Jul09

The week of White-Beaks

Categories // North Sea Wildlife Officer

The week of White-Beaks

Clear skies, calm seas and wonderful wildlife in the North Sea

Hello Everyone!                                                  

It’s been another fantastic week here in the North Sea. The sunshine has stayed around and along with it clear skies, calms seas and wonderful wildlife. The week started off with sightings of 12 harbour porpoises and an amazing pink sunset sailing out of Ijmuiden. But this was just the taster. The next morning, we had four white-beaked dolphins give us an amazing show right at the bow of the ship. They stayed leaping and breaching for a good minute! What a delight they were!

This was followed the next day with another pod of white-beaked dolphins, 7 this time! Even closer to the ship. They were so close that passengers were commenting on how beautiful and stark their black and white colouring was. Once again this was followed by another solo white-beaked dolphin the next day! This truly was the week of the white beaks!

White-beaked dolphins, Lagenorhynchus albirostris, are large, robust, stocky dolphins and are up to 3 meters in length They have a tall curved dark dorsal fin with a band of white markings on their flanks. Although their name suggest they have a white beak, this is not always true. They are found northerly between Europe and Canada, living in cool temperate subarctic waters, just like the North Sea. They can live for 40 years, travel at speeds of up to 45kmph and the current world population is estimated at 100,000, listed as least concern by the IUCN. White-beaked dolphins have been spotted harassing whales to make them swim faster in order to create a wake for the dolphins to swim in. Which is no surprise after seeing them jump and preform for us!

ORCA has collected over 10 years of data here in the North Sea, being our most surveyed route! This has led us to encounter the white-beaked dolphins often, leading us to conclude that North Shields maybe an important nursery ground for them. This shows just how important ORCA’s work is in highlighting critical habitats in UK and European waters for cetaceans.

So even though it was the week of the white-beaked dolphins, a quick mention has to go to the day when passengers had already been delighted by our pod of 7 white-beaked dolphins, when one wonderful minke whale popped up right on portside! What a double delight in one day!

Well what a great second week we had here in the North Sea, I have thoroughly loved my first shift. I have had amazing weather, sea conditions, wildlife and passengers. This week the Dutch school children will have their holidays. So our work here in the ORCA wildlife lounge on DFDS KING Seaways is about to get a lot busier. I wish Ingrid and our first Wildlife Officer placement, Amelia, the best of luck and I hope they have a great shift!

That’s all from me folks! When I’m back on board in 2 weeks don’t be shy, come and say hello, I’m super friendly and always keen to talk about wildlife!

Best wishes,

Sunita