Highlands & Islands

Orcas photographed off Caithness

Orcas Mousa and Tide passing below Dunnet Head Image copyright Karen Munro
Image caption Orcas known as Mousa and Tide pictured off Dunnet Head

Orcas that spend winter off Iceland have been pictured from the north Caithness coast.

The animals arrive in Scottish waters to hunt and raise young.

Wildlife photographer Karen Munro got her images of the orcas while on a trip on Sunday to spot whales and dolphins.

She spotted the orcas at a distance from Strathy Point in Sutherland and later along the coast, and closer to the shore, from Forss and Dunnet Head in Caithness.

The orcas can be identified by distinguishing features, such as the markings on their bodies and notches in their fins.

Orca Tide off Forss Image copyright Karen Munro
Image caption An orca, called Tide by conservationists, photographed from Forss in Caithness

Ms Munro said she spotted an orca known to conservationists as Mousa, her five-year-old calf Summer and one-and-a-half-year-old calf Tide.

There were two other orcas, including a large bull.

The wildlife enthusiast was able to follow the animals along the coast, even being able to see them from near her home in Scrabster, near Thurso.

She said: "They continued on their journey and went into Dunnet Bay.

"Just before 21:00 they came in directly below Dunnet Head, much to the delight of a small crowd waiting for them.

"After nine hours of following their journey along the north coast, I left them heading east into the Pentland Firth."

Male orca off Dunnet Head Image copyright Karen Munro
Image caption Karen Munro took this image of a male from Dunnet Head

She said another six orcas were also seen on Sunday close to Duncansby Head in Caithness, including animals known as The Hulk and Nott.

Ms Munro said: "The Hulk and Nott are also animals who travel to Iceland every winter and are often in the company of Mousa's pod which I saw.

"After a year of trying to find a good enough photo to confirm it, this weekend was the first time Marie Mrusczok of Orca Guardians, West Iceland, was able to confirm Nott being in Scotland after seeing photos taken by one of my fellow watchers Peter Hazelhurst."

She added: "It was a truly wonderful day.

"No matter how often I see these magnificent creatures, they never fail me to amaze me."

All images are copyrighted.

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