NEWT’s Guide to Bottlenose Dolphins in Northumberland

by on 06/08/18 10:28, under Bottlenose Dolphin, North Sea

A lot of our clients are very familiar with Northumberland’s marine wildlife so the question “Where have these Bottlenose Dolphins come from? I can’t remember them being here until the last few years.” is a regular one…

Until 2012 Bottlenose Dolphin was a rare animal in Northumberland waters and when I was researching/writing the cetacean species accounts for ‘Mammals, Amphibians and Reptiles of the North East’ there had only been 11 sightings of 10 or more animals since the first Northumberland record in 1966.

21st October 2012 was the day that everything began to change, with a loose group of ~150 dolphins moving down the coast from Berwick to Newbiggin before vanishing. Small groups broke away and took a liking to Holy Island and Bamburgh, with the group off Bamburgh hanging around through the winter and riding the waves alongside human surfers!

With small groups becoming regular from 2013 we were involved in trying to identify individual animals from photographs by comparing them to the excellent photo-identification catalogue developed by Aberdeen University. That’s when we noticed an interesting pattern – the animals we were seeing were mainly females that were already adults when they were photographed in the Moray Firth in the late 1980’s and had gradually departed the Moray Firth for a life further down the east coast of Scotland around the Firth and the Tay. In the case of the most distinctive dolphin we’ve seen, #116 ‘Runny Paint’ – the dolphin with the extraordinary white stripe along the base of her dorsal fin on the right hand side and four dashes on the left hand side – she’d left Moray in 2001. The ‘proto-colonisation’ of Northumberland seems to have been led by some elderly ladies

Over the last few years there have been increasing sightings of the dolphins, which now seem to have an extended home range, primarily from the Tay to the Wear but extending as far as Moray and the Yorkshire coast, and it seems likely that there are now calves that have been born in English waters. We don’t know how many dolphins are involved in total, with observer estimates often varying wildly even for a single group, but somewhere between 50-150 is probably in the right ballpark

We’ve seen them on land-based trips, boat trips to the Farne Islands and, of course, on our regular pelagic trips off the Northumberland coast and there’s no doubt that they’re a spectacular addition to Northumberland’s marine fauna but that might not be good news for some of our other cetaceans…

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Bottlenose Dolphins spent over an hour playing around the boat on our 4hr evening pelagic off Whitley Bay and St Mary's Island on 29/06/18

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More dolphins and another stunning sunset :-) NEWT’s North Sea pelagic 03/08/18

by on 05/08/18 13:27, under North Sea

Friday evening and I was (vaguely) back in action.  Three days in hospital had left me drained, but with the sea forecast to be flat calm I couldn’t think of a better way to continue my recovery than by spending a few hours out on the North Sea

Broken cloud hinted at a good sunset towards the end of the evening, but as we sailed north attention was focused on wherever gulls and Gannets were congregating…and diligent scanning brought a small group of White-beaked Dolphins feeding quietly 🙂  They only had a very brief look at the boat before returning to feeding so we gave them some space and then continued on our way north.  The journey back towards the Tyne brought the expected sunset, and it really was a good one 🙂

Weather permitting, we’ve got our final two evening trips this week, and then next Tuesday is the first of this year’s 10hr Northumberland Ultimate Pelagic sailings.  Give us a call on 01670 827465, email enquiries@newtltd.co.uk or just click on available dates (August 29th, September 15th, September 22nd) on our online calendar to book your place before they’re all filled.

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Posting by proxy; NEWT’s North Sea pelagic 01/08/18

by on 05/08/18 11:32, under North Sea

Friday 27th was the first of our 4hr evening pelagics this year to fall victim to the weather, so it was great to see a much better forecast for the start of August…unfortunately I found myself having an unexpected few days in hospital so Steve and Paul organised our clients at the start of the trip and acted as onboard guides 🙂

White-beaked Dolphins put in an appearance off North Blyth and then in the mouth of the Tyne on a dark wet evening, and I was getting notifications about the sightings while laid in a hospital bed 🙂

We’ve still got a few places available on our 10hr Northumberland Ultimate Pelagic sailings on August 29th, September 15th and September 22nd so give us a call on 01670 827465 to book your place 🙂

Here are a few images of White-beaked Dolphins on sailings over the last few years…

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A Storm of Puffins; Druridge Bay Bespoke Birdwatching 30/07/18

by on 05/08/18 11:18, under Coquet Island, Druridge Bay

Wouldn’t that be a great title for the next book in the ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ series (Game of Thrones)?  I’ve met a few people over the last 10 years who expected Puffins to be much larger than they actually are, so the idea of unleashing a horde of them on your enemies could have some merit…

Alex, Jess and Tom had booked two days out with us – Saturday and Sunday – both of which had a forecast that couldn’t have been clearer that we wouldn’t be able to sail either around Coquet Island or to the Farnes so we’d hastily rescheduled to Monday and Tuesday, with ‘gentler’ sea conditions forecast.  I collected them from Embleton and we headed south down the coast to our local patch, Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland, pausing at Cullernose Point to have a look at the Kittiwakes and Fulmars.

Late July is a great time to watch waders on the Northumberland coast and Avocet, Dunlin, Knot, Curlew Sandpiper, Ruff, Lapwing, Common Snipe, Curlew, Common Redshank, Black-tailed Godwit, Bar-tailed Godwit, Ringed Plover and Little Ringed Plover were all impressive, but outshone by a stunning summer-plumaged Grey Plover.  A Little Owl was perched quietly by a farm building and our next port of call brought a Little Gull and an Otter that was feeding next to some apparently unconcerned Mute Swans and some very concerned Tufted Ducks 🙂

Then it was time to head off for a sailing around Coquet Island with Dave Gray’s Puffin Cruises.  The stiff southeasterly and a bit of swell meant a very steady crossing was in order.  As we sailed along the Coquet a raft of 27 Goosanders were near the Warkworth side of the river and as we made the short sea crossing Puffins, Sandwich, Arctic and Common Terns and Grey Seals began to appear.  Ghostly pale Roseate Terns were sitting on the nesting terraces that have been constructed for them and one or two were picked out as they flew by as a veritable storm of Puffins whirled around above the island.

Heading back home at the end of the afternoon I was looking forward to an evening at the Battlesteads Observatory and then Tuesday’s trip to Inner Farne.  I was starting to feel a bit peaky though, but that’s a whole other story…

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Sunset and Moonrise gallery; NEWT’s North Sea pelagic 25/07/18

by on 05/08/18 10:22, under North Sea

Our 4hr evening North Sea pelagic off the Northumberland coast on 25/07/18 proved to be a stunning sunset cruise

Our 4hr evening North Sea pelagic off the Northumberland coast on 25/07/18 proved to be a stunning sunset cruise

Our 4hr evening North Sea pelagic off the Northumberland coast on 25/07/18 proved to be a stunning sunset cruise

Our 4hr evening North Sea pelagic off the Northumberland coast on 25/07/18 proved to be a stunning sunset cruise

Our 4hr evening North Sea pelagic off the Northumberland coast on 25/07/18 proved to be a stunning sunset cruise

Our 4hr evening North Sea pelagic off the Northumberland coast on 25/07/18 proved to be a stunning sunset cruise

Our 4hr evening North Sea pelagic off the Northumberland coast on 25/07/18 proved to be a stunning sunset cruise

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Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes, turn and face the south ;-) NEWT’s North Sea Pelagic 20/07/18

by on 21/07/18 17:06, under North Sea

With a glassy calm river outside the marina, and a great forecast for the evening (after the rain had passed a couple of hour earlier), we had a dilemma.  Allan had seen a group of White-beaked Dolphins in the deep south (or County Durham as its residents call it…) a couple of hours earlier so were we going to change our sailing plan that has served us well for over 20 years and turn right as we passed through the Tyne Piers?

We hadn’t even left the river when a Harbour Porpoise appeared and by then we’d already decided to ‘head south for a bit and turn north if we don’t find anything’.  Ten minutes later I was scanning directly ahead and spotted a couple of fins…

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All of our 4hr evening pelagics are fully booked now but we’ve still got a few spaces on our groundbreaking Northumberland Ultimate Pelagic sailings on August 29th, September 15th and September 22nd.  Those are filling up too, so give us a call on 01670 827465 to book your place 🙂

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Feels like autumn ;-) Druridge Bay Safari 19/08/18

by on 21/07/18 16:50, under Druridge Bay

Collecting Rosie and Ben for an afternoon and evening around NEWT’s local patch, Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland, the weather looked ever so slightly murky…

Ben was armed with his D500 and 200-500mm lens (I’ve seen several copies of that lens in action now but still not pulled the trigger on purchasing one myself yet…) and we started with a search for a bird he was very keen to see on this trip north.  Patience and persistence paid off, as they so often do, and a juvenile Dipper was quite approachable as it paddled tentatively in very shallow water without taking the plunge into full ‘Dipper mode’.  An impressive flock of Dunlin, resplendent with black bellies, was a very obvious sign that migration is well underway and Curlew, Lapwing, Black-tailed Godwit, Ringed Plover, Redshank and Knot were also in a couple of impressive flocks of waders before we came across a well grown juvenile Great Crested Grebe that was calling incessantly to its parent and only pausing briefly when the adult submerged in search of food.  Grey Herons stalked through the shallows as Sand Martins, House Martins, Swifts and Swallows were joined in their aerial pursuit of insects by a Little Gull and two Barn Owls quartered the reedbeds and rank vegetation.  Another target species for the afternoon put in a cameo appearance as I noticed the tell-tale ‘ring of bright water’ in the shadow of a distant reedbed and we watched an Otter through the ‘scope 🙂

There was an ‘oddest moment of the trip’ award for a 2 year old female Grey Seal who hauled herself out of the sea and started following people up the beach towards the dunes!  A quick exchange of messages with British Divers Marine Life Rescue and we were able to reassure people who were gathering on the beach that the seal was fine and just needed a bit of space to rest before continuing her journey north.  Everyone backed off and watched her from a sensible distance and she rolled over and stretched out in the evening sunshine 🙂

With the sky clearing, and dusk approaching a Little Owl flew from a roadside telegraph pole and our 3rd Barn Owl was over a field below the Moon, Jupiter and Venus, with the two planets both looking impressive through the ‘scope as we headed back towards Newbiggin.

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Quick start :-) NEWT’s North Sea Pelagic 18/07/18

by on 19/07/18 11:43, under North Sea, White-beaked Dolphin

There are days when we search for a long time before finding the wildlife that we’re searching for, there are days when despite our best efforts it eludes us, and then there was last night…

Conditions were looking good with cloud cover and gentle swell so exactly what we’d hope for when we’re searching for dolphins.  We’re doing cetacean surveys on all of our pelagic trips this year and Caroline and Genine had only just started recording the environmental conditions, as we settled on to a steady course, when Tim spotted dolphins ahead of the boat 🙂  This first group of 5 White-beaked Dolphins buzzed the boat a couple of times but were clearly on a mission and quickly departed to the south.  We resumed our original course and passed by Kittiwakes, Gannets and Guillemots before eventually turning back south as the Sun sank lower in the sky towards a slight break in the cloud.  The swell was building, and the gloom of dusk was taking hold when our second group of White-beaked Dolphins for the evening appeared, and these ones were in a much more playful mood 🙂

All of our 4hr evening sailings apart from August 8th are full and our 10hr Northumberland Ultimate Pelagic on August 14th has sold out too.  We’ve got a few spaces on our 10hr sailings on August 29th, September 15th and September 22nd so give us a call on 01670 827465 to book your place.  We only have limited availability on our sailings so booking early is always the best option to make sure you get a place!

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A series of spectacular sunsets; NEWT’s North Sea Pelagics 04/07, 06/07 and 13/07/18

by on 17/07/18 15:52, under North Sea

Some of our North Sea pelagic trips encounter whales and dolphins and lots of birds…and some don’t.  Sometimes the most jaw-dropping thing isn’t the wildlife, but something equally unpredictable…

As well as whales, dolphins and seabirds ur 4hr North Sea pelagics put us in just thr right place for some spectacular sunsets

As well as whales, dolphins and seabirds ur 4hr North Sea pelagics put us in just thr right place for some spectacular sunsets

As well as whales, dolphins and seabirds ur 4hr North Sea pelagics put us in just thr right place for some spectacular sunsets

As well as whales, dolphins and seabirds ur 4hr North Sea pelagics put us in just thr right place for some spectacular sunsets

As well as whales, dolphins and seabirds ur 4hr North Sea pelagics put us in just thr right place for some spectacular sunsets

Our 4hr evening sailings on 1st and 8th August still have a very limited number of spaces available, as do our 10hr Northumberland Ultimate Pelagic sailings on August 29th, September 15th and September 22nd.  Every other sailing is fully booked so give us a call on 01670 827465 to book your space before they’re all gone!

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Here come the White-beaks :-) NEWT’s North Sea pelagic 11/07/18

by on 13/07/18 11:37, under North Sea, White-beaked Dolphin

Wednesday was our 5th evening pelagic this year and after Bottlenose Dolphins putting in a good shift on our 2nd sailing, followed by a coupe of stunning sunsets last week, the question on everyone’s lips was “Will England make it to the World Cup final?”…

A few scattered whitecaps and a bit of swell, combined with a lot of glare, make observing tricky and we scanned every flock of gulls and Gannets as we headed north.  Fulmars and Manx Shearwaters passed by on stiff wings, low over the sea and a flock of Common Scoter went north ahead of us.  As we turned back south, having the sun behind us helped, as did the gradual decrease in the sea state and swell.  Scanning along a tide line towards a distant flock of diving Gannets I almost dropped my binoculars as a White-beaked Dolphin started breaching repeatedly away to the east of us.  As everyone else started looking in the same direction, the dolphin unobligingly failed to breach again…but the distinctive dorsal fins and slow diving behaviour of five White-beaked Dolphins more than made up for that 🙂

We’re steadily filling all of our sailings for this year, but we’ve still got as few spaces on our 4hr evening sailings on July 18th and August 1st/8th as well as our 10hr ‘Northumberland Ultimate Pelagic sailings on September 15th, 19th and 22nd.  Give us a call on 01670 827465 or visit our pelagic page for more information or to book.

White-beaked Dolphins [Lagenorhynchus albirostris] were the highlight of our 4hr North Sea pelagic sailing on 11/07/18

White-beaked Dolphins [Lagenorhynchus albirostris] were the highlight of our 4hr North Sea pelagic sailing on 11/07/18

White-beaked Dolphins [Lagenorhynchus albirostris] were the highlight of our 4hr North Sea pelagic sailing on 11/07/18

White-beaked Dolphins [Lagenorhynchus albirostris] were the highlight of our 4hr North Sea pelagic sailing on 11/07/18

White-beaked Dolphins [Lagenorhynchus albirostris] were the highlight of our 4hr North Sea pelagic sailing on 11/07/18

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