For most of us, a sighting of a hedgehog or a badger would make our day – but these killer whales off the Shetland Islands offer far better bragging rights.
Residents of the islands, 104 miles north-east of John O’Groats, have taken up ‘orca chasing’ – dropping everything after getting an alert on social media so they can head to the coast and watch the magnificent mammals at play.
Wildlife groups on the islands have co-ordinated a Facebook group of 14,622 people to catalogue the creatures.
Shetland Island residents have taken up ‘orca chasing’ and go running after killer whales
Fully grown male orcas can reach 25 feet and weigh up to five tons
This pod of seven visiting killer whales, including three calves, has proven particularly photogenic – even appearing to pose for photographers who gather on the shore whenever the creatures are sighted.
Like something out of Free Willy, the hit 1993 film about the whales, the orcas are often seen breaching close to shore – a spectacular sight as males can reach 26ft and weigh five tons.
Like something out of Free Willy, the hit 1993 film about the whales, the orcas are often seen breaching close to shore
Naturalist Hugh Harrop has catalogued the orcas from Facebook group sightings and can now identify all of them from their fins and markings
The whales are generally more common in colder waters, but between May and July some visit the Shetlands, which also has two resident pods.
Naturalist Hugh Harrop has catalogued the orcas from Facebook group sightings and can now identify all of them from their fins and markings.
He said: ‘We are seeing more sightings and that is down to social media. People now have a mechanism in place to see that they are there and send an instant notification when they are around.
‘We have identified the animals and given them unique identification numbers by the shape of their dorsal fin and any scars on their bodies.’