The team met in the terminal and we quickly boarded the DFDS Princess Seaways. We were all excited to get started, especially as this was the first ever survey for one of the team, and the first in four years for another.
We grabbed a quick dinner, before heading up to the bridge after passing the breakwater by the Tynemouth priory and castle. After weeks of fine, calm weather, we were slightly concerned about the forecast, which promised ‘force 5-7, increasing gale 8, perhaps severe gale 9 later’, but whilst the weather was a sea state 5 to 7 and challenging in terms of spotting animals, it didn’t feel too rough, which was a pleasant surprise. There was some bird activity, with the team spotting guillemots, razorbills and the odd puffin on the water, as well as fulmars, kittiwakes and gannets soaring across the waves. Sadly no cetaceans were seen during the evening as we sailed down the Yorkshire coastline toward Flamborough, but the new surveyors enjoyed being at sea and getting to grips with the protocol.
Despite rough weather overnight, we awoke bright and early on Sunday morning hoping for a more productive day. The seas had improved, dropping to a sea state 4, and the team were hopeful as we traversed through the Ijmduien and Princess Amalia wind farms. Unfortunately no cetaceans were spotted, but a member of the team did see a grey heron getting mobbed by two skuas. In Ijimduien, the team boarded the bus to Amsterdam and had an enjoyable few hours wandering around the city, buying up a vegan shop (vegan camembert, who knew?!) and sampling the Dutch speciality of apple pie. We were also impressed to see a boat cruising the canals fishing out plastic – so a big shout out to Plastic Whale who recycle all the plastic they find in the canals, making the boats they now fish from as well as high end office furniture! Their website says they welcome volunteers so this could be another option to spend the time in Amsterdam for future teams J
The sea state wasn’t ideal as we left Ijmduien, however despite the sea state 5, the team were treated to two great sightings of porpoise close to the vessel. Unfortunately the weather continued to deteriorate over the evening, eventually reaching sea state 7 and the team called it a night when the mist and rain closed in.
Back on the UK side of the North Sea, the morning greeted us with clear skies and a sea state 4, which quickly dropped to a sea state 3. Despite these improving conditions, the cetaceans were not cooperative and we had no further sightings during our trip back to Newcastle.
Despite the poor weather and lack of sightings, it was a lovely survey, with a great team. Many thanks to the Captain, bridge crew and all staff on board the Princess Seaways for their help and DFDS for their continued support.
Harbour porpoise x 4
Bird sightings (land and sea):
Gannet, guillemot, fulmar, kittiwake, razorbill, puffin, herring gull, lesser black backed gull, tern sp., cormorant, grey heron, skua sp. possible pomerine and great skua, Manx shearwater, black headed gull. Mute swan, coot, Egyptian geese, heron, crow
Rebecca Walker, Tracy Guild, Janine Yarwood and Steph Curtis