Killer whales spotted in Cornish waters as part of conservation project

October 6, 2016


Killer whales have been spotted in Cornish waters and are some of more than 2,500 different whales, dolphins and porpoises seen around the coast in just nine days.

Overall, a record 14 different species of whales and dolphins were spotted from ferries and cruise ships. A total of 2,526 individual whales, dolphins and porpoises were sighted as part of the ORCA OceanWatch, a nine-day period of recording marine wildlife from July 23 to July 31 this year.

The project, organised by UK-based whale and dolphin charity ORCA, is a conservation initiative involving seafarers in the collection of research data on whales, dolphins and porpoises that they encounter at sea. Experts say their efforts are playing an increasingly important role in raising awareness about the diversity of wildlife that can be seen in UK and European waters.

Bridge crews and ORCA volunteer marine mammal surveyors collected information on marine mammals in local waters while sailing offshore during a concentrated period of time. The findings have provided the conservation charity with a “comprehensive snapshot” of whales, dolphins and porpoises in UK and European waters.

Among the different species spotted were blue whales, pilot whales, common dolphins, Sowerby’s beaked whales and harbour porpoises. The second annual ORCA OceanWatch involved 13 commercial ferry, cruise and shipping companies including Brittany Ferries, Isles of Scilly Travel, Red Funnel, Saga, Swan Hellenic and WightLink.

Sally Hamilton, director of ORCA, said: “OceanWatch 2016 was a great success, with more vessels and partners involved than last year, building an even better picture of marine life in our oceans. Fourteen species of whales, dolphins and porpoises, collectively known as cetaceans, were sighted in six European sea regions, which is an outstanding result.

“Having the support of a variety of different ferry and cruise ship companies is vital so we can get an accurate snapshot of marine wildlife in our oceans as possible.”



Duck off! Extraordinary scenes as hungry killer whales prey on hapless sitting birds off coast of BRITAIN

July 30, 2016

Jaws of death: The inevitable is moments away as the orca appears in a riot of spray, baring its deadly teeth

There is a sinister ripple in the water… and seconds later this gaggle of eider ducks is scattered in a sudden explosion of violence.

Hunted down by a pod of hungry killer whales, the hapless ducks are a sitting target for one of nature’s most fearsome predators.

These extraordinary scenes were captured not in the wilds of the Arctic, but off the north-east coast of Scotland.

And for many of the unfortunate ducks, the looming black dorsal fin and gaping jaws of the killer whales – also known as orcas – were the last things they would see.

Wildlife photographer Guy Edwardes, who caught the dramatic confrontation on camera, said: ‘As the orcas approached, they caused the eiders to scatter.

‘They did not have time to get airborne. Some of the ducks dived and others fled to the shore – it was only those that survived.’

Mr Edwardes had been tracking the pod of orcas along the coast of Shetland’s Mainland when he got the shots.

He said: ‘They were hunting all morning and as they approached the headland, I managed to get right down to the shore.

‘There were four or five orcas in this particular pod, including an enormous male with a 5ft dorsal fin.’

The cold waters surrounding the Shetland Islands are one of best places in Britain to catch a glimpse of orcas – but an entire pod is still a rare and spectacular sight.

Although they are scarce around Britain, orcas are found in all of the world’s oceans, from the Arctic and Antarctic regions to tropical seas.

Killer whales are apex predators, as there is no animal that preys on them. They hunt in packs and can grow up to 32ft long and weight as much as ten tons.

Some orcas feed mainly on fish, others on sharks and rays, while some hunt marine mammals such as seals and dolphins. Seabirds and penguins are a tasty treat too.

They have even been known to attack large adult baleen whales.

For video of orca hunting Dolphin, look HERE


Young killer whale calf spotted off Caithness coast

May 19, 2016

Adult orcas and calf

A group of killer whales have arrived in Scottish waters from Iceland to raise a young calf and to hunt.

The pod is known in Scotland as the Northern Isles community and moves between Iceland and Scotland.

Six of the group were spotted off Duncansby Head in Caithness on Monday afternoon and were photographed by wildlife watcher Karen Munro.

Scotland also has the West Coast community, a pod of older animals and the UK’s only resident orcas.

The killer whales from Iceland include a calf thought to be only three months old.

Scientists and wildlife watchers in Iceland and Scotland are able to identify individual orca from markings on their bodies and the shape of their dorsal fins.

Ms Munro told the BBC News Scotland website: “I knew straight away as I was looking through the lens taking photos who one of the whales was as she has a very distinct notch in her dorsal, I could also tell she had a very young calf with her due its orangey colouring and size.

“The adult is known as Number 19, or Mousa to some. She spends winter in Iceland feeding on herring and was photographed there this March with her newborn calf by Marie Mrusczok in Iceland, so it is only around three months old.”

Ms Mrusczok and another Icelandic scientist, Filipa Samarra, were also able help Ms Munro and other Scottish orca watchers to identify three of the others in the group.

They included 19’s older calf who is about four-years-old.

Earlier this year, it was found that the West Coast community killer whales had lost one of their number.

A killer whale known as Lulu was discovered dead on Tiree in the Inner Hebrides on 3 January. Only eight orca are now thought to survive in the pod.


Dopey Dick, killer whale that swam into Derry in 1977, still alive and well

April 1, 2016

Whale experts discover orca they know as Comet is same killer whale that swam into Northern Irish city nearly 40 years ago

Comet the killer whale (aka Dopey Dick)

A killer whale that sparked widespread attention when it swam into a Northern Irish city almost 40 years ago is still alive and living off the west coast of Scotland, experts have found.

The whale was nicknamed Dopey Dick by locals after he made his way up the river Foyle into the heart of Derry in pursuit of salmon in 1977. He is now thought to be at least 58 and was identified when pictures of the Irish incident were compared with images taken of a pod of whales near the Isle of Skye in September 2014.

Known as Comet, the orca is part of the vulnerable west coast community whales – the UK’s only known resident population of killer whales – that are tracked by experts.

Andy Foote, a killer whale expert, said: “When I saw the photos on Facebook, I noticed that the white eye patch of Dopey Dick sloped backwards in a really distinctive fashion.

“This is a trait we see in all the west coast community whales, but it’s not that common in other killer whale populations. The photographs were all quite grainy, but it was still possible to see some of the distinctive features unique to Comet.

“I couldn’t believe it – he was already a full-grown male back in 1977, when I was just five years old.”


The Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust has been documenting the west coast community’s behaviour since 1994.

The four males and four females are not known to interact with other orca populations in the north-east Atlantic and, since studies began, have never successfully reproduced.

In January this year, one of the females, named Lulu, died after being stranded near Tiree.

The trust said the discovery that Dopey Dick was in fact Comet is significant to understanding the age of the west coast group.

Padraig Whooley, sightings officer of the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group, said: “This match places Comet very much at the upper limits of the typical life expectancy of male killer whales.

“Adult males generally live to around 30 years, but with an upper range of 50 to 60 years.

“So, clearly time is not only running out for this individual whale – it is equally running out for whale biologists, who may not have much time left to gather information on this unique local population of killer whales that have made the waters of the British Isles their home.”

Strait of Gibraltar’s killer whales are ‘unique’

February 17, 2016

Strait’s killer whales are ‘unique’

Killer whales in the Strait of Gibraltar are socially, genetically and ecologically distinct from other groups in the north Atlantic and Canaries, according to a new scientific study.

Until now, orcas in the strait had been regarded as belonging to the same social group as those around the Canary Islands.

But the new research has established that none of the strait’s resident orcas has been spotted in the Canaries, or vice versa, meaning there is no interaction between the groups.

Based on detailed study of skin and fat samples, the scientists have also established that orcas in the Strait of Gibraltar do not share the same genes or even diet as other groups in Spain or Europe.

“The orcas in the Strait of Gibraltar are unique, they are isolated and bear different characteristics to orcas in the rest of Spain and the European continent,” said Spanish cetacean conservation group CIRCE.


Dead Orca Calf Found at Sylt beach, Germany

February 8, 2016

<p>Schwertwale sind in der Nordsee eigentlich weiter im Norden zu Hause.</p>

On Monday morning, has been located at the beach Rantumer a dead, around 2.5 meters long whale. In the animal with its distinctive drawing is most probably a young orca, and Silke Lieser, diploma biologist of the adventure center of nature in List. “It’s an orca,” confirmed Thomas seal hunters Diedrichsen. In recent weeks there have been several whale standings on the North Coast.  These were, however, two sperm whales. The animal will now be transported to the Institute of Terrestrial and Aquatic Wildlife Research in Busum. There obduzieren veterinarians the animal, “to raise the biological data and to assess the state of health” as Institute director Ursula Siebert explained on request of Sylter Rundschau. That is really is a killer whale in the animal, it would not confirm. so far, they’ve finally seen only photographs of the dead whale. “It would be a very rare find in Schleswig-Holstein waters,” said Siebert.

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