of the public in reporting sightings of whales and dolphins – collectively termed cetaceans – from all around the UK.
With the installation of MeyGen’s underwater turbines in the Pentland Firth, a decision was made to establish a seasonal watch to gather information on how killer whales use this area and any effects on their behaviour.
Members of the public are invited to join the dedicated volunteers for watches throughout Orca Watch Week. Observers will be stationed at the main viewpoint of Duncansby Head and also on board the John O’Groats ferry.
This is an open event and anyone interested is welcome to attend the organised land watches at any time during the day. But people are encouraged to look out for whales and collate sightings anywhere else along the coast and to send details to SeaWatch.
Sightings should be reported at www.seawatchfoundation.org.uk/sightingsform
Ms Jemmett said: “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.”
The north coast of Scotland is one of the best places to see cetaceans and many seabird species in the UK. As well as orca, the minke whale and humpback whale, Risso’s, common and white-beaked dolphins and the harbour porpoise can sometimes be seen from the shore.
Bird aficionados can look forward to sightings of razorbills, puffins, fulmars, great skuas and terns
If you live locally and want to organise your own land or boat watch the recording forms can be found online at www.seawatchfoundation.org.uk/recording-and-submitting-sightings
There will be an evening of whale talks on May 26 at 7pm at the Pulteney Centre in Wick during the Orca Watch Week. 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 will give an insight into the seasonal movements of orcas between Iceland and Scotland.