A lucky orca enthusiast has captured some incredible photos of a newborn calf swimming with its mother off the coast of Scotland.
The orange-tinted baby was accompanied by four older killer whales as it played in the Moray Firth, near Duncansbayhead, Caithness.
Wildlife enthusiast Karen Munro, 44, travels around Scotland from her home in Thurso, Highlands, hoping to catch sight of the astonishing creatures.
She couldn’t believe her eyes on Sunday (May 9) when they came between 10 and 20 metres of where she was standing.
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A lucky orca enthusiast has captured some incredible photos of a newborn calf swimming with its mother off the coast of Scotland
ORCAS: THE LARGEST MEMBER OF THE DOLPHIN FAMILY
Orcas, commonly known as killer whales, are the largest members of the dolphin family of marine mammals.
The species is recognisable by its black body with a white underside and patches found near to each eye.
They survive on a diverse diet of fish and marine mammals, but populations specialise on certain types of prey.
Some groups will feed on nothing but fish, while others will hunt for other types of marine mammals including seals, whales and even dolphins.
Mother-of-one Karen said: ‘I’m part of a Facebook group full of orca enthusiasts like myself, where we recommend vantage points to each other.
‘I got alerted to a sighting of a pod in the Duncansbay area on Sunday, so I went up to see if I could spot them.
‘I went to two areas, but the orcas were about a mile away, so it was too far to get a decent sight of them.
‘When I went to the third spot, on a bit of a cliff, I couldn’t believe my luck when the pod came between 10 and 20 metres away.
‘They were swimming and using the tide to glide on the water.
‘I was thrilled to get such a close-up, it was a pod we don’t know a lot about.
‘It was extra special to see a young wee baby amongst it.
‘There’s a wee calf with a slightly orange tint, I would guess it’s only a couple of months old.
‘Five of us have worked together to put a catalogue together off all the orcas we spot and their markings, so it was great to get this new group added..’
Karen, who is a health surveyor, added: ‘People get a kick out of seeing the orcas.
‘They are magnificent animals, and especially to see them in the wild and not stuck in a swimming pool.
The orange-tinted baby was accompanied by four older killer whales as it played in the Moray Firth, near Duncansbayhead, Caithness
Wildlife enthusiast Karen Munro, 44, travels around Scotland from her home in Thurso, Highlands, hoping to catch sight of the astonishing creatures
‘I’m an orca enthusiast, it’s my hobby. I’ve been to Norway, and to Iceland to see them. It’s also brilliant to see the orcas are reproducing.’
The sighting comes days after a pair of killer whales named John Coe and Aquarius were spotted off the coast of Cornwall for the first time in over a decade by a group of wildlife experts.
This was the first sighting of members of the UK’s only resident population of orcas, usually based off the west coast of Scotland, travelling this far south, said the Cornwall Wildlife Trust team that spotted the pair.
The pod they belong to, known as the West Coast Community, is made up of four males, including John Coe and Aquarius, as well as four females.
The two males were spotted on Wednesday swimming off the west coast of Cornwall, near the Minack Theatre, an open air venue on the cliffs of Penzance.
The orcas were identified as part of the UK group by the shape and notches of their dorsal fins, and patches of colouration near their eyes and on their backs.
HOW WAS WIKIE THE KILLER WHALE TAUGHT TO SPEAK AND WHAT WORDS CAN SHE SAY?
A killer whale has been taught to speak human words through her blowhole.
Wikie, a 16-year-old female orca living in a French marine theme park, is able to copy words such as ‘hello’, ‘bye bye’ and ‘Amy’, as well as count to three.
Researchers tested multiple sounds in three situations. In one the whale was instructed to produce a sound to copy using gestures.
In another the sound was played through a loudspeaker and in the third a human produced the desired sound.
Each time the killer whale was able to accurately reproduce sounds.
Five sounds where orca noises that Wikie had not heard before. They were described by researchers as ‘breathy raspberry’, ‘strong raspberry’, ‘elephant’, ‘wolf’ and ‘creaking door’.
Three sounds were already familiar to Wikie – described by researchers as ‘song’, ‘blow’ and ‘birdy’.
She was also exposed to six human sounds – ‘hello’, ‘Amy’, ‘ah ha’, ‘one, two’ ‘one, two, three’ and ‘bye bye’.
In each trial, the killer whale was given a ‘do that’ hand signal by a researcher, but offered no food reward.
The recordings were rated by Wikie’s trainer and the researcher, as well as six independent observers.
Speech recognition software was also used to test how well she performed, which showed three words came close to the ‘high-quality match’ achieved by humans copying each other.
The recordings were rated by Wikie’s trainer and the researcher, as well as six independent observers. Pictured is Wikie with her calf
Wikie was able to copy all the sounds she was presented with. She managed to copy all the human produced orca sounds on her first go.
‘We found that the subject made recognisable copies of all familiar and novel conspecific and human sounds tested and did so relatively quickly (most during the first 10 trials and three in the first attempt)’, researchers wrote in the paper published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B.
‘The subject’s matching accuracy is all the more remarkable as she was able to accomplish it in response to sounds presented in-air and not in-water, the species’ usual medium for acoustic communication.
‘It is conceivable that our data represent a conservative estimate of the killer whale’s capacity for vocal imitation.’
The sounds emerge from her blowhole as parrot-like squawks, shrill whistles or raspberries, but most are easily understandable as words.
She ‘spoke’ while partially immersed in water with her blowhole exposed to the air.
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