The ORCA team boarded the DFDS ship the ‘King Seaways’ at the Tyne port of North Shields. After settling in we were allowed on the bridge to survey by 7pm. During this first leg of the survey the sea state was moderate with good visibility. We ended the survey at 9pm. The only marine mammal we recorded was an Atlantic grey seal.
The following day we were back on the bridge by 7am. The sea state was moderate.
Our first sighting was of a single harbour porpoise.The team were allowed to remain on the bridge until we entered the Dutch port of Ijmuiden. One of our team members spotted a harbour seal hauled out on a rock. This species has a more ‘dog like’ face than the Atlantic grey seal.
Ourselves and other passengers were then bussed into Amsterdam where we enjoyed a few pleasurable hours before returning back to the ship at 5pm.
After the ship cast her lines and we were back surveying on the bridge at 6pm. The sea state was variable at the start of this return leg of our voyage. The sea state went as high as 7 and our visibility was sometimes affected by flurries of sleet or snow. Unfortunately, this made it difficult to spot marine mammals. We stuck it out until dusk and finished at 9pm.
The following day we entered the bridge on the final leg of our survey. We were glad to see that the sea state had moderated. Our first sighting of the day was of a harbour porpoise which was spotted by the bridge crew. Shortly after, the port observer spotted the tall falcate dorsal fin of a white-beaked dolphin slicing through the water. It crossed the bow of the ship about 150 metres ahead. It was a brief sighting. White-beaks are commonly recorded in this area.
That was about it in terms of animal sightings out at sea.The ORCA team were allowed to stay on the bridge as we entered the breakwater into the River Tyne. We know from past surveys that white-beaked and bottlenose dolphins are sometimes seen within the confines of the port so we were alert to this and sure enough a circling flock of gulls drew the attention of the port observer to a pod of 6 bottlenose dolphins which appeared to be feeding very near the harbour wall. Perhaps they were feeding on herring or similar. A short while before this a Dutch family were on a bridge visit and we had been talking to them about what we see on our North Sea surveys so they were very lucky to see these dolphins. The timing was perfect! It was their first ever sighting of dolphins.
So we ended our survey on a high note!
We would like to thank DFDS and Captain Andreas Kristensen and the bridge crew for their hospitality.
2 harbour porpoise
1 white-beaked dolphin
6 bottlenose dolphins
1 Atlantic grey seal
1 harbour seal
At sea – Gannet, fulmar, kittiwake, guillemot, razorbill, puffin, great and lesser black-backed gulls, black-headed gull, yellow-legged gull, herring gull, sandwich tern, common tern, 1 possible Manx shearwater, cormorant, Arctic skua – one chasing a petrel sp. (probably an European storm petrel), 3 red-throated divers, a flock of 20 common scoters.
On the bus to and from Amsterdam – Heron, coot, moorhen, greylag geese, mallard, shelduck, magpie, carrion crow, jackdaw.
Survey team members – Elfyn Pugh (team leader), Jonathan Holt, Janine Yarwood, Holly Hunter.