The annual Orca Watch event saw a high diversity of cetacean species this year.

Every year, scientists at the Sea Watch Foundation lead a campaign to involve members of the general public in collecting records of orcas, and any other cetacean species utilising the waters of the Pentland Firth and neighbouring seas between May 17 - 26.

In Caithness, orcas were sighted on May 21 by Sea Watch volunteer observers onboard the John O’Groats ferry connecting the Caithness mainland with Orkney. A pod of four to five animals including a calf were sighted a few miles off Duncansby Head, travelling east, and then to round off the day, a bull orca was spotted at a distance heading north from Duncansby Head. Other orca sightings were reported off Burwick on May 20 when a small pod was seen. The first sighting of orcas was reported between Stroma and Switha on May 17.

Other cetacean species sighted included harbour porpoises, minke whales and Risso’s dolphins.

In Shetland, a humpback whale was spotted off Nista Skerries, Uyea.

Both Orkney and Shetland have had records of basking sharks while a family of otters was sighted at the John O’Groats harbour, in Caithness.

“We are ecstatic about the most recent sightings of orcas reported from the JOG ferries and for the many other species which were reported so far around Caithness, Orkney and Shetland!” says Dr Chiara Giulia Bertulli, Sea Watch Sightings Officer and lead organiser of this year’s event.

For over forty years, Sea Watch Foundation scientists as well as volunteer observers all around the coasts of the British Isles from Shetland to the Isles of Scilly have been reporting sightings of whales, dolphins and porpoises (cetaceans) to inform Sea Watch’s massive database of records. The scheme is one of the oldest and longest running citizen science projects in the world.