We met at a very busy North Shields DFDS Terminal with passengers travelling using our ferry as well as a Large Cruise liner by us. After the briefing of the necessary protocol prior to boarding the DFDS Princess Seaways we utilised the excellent crews for a superb buffet at 1630 ship`s time. Many thanks to DFDS and the welcoming crew. Sightings the weeks prior were good, with plenty of sightings of White beaked and bottlenose dolphins. The Princess Seaways doesn’t have Wildlife officers like the King Seaways but `Ilse` the enthusiastic chief receptionist (on Deck 6) had our full ORCA kit ready for us.
At North Shields it was 17°c on the coast with partial cloud cover and a light E breeze. The Sea state forecast was 3 and a 1.5 metre swell. We managed to start surveying at 19:00 CET on the bridge. The Durham coast was surprisingly quiet but we did see a manx shearwater and a few puffins. Off the North Yorkshire, we managed to see our first harbour porpoise feeding shallow below the surface. We did see another unidentified dolphin in this transect. Sad, was the sight of helium balloons resting on the sea.
The following early morning transect 2 was quiet with no sightings in a sea state 3.
We took the bus ride into the centre of Amsterdam seeing grey heron and a marsh harrier. Partial cloud cover with a warm humid day was the order of the day. First on the agenda was the an hour canal boat tour of the canals of Amsterdam, enabling us to get tremendous views of a family of Egyptian geese and screaming Rose ringed parakeets. We did the obligatory cheese purchases and a general wander taking in the sights.
Back on board the Princess Seaways we had a meal in the crew`s mess as we awaited disembarkation. We commenced effort for transect 3 at 17:45 from Deck 9 spotting 3 harbour porpoises with a high concentration of jellyfish and then went onto the bridge 30 minutes later. The sea conditions had improved to a sea state 2, the only cetacean sighting was that of a lone common dolphin feeding around a sea wrack. However the most unusual sighting was that of a probable Nathusius`s pipistrelle bat, a migratory species, flying outside the bridge. Painted lady butterflies were still evident out at sea, as well a flock of Canada geese with a barnacle goose!
Fortunately transect 4 was a sea state 3 to 2, heavy cloud. We managed to have 2 close encounters of pairs of White beaked dolphin at the bow. Then we found a lone harbour porpoise and 2 grey seals. Unfortunately we identified a moribund large whale, probable humpback, which was being fed on by gulls drifting south off the Tyne.
This was a fruitful survey, only due to a keen enthusiastic team.
I would like to thank DFDS, Captain Danial Vang and his friendly crew
Cetaceans & Mammals seen:
Harbour porpoise x7
White beaked dolphin x4
Common Dolphin x1
Large Whale moribund x1
Unidentified dolphin x1
Grey seal x5
Birdlife seen at sea:
Gannet, cormorant, shag, fulmar, manx shearwater, greater black-backed gull, lesser black-backed gull, herring gull, black-headed gull, kittiwake, common tern, sandwich tern, Arctic tern, guillemot, razorbill, puffin, swift, Canada geese and barnacle goose.
Brian Clasper,Kate Bettley,Jan Katuscak and Stevie Dudley