Killer Whales



Or should that be Orcas? I never know. “Orcas” sounds a bit cooler, a bit like calling Great Skuas “bonxies”. But anyone calling a bonxie a bonxie outside of Shetland runs the risk of sounding like a bit of a twat. You never hear them calling Eiders “dunters” or Puffins “tammie nories”. But by their logic, they should. They’re the same wazzocks that call Icterine Warblers and Melodious Warblers “ickies” and “melodies” respectively. Someone shoot them, please.

Anyway, this wasn’t meant to be a rant about nouveau twitchers and their try-hard jargon. This is all about a great afternoon at the office. Well, not literally. This was on the way home this afternoon. As you do. I bumped into a pod of Orcas on the east side (thanks to the wonderful local grapevine) – at first mooching around lazily offshore, before motoring north at pace hunting seals.

Orca eyeball

Orca eyeball

I made it 6 animals – 1 bull, 4 females, and 1 youngster. The bull and 3 females peeled away from the other 2 to hunt more purposefully, and I managed to catch up with them again some miles up the coast. They’re being studied by a team of cetacean researchers, hence the guys in the boat alongside.



Obviously completely unphased by their watchers, they showed the full suite of classic Orca behaviour – spy-hopping, tail-slapping, rolling, and catching juicy seals.

tail slapper

tail slapper

Fabulous to watch them working the fractured coast from the shore – they went into every little bay, swimming along the rocks at the water’s edge, making sure they didn’t miss a lurking seal. Nothing random about these guys.



All the seals along the coast were heading into shallow water as fast as they could, right up to the beach edges. Seemingly these Orcas don’t do the chucking-themselves-onto-beaches thing their Southern Ocean cousins indulge in. Just as well for the families watching them at the water’s edge at times. Apparantly there are two types of Orca round Shetland – ones that eat fish, and ones that eat seals. These would be the seal-chomping kind – which reminds me of one of my all time favourite jokes…

… this baby seal walks into a club.

Ladies and gentlemen, you’ve been a lovely audience, thank you and goodnight.


2 Responses

  1. Sounds like you had a fantastic day, I bet it was a wonderful experience wasnt it?

    Brilliant photographs. Very well done.

  2. Hi Anna,

    An absolutely brilliant experience! It’s been 8 years since I last saw Killer Whales in the UK, also up here in Shetland.

    Times like that make up for all the grotty days!



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