Wonderful weather, calm conditions and the first white-beaked dolphins of the season - it's been a good week in the North Sea!
Back on board the KING Seaways for my second shift and I was straight back into the swing of doing presentations, watching out for cetaceans and chatting to all the awesome passengers on board. Some of the discussions and debates I have had, particularly after my late evening Wonder of Whales talks, have been outstanding. There are so many diverse views and opinions on different topics regarding our marine world and its brilliant to have the opportunity to talk about them with many people.
Over the weekend I was joined by one of ORCA’s survey teams, a great bunch of volunteers who managed to get some good sightings and data while they were on board. Both the survey team and I were blessed with wonderful conditions on Sunday morning, allowing sightings of harbour porpoise, a minke whale and our first white-beaked dolphins of the season! The great weather stuck around for the next couple of days granting numerous sightings of seals and harbour porpoise on both sides of the crossing, even a second possible pod of white-beaked dolphins.
On Tuesday, after a delightful, sighting filled crossing coming into Newcastle I decided to spend my free time during the day on my local patch of coastline between Sunderland and Newcastle. With plenty of birds around I even managed to spot a pod of five bottlenose dolphins heading down the coast. It just shows that even from land on a lovely calm day you can get great sightings of cetaceans as well. So get out there!
I kind of guessed the evening departure from Newcastle would be special after spotting a lone bottlenose dolphin mere minutes after leaving the breakwaters of the Tyne. I was joined on my deck watch by a group from the Dutch nature organisation Ark Nature and also a whole bunch of other wildlife obsessed passengers. With many eyes on the sea we were enjoying large numbers of gannets flying around the ship and even some groups diving at breakneck speeds. We were all taken aback when abruptly someone shouted “something just ahead!”, followed by a few seconds of silence, followed suddenly by a surfacing minke whale just 150 metres from the bow of the ship! It was an incredible encounter being so close to our most sighted whale in the North Sea. We got to see it surface a few more times before passing from view to the side with some of the passengers telling me it was the highlight of their whole two week trip away. After the excitement died down, the proximity of the whale to the ship when it first surfaced got me thinking about other, less fortunate whales in our seas that regrettably are victim to ship strikes, the act of a ship hitting into a cetacean. One of ORCA’s big focus’ is researching how these animals are affected by ship strikes, and with every bit of data collected we can help to understand and protect the cetaceans in our seas.
I feel like I have seen some of the best the North Sea has to offer this week, let’s see how I get on during the second week to come …
ORCA Wildlife Officer – North Sea