Orca and calf spotted near Island Bay in Wellington

October 27, 2016

An orca and her calf in Island Bay on Thursday.

An orca and its calf provided an unexpected highlight for a Wellington woman’s sightseeing tour on Thursday.

The woman was showing a friend around the city on Thursday afternoon when she spotted the killer whales in calm waters off Island Bay.

The mother and calf were seen resting before continuing their journey south via Owhiro Bay.

An orca and her calf in Island Bay on Thursday.

Source: www.stuff.co.nz

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Orcas seen preying on seals in the Moray Firth

October 13, 2016

A group of killer whales could have departed their traditional hunting grounds in the waters of Orkney and Shetland to prey on seals in the Moray Firth.

Data from the Cetacean Research and Rescue Unit, a north-east organisation, dedicated to the study and preservation of marine mammals, such as dolphins, porpoises and whales, has highlighted that sightings of orcas have spiralled in the waters between Moray and the north since 2001.

The group spotted only around four of the creatures along the northern and southern coasts of the firth 15 years ago, but by 2015, that number had shot up to 34 definite sightings.

In a research paper, published in the scientific journal Aquatic Mammals, the CRRU indicated there had been a total of 143 confirmed sightings during the 14-year period, with a total of 18 individual whales identified.

The work highlighted a number of potential factors behind the surge in activity, including the rise of online social networks and the number of people actively looking for the animals.

The authors of the report added that one of the possible reasons for the increase in killer whale sightings in the Moray Firth could be due to a drop in the population of common seals in Orkney and Shetland.

They stated: “The observed increase in Orca (killer whale) sightings in the Moray Firth from 2001 to 2015 also coincides with the exaggerated decline in P. vitulina (common seal) populations in Shetland and Orkney during this period, as whales are perhaps compelled to move further south in search of this pinniped quarry.”

In addition to seals, the researchers also observed the predators feeding on smaller cetaceans, and even seabirds like ducks.

The CRRU, which has been saving marine life in the region for more than 20 years, will use its insights into the Scottish orcas to increase efforts to preserve the species.

As a recognised charity, the CRRU depends on significant support from the public to carry out its research and life-saving rescue missions.

To find out more, visit http://www.crru.org.uk

Source: Press and Journal.co.uk

Killer whales spotted in Cornish waters as part of conservation project

October 6, 2016

killerwhales

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.”

Source: Cornwallive.com

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

Source: dailymail.co.uk

Heart-racing moment a plucky mammal escapes an onrushing orca by swimming into the Shetland shallows

July 27, 2016

Heart-racing video footage shows a seal’s close call with an onrushing orca hunting off the Shetland Islands.

The seal survives by swimming into the shallows seconds before the killer whale can catch up.

Island resident James Adamson, from Sumburgh, captured the close encounter while whale watching off the coast of Levenwick.

At the start of the video the seal appears oblivious to the master predator racing up behind it.

But quick as a flash it darts around and heads to safer waters.

See the Video for yourself Here

Source: http://www.dailymail.co.uk

July 23, 2016

Orcas spotted from the ferry between Lerwick and Aberdeen

An orca expert has said recent killer whale visitors to Shetland are regulars in the summers.

Dr Andy Foote has been instrumental in setting up the North Atlantic Killer Whale ID (NAKID) project, which gathers knowledge on the movements and behaviour of individual animals.

Dr Foote, who now works on the genomics of killer whales at the University of Bern in Switzerland, said he could easily identify individual whales in photos taken over the last few days.

The predators have been watched by hundreds of delighted islanders and visitors over the last three days as the mammals came close in to hunt at Sumburgh, Gulberwick, Lerwick and South Nesting.

Tour operator Hugh Harrop of Shetland Wildlife said there was “an enigma” about killer whales that made them so attractive to watch, similar to other top of the food chain predators such as polar bears.

“We know very little about them and it is one of the ultimate animals to see in the wild,” he said.

Dr Foote said that most of the groups of killer whales seen around Shetland return to the isles each summer.

“We also know that some groups are spending the winter in Iceland feeding on herring before moving back to the northern isles and Caithness in the summer,” he said.

During fieldwork in 2008 and 2009, Dr Foote, then a PhD student at Aberdeen University, spent summer months in Shetland compiling an ID database of the killer whales roaming these northern waters.

And he confirmed that a photo of two orca calves in one pod, taken by on Tuesday at Sumburgh, was an unusual sight due to the small group sizes more commonly found in Scottish waters.

Source: PressAndJournal.co.uk

Killer whale known as ‘John Coe’ spotted off Kerry coast

June 30, 2016

A killer whale has been spotted off the coast of west Kerry. The whale, known as W01 ‘John Coe’ and who is easily recognisable by the large notch on the base of his dorsal fin, was spotted on Monday afternoon in the waters off the Slea Head Peninsula.

The appearance of the killer whale, or Orcinus orcs, follows an early season of sightings off the coast of west Kerry, with as many as eight humpback whales recorded on a single day in mid May as well as appearances from a number of minke whales.

While the appearance of a killer whale in Irish waters is not unheard of, it remains an uncommon occurrence.

John Coe was first photographed off the Scottish Hebrides 33 years ago and has been spotted in Irish waters a handful of times over the past 12 years.

The first time he was seen was in May 2009 off Annagh Head in Co Mayo and since then he has appeared off Co Cork, Co Down, Co Donegal, Co Antrim and Co Kerry.

Before Monday’s sighting, John Coe had been last seen off the coast of Co Mayo in July 2013.

John Coe was already an adult whale when first spotted in 1983 and is considered very old for his species.

In the images taken by local Kerry photographers on Monday it’s noted that John Coe was swimming alone.

He has previously been seen travelling with at least one other member of his pod (family group) and is usually accompanied by a female known as Nicola W03.

The Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) has warned of its “grave concerns” for the future of John Coe’s pod whose territory extends into Irish water.

“One major concern is that it is many years since there has been any new additions to this group, and zero recruitment means that this group will ultimately die off; something which would be of great loss to our marine biodiversity,” said the IWDG.

Source: irishtimes

There’s been a sighting of two killer whales – or orcas – off the coast of Cornwall

June 10, 2016

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Two killer whales have been spotted off the south coast of Cornwall.

The pair of orcas were sighted in Gerrans Bay, near Portscatho on the Roseland peninsula on Wednesday.

A sighting of two fins and one of the creatures breaching clear of the water was reported to Cornwall Wildlife Trust’s Seaquest Southwest Project.

The Wildlife Trust said: “We’ve had a report of 2 Orca (yes, ORCA!!) in Gerrans Bay on the south coast yesterday – 2 big fins and one breached clear out of the water!

“We’re so excited about this sighting, and would love to get some photos of these animals if they’re still around. So why not head to the cliffs, keep your eyes on the sea and your camera by your side.”

Sightings of orcas in the UK are rare but there the Trust says they has been plenty of cetacean activity recently, so there could be a lot of food around for them.

Orcas have been spotted off the south coast of Cornwall before – by a kayaker near Mevagissey.

A mother and calf were also spotted near Padstow in 2011, which led to warnings to people to stay out of the water.

However, some members of the public have questioned whether this week’s sighting may actually have been Risso’s Dolphins, like these, which were shared on the Trust’s Facebook page by Claire Whetter.

Video

Source: westbriton.co.uk

Orcas threatened by oil transfer plans, says MSP Finnie

May 30, 2016

orcas big-K2000

Shetland’s migratory killer whales have made their annual trip into the Moray Firth, where they could be put at risk if controversial plans to allow ship-to-ship oil transfers are given the go-ahead.

That is the view of Highlands and Islands Green MSP John Finnie, who has been campaigning to stop the proposal and has pressed the Scottish government for details of the dangers posed by the oil transfers.

The pod of six orcas, including a new-born calf, is known as the Northern Isles community. The family migrates between Iceland and the Moray Firth each year, and would be vulnerable to any oil spill in the firth resulting from ship-to-ship transfer operations.

Mr Finnie urged the new minister for environment, climate change and land reform, Roseanna Cunningham, to make the Scottish government’s position clear.

Cromarty Firth Port Authority has applied for a licence for the risky ship-to-ship procedure, in which oil is transferred between vessels in the open sea rather than secured in a harbour. The application is presently being considered by the UK’s Maritime and Coastguard Agency.

Mr Finnie said the Scottish Greens had a strong track record in protecting coastal communities from ship-to-ship plans.

A three-year campaign by Green MSPs to halt similar plans in the Firth of Forth ended in victory when Forth Ports PLC dropped their proposal in 2008.

Mr Finnie launched the Save Our Dolphins campaign in response to the Moray Firth plan in January this year, his petition receiving over 3,700 signatures.

He said: “The orcas are a highlight of Shetland’s spectacular marine life. They help bring visitors to the islands, and joy to the islanders.

“It’s terrible to think of these extraordinary animals being put in danger for the sake of unnecessary ship-to-ship oil transfers in the Moray Firth.

“Oil transfers are already carried out safely in the relative shelter of Nigg harbour; there’s no need to take chances with risky ship-to-ship operations in the open sea.

“I’m trying to find out whether the Scottish government understands the threat to Shetland’s orcas, and to the wider marine environment.

“If it does, I hope new environment minister Roseanna Cunningham will break the silence that her predecessor inexplicably maintained on the issue, and join the opposition to the proposal.

“Green MSPs have beaten ship-to-ship plans once before, in the Firth of Forth. With your help we can do it again: please sign the petition at http://bit.ly/SaveOurDolphins.”

Source: shetlandtimes.co.uk

Killer whales from Iceland spotted in Moray Firth, Scottland

May 25, 2016

Killer whales off the coast of Moray. Pictures: Pippa Low, North 58 Sea Adventures

A POD of six killer whales from Iceland has been spotted in the Moray Firth.

The animals were photographed by a local boat trip crew near Covesea on Monday, marking the most southerly point off Scotland’s east coast where Icelandic orcas have ever been seen.

At least three of the animals, which are members of the dolphin family rather than whales, were individuals known to conservationists.
The unexpected appearance occurred during the annual Orca Watch, organised by the research charity Sea Watch Foundation (SWF).

The operation is carefully planned to coincide with the arrival of killer whales in the Pentland Firth and allows the team to collect data about orcas and other cetaceans that visit these northerly waters.

However, the Icelandic pod surfaced more than 60 miles to the south of the strait that divides Orkney from mainland Scotland, witnessed by SWF’s Alan Airey.

The surprise occurrence sparked a huge response on social media, with representatives of the Icelandic Orca Project confirming that three of the animals had been officially catalogued there.

Killer whales can be seen in several locations around Scotland. Those seen off northern and eastern coasts are migratory, following mackerel and herring shoals.

On the other side of the country is a small group of nine animals that are resident all year round. Known as the West Coast Community, they do not interact with the migratory pods and have never produced any offspring.

“Although this sighting is now the furthest south that individuals from the Icelandic population have been confirmed, other killer whale sightings have occurred in the Moray Firth and further south on many occasions,” said SWF sighting officer Kathy James.

SWF founder and director Dr Peter Evans added: “Members of a pod that has numbered up to 14 can be seen annually around the Hebrides of west Scotland, mainly in summer.

“The most famous of these is a mature male nicknamed John Coe that we have observed since at least 1980. It has a distinct nick towards the base of the dorsal fin, making it instantly recognisable, and a chunk out of its tail – possibly a shark bite. Sightings of John Coe have ranged from the Hebrides over to East Scotland, south to the northwest coast of Ireland and well into the Irish Sea off west Wales.”

Source: Scotsman.com

This is the moment a lifeboat team from the North-east came face-to-face with killer whales.

The Peterhead Lifeboat team were returning from Inverness when the four crew members on board came across the whales at Kinnaird Head at Fraserburgh.

Wild killer whales are not considered to be a threat to humans, but there have been cases of them killing or injuring their handlers at marine theme parks.

The whales, thought to be Icelandic, are most commonly found in western North America, Patagonia, Norway, and New Zealand.

Peterhead lifeboat mechanic Alistair Wilson, who was on board, said: “At one point they were right beside the nose of the boat.

“This is the first time I have spotted them in this area.

“It was a very pleasant moment and we took time to take a couple of photos and to watch them at work.”

He added: “These small sightings are very pleasant and it’s very encouraging they want to be in the North-east.”

Source: EveningExpress.co.uk