It was the final survey of the year on the Princess Seaways, and following the storms and remains of the two hurricanes, the forecast left a lot to be desired.
Despite the forecast, the weather on the way to North Shields was good, and on boarding we were cheerfully greeted by Isle at reception.
After leaving the breakwater we were escorted to the bridge and welcomed by the captain Jesper Bern. Elated that the swell was minimal and the sea state only 4 we started our survey. The sea state gradually reduced to a 1 just as it started to get dark, but a brief sighting of a Minke whale off the port side sent us off effort happy.
The next morning we were amazed to find no whitecaps and approaching the channel for the port of Ijmuiden a couple of seals popped their heads up briefly. With rain over the land visibility reduced and just as we were about to sign off effort, a couple of harbour porpoise were spotted and just after, another seal was seen logging on the water, whilst we packed up the equipment.
We hopped on the bus into Amsterdam, the rain only getting worse, so after a coffee we all decided to spend the time differently and met back for the first bus back to the ship.
On our return to the bridge we found the sea state had worsened to a 4 with a moderate to high swell and sometimes glare, the sea state worsened until it reached a 7 and we abandoned the transect.
A bumpy night due to the storm outside meant we awoke to final transect with a heavy swell and a sea state of 4-5 most of the transect however a splash close to the ship indicated a small cetacean, breaking the surface at least 4 times. This behaviour is typical of a harbour porpoise in the North Sea so ending our survey with an unexpected sighting considering the conditions.
The varying sea conditions, better at times than we were expecting was good practice for the team getting used to the protocol and all felt they were comfortable with it on leaving the ship.
Throughout the survey a handful of migrating birds passed the ship one, which appeared to have a black and white tail, tried to land on a lifeboat but was frightened by passengers who spotted it. Several flocks of probable common scoter flew south a distance ahead of the ship and good numbers of various skuas were spotted all adding to a very enjoyable survey.
Many thanks to a very keen team for all their efforts and DFDS for this opportunity, and special thanks to Captain Jesper Bern and his very helpful, cheerful crew.
1) Minke whale
3) Harbour Porpoise
4) Unidentified seals
Birds seen from ship:-
Gannet, Cormorant, Fulmar, Great skua, Arctic Skua, Pomarine Skua, Greater black-backed gull, Lesser black-backed gull, Herring gull, Black-headed gull, Kittiwake, Manx shearwater, Comic tern, Guillemot, Eider, probable flocks of distant Common scoter, small flock of unidentified waders, Swift, 2-3 different migrating LBJ’s
Cormorant, Lesser black-backed gull, Herring gull, Black-headed gull, Egyptian geese, Buzzard, Grey heron, Marsh Harrier, Mute swan, Coot, Mallard, Feral pigeon, Great crested grebe, Starling, Magpie, Jackdaw, Carrion crow.
Mary Hill, Liz Porter, Joe Jeffcoate, Matthew Gardner