2019-09-21 - Newcastle-Amsterdam

Survey details

Survey route: Newcastle-Amsterdam

Company: DFDS

Sea region: North Sea

Survey start date: 2019-09-21

Number of nights: 2

It was a beautiful and sunny Saturday afternoon as the team arrived at the DFDS North Shields Passenger Terminal for the survey to Ijmuiden in The Netherlands and despite the first day of Autumn being just around the corner it was so warm!
The team were in high spirits and excitedly talked about what we might see on our trip across the North Sea as we checked in and obtained our boarding passes for the King Seaways. On the days leading up to the survey, there had been numerous cetacean sightings along the east coast including a humpback whale and fin whale feeding off the coast of Filey, North Yorkshire, so we remained hopeful that we would see something as we sailed towards Holland.
On boarding the ship, we were warmly greeted by Alex, the ORCA Wildlife Officer on deck 7 and after a quick catch-up we headed to our cabins to drop off our luggage and then reconvened to head to the observation deck for departure. With a blast of her horn, the King Seaways left the Port of Tyne and headed towards the harbour mouth and entered the North Sea in a sea state 6.
The team were warmly welcomed on to the bridge by Captain Jensen and Officer of the Watch, Patrick and we started our survey in a sea state 6, scattered clouds, dry conditions and good visibility. There was a light swell which remained comfortable and the sea state decreased from 6 to 4 after an hour of being on effort which made searching for cetaceans easier. As the ship made her way down the coastline and neared Whitby, a large rorqual blow was sighted on the starboard side towards the coast. The blow was seen twice before the animal disappeared, sadly without determining a species, but could it have been the humpback or fin whale which had been seen earlier in the week? With fading light, we ended our watch and headed towards our cabins, chatting about the blows before getting a good night's sleep. 
No cetaceans were seen on the watch sailing into Ijmuiden, but the conditions had improved with a fluctuating 3-4 sea state and increased visibility which brought steady sightings of fulmar, gannet, razorbill, lesser black-backed gull and kittiwake. After visiting a few museums and a walk around a very warm and busy Amsterdam, we returned to the King Seaways to start our third watch and as we were leaving Ijmuiden, Alex and the team spotted a solitary harbour porpoise inside the sea wall from the window on deck 7! Apparently, Alex had never seen that before and as it was his final journey before disembarking in Newcastle, it made it even more memorable.
Heading out into the North Sea and back on the bridge, we were met with fantastic conditions which included a fluctuating 2-3 sea state, good visibility and no precipitation despite some dark clouds lingering over the wind farms. The sea was so calm and as the team eagerly searched for cetaceans, we spotted a single harbour porpoise swimming quickly down the portside, surfacing three times before disappearing into the wake. Our only sighting for watch 3, but a very worthwhile one.
The dark clouds that we had observed over the wind farms developed into rain overnight, but as we entered the bridge during first light on early Monday morning it had stopped, and only small puddles remained on the outside decks.  We started our final watch and as the ship sailed towards North Shields in a 2-3 sea state, fog and mist significantly reduced our recording area, which made it difficult to search for cetaceans. We did however manage to spot 4 harbour porpoise, a group of  3 individuals followed by a single animal all swimming quickly away from the ship on the portside. Success, despite the poor visibility.  
We left the bridge feeling very lucky to have had the opportunity to see these amazing animals and felt it had been a very productive and wonderful survey in some stunning weather conditions. We cannot wait to come back!

We would like to say a huge thank you to Captain Jensen, his Bridge Officers and the crew of the King Seaways for making us feel so welcome and for their hospitality, and to DFDS for their continued support of ORCA. Special thanks to Wildlife Officer Alex for his help and enthusiasm during the trip too.
Marine Mammals Seen:
Harbour Porpoise x 5
Unidentified Whale sp. (Blow) x 1 
Seabirds Seen:
Cormorant, fulmar, gannet, great skua, great black-backed gull, guillemot, gull sp, herring gull, kittiwake, lesser black-backed gull, razorbill, shag and shearwater sp.

Survey team members

Emma Howe-Andrews (Team Leader), Mike Garner, Jane Charter, Timothy Wilks

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2019-08-24 - Newcastle-Amsterdam

Survey details

Survey route: Newcastle-Amsterdam

Company: DFDS

Sea region: North Sea

Survey start date: 2019-08-24

Number of nights: 2

^ Survey Team

On the bank holiday weekend the team met at a very busy North Shields DFDS Terminal as well as passengers travelling using our ferry there was a Large Cruise liner by us. The Inspirational Netherlands transplant team who had been competing in Newcastle were onboard who got a tremendous reception on arrival in Ijmunden. After a briefing of the necessary protocol, we boarded the DFDS King Seaways being met by our Wildlife Officers, Rosamond Clay & Anika Holtrop. Incredible hard working, enthusiastic ORCA representatives who became great friends over the weekend. We then utilised the excellent crew`s mess for a superb buffet at 1630 ship`s time. Many thanks to DFDS and the welcoming crew. Sightings the week prior were good, with over 400 harbour porpoise one night and bottlenose dolphins.

At North Shields it was 24°c on the coast with blue sky cover and a light E breeze but a hazy horizon. The Sea state forecast was 3 and a 1.5 metre swell. We managed to start surveying at 16:00 GMT on the bridge. The Durham coast was surprisingly quiet but we did see 2 manx shearwaters and a few auks, 4 whimbrel, and a bonxie. Off North Yorkshire things became rather interesting. Initially we saw surging, feeding cetaceans and then due to the bright sunshine you could work out their shapes and colouration of bottlenose dolphins .They were torpedoing under the surface. After a few pods of these we then noticed a change in activity more intense feeding, smaller animals that proved to be common dolphins and then 3 large white beaked dolphins.

The night before a remarkable 29 Minke whales had been noted off Whitby. We noted the lack of them despite the plentiful food supplies.

The following early morning transect 2 was much quieter with a single harbour porpoise near the windfarms, the highlight being a purple heron flying past 5 km offshore. Back on board the King Seaways, we commenced effort for transect 3 in the evening but again it was a quiet session with 2 harbour porpoise.

Fortunately transect 4 was a sea state 2 to 1, hazy sunshine. Again the North Yorkshire coast was good with 2 distant Minke whales cruising south and then the harbour porpoise started. Semi breaching they performed for 2.5 hours, in total 47 individuals!

This was an amazing survey, due to a keen enthusiastic team.

I would like to thank DFDS, Captain Danial Vang and his friendly crew.

Cetaceans & Mammals Seen:

Harbour porpoise  51

White beaked dolphin  3

Common Dolphin   9

Bottle nosed dolphin  18

Minke Whale 3

Unidentified dolphin 12

Grey seal 1

Birdlife at Sea Seen:

Gannet, cormorant, shag, fulmar, manx shearwater x2, greater black-backed gull, lesser black-backed gull, herring gull, black-headed gull, kittiwake, common tern, sandwich tern, Arctic tern, guillemot, razorbill, puffin, purple heron, turnstone, whimbrel x4 and teal x4

^ Amsterdam

^ N/A

Survey team members

Brian Clasper,Chris Whitell, Caroline Hancock and Sarah Kane

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2019-08-02 - Newcastle-Amsterdam

Survey details

Survey route: Newcastle-Amsterdam

Company: DFDS

Sea region: North Sea

Survey start date: 2019-08-02

Number of nights: 2

The team were greeted by Alex, Wildlife Officer for the King Seaways who kindly organized a visit to the amazing ORCA wildlife centre before escorting us to the bridge. We were warmly welcomed by Captain Flemming and eagerly began the first transect at 18:20 ship’s time.

Despite good visibility and sea state of 2, the initial part of the survey remained quiet. At 19:12 our first sighting appeared of a grey seal. At 21:00, sighting was called starboard side where a Minke Whale surfaced several times swimming across the ship’s bow before disappearing. No further cetaceans were seen but the calm conditions helped make our first transect enjoyable. Birdlife included kittiwakes, fulmars, gannets and gull species. Young guillemots were frequently spotted off the Durham coast.

The early morning survey remained quiet with no sightings despite reasonable sea conditions. Birdlife included a great skewer, common terns, other gull species and cormorants as we passed the wind-farms on the approach to Ijmuiden.

The team spent time exploring an extremely busy Amsterdam where the city was hosting Amsterdam Pride 2019, with a vibrant Canal Parade of floats taking place along the main canal.

Transect 3 commenced at 17:30 with a sea state of 3-4 but good visibility. As we departed Ijmuiden, groups of feeding birds gave rise to potential cetacean presence particularly around the wind-farms but the area remained quiet.The sea state calmed to 2-1 and at 20:43, a significant splash brought the first sighting of possible harbour porpoise followed by two definite sightings of 5 harbour porpoise. The team were delighted at the presence of these shy cetaceans.

Transect 4 proved to be a most memorable survey for the team! Sea conditions were excellent with a sea state of mostly 2 periodically dropping to 1. We began surveying at 05:55 when 06:04 brought our first sighting of 3 White beaked dolphins. A further possible 7 were sighted off the Whitby area in quick succession. 07:00 brought a grey seal close to the ship followed by a single harbour porpoise.  A sudden brief sighting portside of 2 possible common dolphins were followed by two sightings of 3 harbour porpoise. Finally a single harbour porpoise was sighted at 08:20. 

The team had already signed off effort on the approach into the port harbour when Captain Flemming excitedly called us. 3 White-beaked dolphins appeared to be playing in the harbour creating much excitement with both the team and crew alike.  Although recorded as incidental, it was a wonderful ending to a great survey!  My thanks to the hard work of the ORCA team throughout the survey.

We would all like to thank Captain Flemming and the Bridge Officers for their support and allowing us onto the bridge, the DFDS staff for their hospitality and to Alex, Wildlife Officer for his help.

Marine Mammals seen:

Grey Seal x 2

Minke Whale x1

White-beaked Dolphin x 6 (three incidental sightings)

White-beaked Dolphins x 5 (possible sightings)

Common Dolphin x 2 (possible sighting)

Harbour Porpoise x 11  (2 probable, 1 possible sighting)

Birds at sea:

Gannet, kittiwake, fulmar, guillemot, Manx shearwater, great and lesser black-backed gull, herring gull, black-headed gull, common tern, cormorant, oystercatcher, great skewer.

Birds on land:

Brent geese, mute swan, coot, mallard, jackdaw, crows, little grebe.

Survey team members

Christine Jones, Team Leader, Giorgia Farne, Stuart Barnes, Richard Bull

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