Tag: dolphin

NEWT’s Guide to Bottlenose Dolphins in Northumberland

by on Aug.06, 2018, 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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Fade to black; NEWT’s North Sea pelagic 11/08/17

by on Aug.12, 2017, under North Sea

As we gathered at Royal Quays for our final 4hr evening pelagic for this year, ahead of our switch to 10hr ‘Northumberland Ultimate Pelagic’ sailings from next Wednesday, there was a stiff breeze, but it was coming off the land so not a great problem for a sailing where we were planning to stay fairly close inshore…

The sea was calmer than it’s been on any of our trips so far this year, but all around the sky was threatening to do something and we did catch the edge of a shower at one point.  Fulmars, Gannets and Kittiwakes passed by, Guillemots were on the water with young and Russ spotted the dorsal fin of a dolphin but it seems to have been on a mission to be elsewhere as it didn’t hang around.

Our final 4hr evening pelagic for 2017 had calm seas, dark clouds and a brief appearance by a dolphin

Our final 4hr evening pelagic for 2017 had calm seas, dark clouds and a brief appearance by a dolphin

Our final 4hr evening pelagic for 2017 had calm seas, dark clouds and a brief appearance by a dolphin

Our final 4hr evening pelagic for 2017 had calm seas, dark clouds and a brief appearance by a dolphin

Our final 4hr evening pelagic for 2017 had calm seas, dark clouds and a brief appearance by a dolphin

That’s it for 4hr evening sailings until next June, but we’ve still got a few places on all of our 10hr ‘Northumberland Ultimate Pelagic’ trips.  Give us a call on 01670 827465 to book your place before they’re all gone!

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Bottlenose Dolphins; Farne Islands safari 06/06/2014

by on Jun.11, 2014, under Birdwatching, Druridge Bay, Farne Islands, Northumberland

Whenever I head out for a  day guiding clients, I have a plan.  Occasionally we deviate from that plan…

I was heading to collect Liz and Mark from the Lord Crewe in Bamburgh, for their Farne Islands prestige tour, and I thought I knew what we’d be doing throughout the day – a walk along the coast in the morning, picnic lunch overlooking the Farne Islands and then the 13:00 sailing on Glad Tidings.  Simple, straightforward and a routine we’ve followed so many times with almost military precision.

However, just before I arrived in Bamburgh, Alan P. played a wild card 🙂 “Hi Martin, the dolphins are in Newbiggin Bay”.  This introduced another option for the morning…a drive south to try and catch up with the pod of Bottlenose Dolphins that have been hanging around the north east coast since late March. I presented the options to Liz and Mark and they didn’t hesitate to decide on a wild dolphin chase 🙂  Alan was sending texts to keep me up-to-date with the location of the pod, so the latest information I had as we reached southeast Northumberland was that they’d headed south.  A day earlier I’d tracked them down the coast at the same time of day, so I thought they may well have repeated their movements.  It isn’t always that simple though, so I headed for a viewpoint that would give us the widest possible spread of coastline in view.  That strategy proved the best one as, away to the north, but further offshore than they’d been earlier in the morning, we could see a dark dorsal fin breaking the surface close behind a small fishing boat 🙂  Having located the pod distantly, we headed for a much closer viewpoint, and enjoyed prolonged views of ~16 Bottlenose Dolphins as they surfaced, breached, and charged through what was presumably a large shoal of Mackerel.  As the pod headed north, it was time for us to do the same so that I could get the day back on track.

Lunch was followed by a trip to Inner Farne in a stiff cold breeze.  The cliffs were echoing with the onomatopaeic calls of Kittiwake, Puffins, Guillemots and Razorbills were coming off the clifftops like guided missiles as they headed out to fish, Gannets soared effortlessly by on the breeze, Fulmars arced around the cliff faces on stiff wings, Grey Seals were hauled out, soaking up the rays, and Cormorant and Shag seemed to be causing confusion amongst some passengers on the boat.  As we waited to land at the Inner Farne jetty, a call stood out from the general background mayhem of a seabird breeding colony; ‘choo-it, choo-it’, so distinctive, and a ghostly pale Roseate Tern flew just above our heads before landing with the Arctic, Sandwich and Common Terns roosting near the jetty.  On the island we ducked to avoid the attention of some rather agitated Arctic Terns, and concentrated on Liz’s aim for the afternoon – getting a good photograph of a Puffin 🙂  There were plenty of obliging models to choose from, and we watched as birds returning to their burrows with beaks filled with sandeel were mobbed by Black-headed Gulls.  After the chaos of the island, we finished the afternoon relaxing in the dunes at Bamburgh, eating carrot cake as Meadow Pipits and Skylarks sang and displayed in the sky around us 🙂

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