Newcastle to Ijmuiden 25th-27th August Bank holiday weekend.
The team met at the terminal where we welcomed two new ORCA surveyors who were both excited and nervous at the weekend that lay before us. I reassured them that this route was perfect to start on as it is much quieter than Biscay and therefore there is plenty of time to become more familiar and confident with the protocol and recording data.
We got onto the bridge as soon as possible and were treated to a sea state 3, which soon dropped to a 2 with a moderate swell.
A few minutes after starting on effort we came to an area which had a large amount of bird feeding behaviour and diving gannets. Not surprisingly we soon had a number of sightings in quick succession. Over an hour period we had a total of 17 dolphins- probable White-beaked, but due to light conditions it was not possible to be 100% positive on identification. Although size and colour led us, by process of elimination, to record them as probable White-beaked. We also had 2 sightings of harbour porpoise.
The new surveyors really had their skills tested and did a fantastic job of following the protocol to record 9 individual sightings in an hour. We were also treated to the most beautiful full moon rise over the horizon, right in front of the ship, which was pretty spectacular to say the least! Once the light faded we departed the bridge, returning at 6.30 the following morning ready for sunrise at 6.38am.
Although we had a good sea state we only had a harbour porpoise, and round the wind farms, which can be very productive, there were no sightings at all.
As we departed Ijmuiden, and waited to access the bridge, we were lucky to spot two harbour porpoise very close to the ship, which we were able to record as incidental sightings. However, once starting our survey we realised that the Sunday British Bank Holiday weather was going to scupper our evening survey effort. Starting at a sea state 5 we quickly saw a rise to a 6, then 7. The rain started, the fog drew in and we made a hasty retreat as it quickly escalated to a sea state 8!
We were pleased (and pretty relieved!) to wake up to a much calmer sea. It was clear that it was much more conducive whale and dolphin watching conditions and yet again we had a busy hour. Lots of bird feeding, a total of 5 Minkie whales and a few harbour porpoise too. We also had two sightings of fast swimming grey seals (totalling 34 animals) which were zooming along towards the bird feeding frenzy. Quite an amazing sight.
Our final sighting of the survey, was 4 probable White-beaked dolphins at 08.57am. So, the moral of this report, never underestimate the potential of North Sea surveys!
We really did have an amazing survey, and a wonderful team, who are now really up to speed with the protocol! Many thanks to the Captain, crew and all staff on board the Princess Seaways for their help and DFDS for their continued support.
Probably White-Beaked Dolphins x 21
Minkie Whale x 5
Harbour Porpoise x 17 (Including 2 incidental sightings.)
Grey Seal x 34
Jackdaw, lesser black backed gull, black headed gull, greater black backed gull, common gull, herring gull, stock dove, rock dove, puffin, guillemot, gannet, fulmar, manx shearwater, great skua, kittiwake, curlew, mute swan, starling, grey heron, Egyptian goose, Canada goose, carrion crow, coot, moorhen, crested grebe, gadwell, magpie, mallard, sandwich tern and comic tern (Arctic/ common).
Tracy Guild, (Team Leader) Dorian Williams, Robert Black, Steph Donohue