Killer Whales on Yell Sound 23rd March
There was obviously a minimum of six whales seen at any one time but we, (along with other lucky observers) were almost certain that there may well have been as many as double that, given how well spread out the pod seemed to be.
Individuals 012 and 015 were both positively identified, these are regular visitors to Shetland and have been sighted almost annually in recent years; 012, who normally travels in a pod of 5-7, (013 was also thought to have been matched who also travels with this same group). She was not reported off Shetland last year but was however identified off Orkney in May. Other confirmed sightings of this individual have come from St Kilda in 2006 and off Iceland in 1999. 015, a female that was part of a large pod Andy, Volker and Brydon encountered last July off Unst. In recent years this individual has been photographed with her pod off Fair Isle, Wick and Orkney. It is very likely that this pod (of up to 10 animals), or at least some of this pod were among this sighting.
A bull in the pod showed a very similar dorsal mark to that of a very familiar and regularly encountered bull in Shetland, known as Bigga. This potentially new bull shows an almost identical dorsal mark to one from the Iceland ID catalogue, who was photographed there in 1986! With out better images of each individual however, we can not be certain.
If the positively Id’d whales were travelling with their regular respective pods, there could well have been up to 12-15 animals travelling together. It is with thanks to the outstanding and on going work carried out in the Shetland waters and beyond by Andy, Volker and their colleagues that we are slowly building a clearer picture of these awe inspiring sea-mammals.