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Ivan relishes close encounter with orcas

Whalsay-based photographer Ivan Reid captured a great series of photos of the orcas on Wednesday morning.

A POD containing two large killer whales and three smaller calves were spotted off the west of Whalsay on Wednesday morning – the latest in a flurry of orcas sightings in the islands this summer.

Whalsay-based photographer Ivan Reid was able to capture some great photos of the killer whales, which he said were first spotted on the east side of the Calf of Linga, an island situated within Symbister Harbour.

Ivan, who works for the SIC’s inter-island ferry service, said the whales then proceeded north west between the islands of Bruceholm and Hunderholm, heading into a bight off the Shetland mainland called Bunnydale.

While he had seen killer whales many times before, Ivan said it was a great experience to observe them up close and personal. Photo: Ivan Reid

“There the whales frolicked around, breaching and playing, swimming upside down,” he said.

“One of the times the whale came up I could feel the spray from the whale blowing – that was how close I got.”

One of his photos captures a whale grabbing a seabird, possibly a razorbill, for a snack.

The mammals then headed south around Hunderholm before making their way towards Nesting and Lerwick along the east coast.

Ivan, who was taking pictures from his 20-foot angling boat the ‘Impulse’ after workers on the Whalsay ferry alerted him to their presence, said the whales were travelling at a speed of around 6-7 knots.

“I have seen the whales plenty of times from my workplace aboard the ferries, but it’s always good to see a closer view to watch what they get up to,” he said.

At one stage he lost sight of the orcas and thought they had gone, only to see two of the bigger whales under the water: “It seemed as if they were coming for the boat at pace, but they veered off and went under out of sight just feet from the boat side,” Ivan added.

There were a huge number of killer whale sightings in July, and the mammals have continued to patrol the Shetland coastline in recent weeks.

Killer whale expert Dr Andy Foote told Shetland News that two pods of ten animals are regular summer visitors to our shores. A Facebook group set up by Hugh Harrop of Shetland Wildlife to report sightings now has over 5,000 members.

One of the killer whales grabbed a seabird - possibly a razorbill - for a snack. Photo: Ivan Reid