The ORCA team met with great anticipation and excitement for the North Sea survey on board the DFDS Princess Seaways. This was to be the first ORCA survey for two members of the team providing a great opportunity to gain first hand experience of the survey protocol.
Whilst waiting on deck 6 to be escorted to the bridge, 4 dolphins fast swimming portside were sighted by two members of the team, creating a great deal of excitement.The key identifying features noted for this incidental sighting indicated that the cetaceans were probable white-beaked dolphins. The sighting provided a good opportunity for the newer surveyors to focus on their ID skills together with the more experienced team members. A great start to the trip!
Captain Jesper Bern welcomed the team onto the bridge. Weather conditions remained sunny and dry with a light swell and sea state 3-4. A single harbour porpoise was the only cetacean sighted during this transect. With fading light and the increased sea state, surveying became more challenging as sunset was fast approaching.The team were delighted to spot a range of birdlife, which included kittiwake, juvenile and adult gannets, great skewer and the soaring Manx shearwater. A flock of possible dunlins flew by while a migrating female wheatear was spotted on the bridge area.
Despite a single sighting only, the North Sea’s changing light throughout the evening and the sunset was a pleasure to watch adding to the survey experience.
The early morning survey passed all too quickly due to the later sunrise. Conditions were challenging at times with a sea state of 4, moderate swell and strong glare. Although no cetaceans were sighted, spirits remained positive as the ship prepared to dock in Ijmuiden port.
After exploring Amsterdam city, the team were ready to embark and commence the next transect. Sea state ranged between 2-3 with good visibility. A strong glare persisted portside. As we departed Ijmuiden, groups of feeding birds gave rise to a potential cetacean presence but despite the teams best efforts, no cetaceans were sighted throughout the watch. Again, the team agreed the survey experience proved invaluable with the newer surveyors feeling confident with the protocol.
The final morning brought an increased sea state of 5-4 with moderate swell. Suddenly, at 07:38, several large splashes starboard ahead cued a breaching Minke whale, which appeared to be feeding. The Minke resurfaced but quickly disappeared from view – an amazing sighting which was to be the only cetacean seen during this final watch.
The team agreed that the trip had been a very enjoyable experience and a valuable learning platform for the newer surveyors. We would like to thank Captain Jesper Bern and the Bridge Officers for welcoming us onto the bridge and extend our thanks to all the DFDS staff for their kind support during our time onboard the Princess.
White-beaked dolphin x 4 (incidental sighting)
Harbour porpoise x 1
Minke whale x 1
Birds at sea:
Gannet, kittiwake, fulmar, great skewer, manx shearwater, cory’s shearwater, cormorant, guillemot, great and lesser black-backed gull, herring gull dunlins, wheatear (on ship).
Birds on land (Amsterdam)
Coot, mute swan, hooded crow, kestrel, swift, grey heron, little grebe, Egyptian goose.
Christine Jones (Team Leader), Kathleen Neri, Rebecca Ball, Patricia Martin.