Harbour porpoises are frequently seen all year round the coast of Orkney. This is the smallest cetacean in Orkney waters, measuring up to 1.8m in length. It is shy of revealing much of its body above water. You need to watch the surface of the sea closely for a glimpse of its back and small fin as harbour porpoises rarely leap clear of the water. It is related to the dolphin and can be distinguished by its small triangular fin, rather than the dolphin’s sickle-shaped fin. The harbour porpoise travels alone or in groups but up to 100 have been spotted coming together for an abundant food supply of fish.
Sightings of harbour porpoises have been made from the shore in Orkney including Hoxa Sound on South Ronaldsay, Rackwick on Hoy, Cantick Head on Hoy, and from Tankerness in the east mainland. But they may be spotted anywhere from the coast or while sailing on a ferry between the isles or across the Pentland Firth and frequently in Scapa Flow.
The Sea Watch Foundation lists recent sightings in Orkney on its website and welcomes reports of sightings from anyone, anytime. It holds regular annual whale and dolphin watch surveys in Orkney when the public can join experienced observers.
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