Highlands & Islands

Young killer whale calf spotted off Caithness coast

Adult orcas and calf Image copyright Karen Munro
Image caption A young orange-tinged orca calf with two adults in one of Karen Munro's photographs taken from the Caithness coast

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.

Image copyright Karen Munro
Image caption The killer whales were spotted on Monday

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."

Image copyright Karen Munro
Image caption The pod moves between Iceland and Scotland to hunt and raise young

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.

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