MInke Whale

Whales and Dolphins; NEWT’s North Sea Pelagic 31/08/13

by on Sep.03, 2013, under Birdwatching, Grey Seal, MInke Whale, North Sea, Northumberland, White-beaked Dolphin

Our annual Whale and Dolphin Cruise on Glad Tidings V is one of the highlights of our North Sea Pelagic programme.  With over 40 people booked on to this year’s sailing, we were going to need to be organised and efficient getting everyone on to the boat – luckily I’m married to Sarah, so organisation and efficiency just seem to happen to me 🙂

Saturday was also the first day of our Whales, Waders and Wildfowl holiday, so I collected Bill from The Swan and we drove north, pausing in Amble to collect Ruth as we passed through.  Warm, sunny, windy and with plenty of whitecaps offshore were conditions that could make finding cetaceans tricky.  As we sailed south we came across a raft of Gannets, Sooty and Manx Shearwaters and plenty of Grey Seals ‘bottling’ amongst them.  There wasn’t any sort of feeding activity of note though, but eventually we managed brief views of a small group of Harbour Porpoise nearby.  Continuing on our way, there was a sighting of Minke Whale from the front of the boat…just as I watched a White-beaked Dolphin breaching away to the east 🙂  Eventually we had seven or eight dolphins around the boat, allowing everyone on board the opportunity to enjoy close views of our favourite cetacean.  As we made our way slowly back towards Seahouses, two more Minke Whales appeared and we’d struck gold, silver and bronze in one trip 🙂

Northern Gannet,Morus bassanus,North Sea,Northumberland,North Sea Pelagics,whale watching, dolphin watching,whale watching Northumberland,dolphin watching Northumberland

Northern Gannet,Morus bassanus,North Sea,Northumberland,North Sea Pelagics,whale watching, dolphin watching,whale watching Northumberland,dolphin watching Northumberland

Grey Seal,Halichoerus grypus,North Sea,Northumberland,North Sea Pelagics,whale watching, dolphin watching,whale watching Northumberland,dolphin watching Northumberland

White-beaked Dolphin,Lagenorhynchus albirostris,North Sea,Northumberland,North Sea Pelagics,whale watching, dolphin watching,whale watching Northumberland,dolphin watching Northumberland

White-beaked Dolphin,Lagenorhynchus albirostris,North Sea,Northumberland,North Sea Pelagics,whale watching, dolphin watching,whale watching Northumberland,dolphin watching Northumberland

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Supporting cast; NEWT’s North Sea Pelagic 19/07/2013

by on Aug.06, 2013, under Birdwatching, Grey Seal, MInke Whale, North Sea, Northumberland, Northumberland Coast, White-beaked Dolphin

In late July there are a few species that we’d be amazed to not find on a North Sea pelagic trip; Guillemot, Razorbill, Puffin, Kittiwake, Fulmar and Gannet are all great birds to see, and are all part of the experience that is the North Sea in mid-summer.  There are other species that can overshadow the regular cast list though; Sooty Shearwater is a real ‘birders bird’, close views of any of the skuas grab the attention and, with seabirds covering such vast distances, there’s always the possibility of something completely unexpected.  But, for crowd-pleasing spectacular there’s little that can compete with our marine mammals.  Grey Seals often pop their heads up as we pass, but the real awe-inspiring species are whales and dolphinsOur previous pelagic had been illuminated by Minke Whales but on this trip we were confident of finding a different species.  Ten years of finding, studying, and mapping the distribution of, White-beaked Dolphins gives us a narrow target area to search in the third week in July…

As we headed north, a shout from Jimmy alerted everyone to the presence of a small pod of dolphins ahead of us.  Sure enough, the White-beaked Dolphins came across to investigate our boat and we soon had 12 of them around us 🙂  Once I was sure that everyone had seen them – which didn’t take too long! – I waited for them to surface alongside us so that I could take photographs of their dorsal fins.  Through a combination of NEWT pelagic trips and survey work for the North East Cetacean Project, we’ve built up a catalogue of individual White-beaked Dolphins off the Northumberland coast.  Having been the first pelagic tour operator to regularly find White-beaked Dolphins off the Northumberland coast, and the only one to have contributed to the Marine Conservation Zones project, we’re proud to have been involved in leading the way in groundbreaking research to map the distribution and abundance of White-beaked Dolphins. We’d like to thank all of our clients who’ve contributed, and continue to contribute, to the catalogue too 🙂

Of course, dolphin dorsal fin images aren’t the most exciting shots you can get, and the glassy calm water produced lots of other interesting possibilities…

White-beaked Dolphin,Lagenorhynchus albirostris,Northumberland,North Sea,North Sea pelagics,dolphin watching Northumberland,whale watching Northumberland

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Mirror-calm

by on Aug.05, 2013, under Birdwatching, Druridge Bay, MInke Whale, Northumberland, Otter, Southeast Northumberland, White-beaked Dolphin

As I collected Carol and Howard from their holiday accommodation in Alnwick, the bright afternoon sunshine was going to make viewing conditions difficult for the first few hours.  The plan for the afternoon and evening was the one that has worked so well for us in mid-July previously; birdwatching around Druridge Bay, a quick scan of the sea while we have our picnic stop, then settle down to enjoy the wildlife that makes its appearance as daylight fades.

Little Egrets were the highlight of the first section of the afternoon, but what came next was so astonishing that I was lost for words…

As we arrived at our picnic spot, overlooking the North Sea, I was amazed to see that the sea was absolutely mirror-calm;  not a ripple or wave as far as the eye could see.  We’d only just started our soup and sandwiches when the mirror was shattered…by a White-beaked Dolphin 🙂  Many of our encounters with dolphins are small groups of animals that are travelling from one spot to another. Not this time though, as another three appeared next to the first one and they spent nearly an hour in the one small area, along with another eight animals in three small groups.  We watched them breaching, and circling in one tight area, presumably over a food source.  The most remarkable thing though, was that the sea was so flat that we could see the tell-tale fluke prints when they were just beneath the surface.  As the groups moved a little way, we knew exactly where they were going to surface next.  Now, watching dolphins in Northumberland waters is “something really special” ((c) Joanne, one of our regular North Sea pelagic clients) and the only way to top it is…to watch a Minke Whale surfacing just beyond the dolphins at the same time!  Awesome 🙂

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A Whale of a time; NEWT’s North Sea Pelagic 12/07/13 Part 2

by on Jul.17, 2013, under Birdwatching, MInke Whale, North Sea, Northumberland

It was a chance I wasn’t going to miss; I was on the PV St Oswald, we were about to pass the SarahJFK in the River Tyne at North Shields, Sarah was on board with 10 of our clients and a late withdrawal had left a space free 🙂  The smoothest of  ship-to-ship transfers – accomplished by two excellent skippers who I would trust with my life – took place, and I was heading back out into the North Sea for another 4hr sailing 🙂

Heading back to the location of the last White-beaked Dolphin sighting I’d had during the survey, we were on the North Sea in quite remarkable conditions.  So flat that it looked like glass, Gannets, Fulmars, Manx Shearwaters, Puffins, Guillemots and Razorbills were all reflected in the glassy surface.  A small group of dolphins surfaced, but only myself on the starboard side, and Jon on the back of the boat on the port side managed to see them as they were directly in front of us.  We continued our search as a spectacular sunset started to develop and then, as we headed back through the area where the dolphins had been, and it suddenly turned overcast, Ruth said “there’s something over there”.  That something was a Minke Whale, and soon everyone on board had excellent views as it surfaced and fed 🙂  Could it get any better?  Of course it could…then there were 2 together!  Away to the south, what was, probably, a 3rd Minke Whale surfaced and then the sort of magic that our summer evening North Sea pelagic trips seem to produce so often happened.  The sun broke through the clouds and I could see some interesting photographic opportunities developing…as long as the whale was going to be obliging 🙂

Northern Fulmar,Fulmarus glacialis,North Sea,Northumberland,North Sea Pelagics,Whalewatching. Dolphin watching,Birdwatching

Common Guillemot,Uria aalge,North Sea,Northumberland,North Sea Pelagics,Whalewatching,Dolphin watching,Birdwatching

Minke Whale,Balaenoptera acutorostrata,North Sea,Northumberland,North Sea Pelagics,Whalewatching,Dolphin watching,Birdwatching

We’ve got a few spaces remaining on some of this year’s North Sea pelagic trips so give us a call on 01670 827465 to find out what’s available and to book your place.  You’ll get to spend time on the North Sea and all of the sightings we make on our pelagic trips are contributing to a genuinely groundbreaking research project that’s the only one providing vital information about the distribution and abundance of Northumberland’s whales, dolphins and porpoises, to the ongoing Marine Conservation Zones process.

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Jumping ship; NEWT’s North Sea Pelagic 12/07/13 Part 1

by on Jul.17, 2013, under Birdwatching, MInke Whale, North Sea, Northumberland

Our fourth evening pelagic for 2013 was last Friday, and it was looking like I wasn’t going to make it…

05:00 and the alarm cuts through my slumber.  I get out of bed, go downstairs and make coffee.  Camera equipment, cetacean survey kit (gps, rangefinder binoculars, recording forms) and food had been sorted out on Thursday evening so no rush.

06:00 I board the St Oswald for a North East Cetacean Project transect survey with Steve and Charlotte as my survey team members, and within minutes we’re sailing out of the Tyne.  Then I find out that our route for the day has changed and we’re not due back into Royal Quays until 20:00!  A quick text to Sarah ‘…we might not be back until 8!!! Can you lead the pelagic for me if I’m not back please?’ received a response that would shock anyone who knows her 😉  A quick exchange of texts and all was sorted…Sarah is very popular with our clients, and Allan and Jimmy are by some distance the most experienced pelagic boat crew in the North East so I settled, relaxed, to a day of surveying.

Small groups of White-beaked Dolphins and Harbour Porpoises were found throughout the day, and 2 Minke Whales added some ‘bulk’ to our sightings.  By 17:00 I was texting a route, based on the last 11h of observations, for the evening pelagic to Sarah and Allan.  With the flooding tide hastening our southward journey we knew that we would be passing the SarahJFK somewhere around North Shields Fish Quay…

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