Survey Reports

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