Saturday was the first of our 10hr ‘Northumberland Ultimate Pelagic‘ trips this year, and I arrrived at Royal Quays to find eight, out of 12, clients already there and looking forward to the day out in Northumberland’s deep offshore waters. With everyone on board we set sail out of the Tyne in a fairly stiff breeze and on choppy water. An Arctic Skua was harrassing Kittiwakes, Fulmars and Gannets soared past on stiff outstretched wings, a flock of Knot flew by and, probably the most unexpected sighting of the day, a Common Swift was heading landwards from around 6 miles offshore. Puffins and Guillemots were sitting quietly on the sea and, as we headed further out, the breeze died away and we were on calm water when we found the first White-beaked Dolphins of the day. These 12 animals spent a little time bow-riding before peeling off and heading back to resume feeding. A few minutes later and a distant dolphin was breaching ahead of us. As we reached that spot, we suddenly had 10 White-beaked Dolphins bow-riding and at least another ten following close behind and alongside us 🙂
We’ve got a limited number of places still available on our 10hr sailings on Friday September 2nd, Saturday September 10th and Saturday September 24th. Give us a call on 01670 827465 to book your place before they’re all filled!
The Farne islands in late June are a chaotic place; huge numbers of birds on all of the cliff faces and around the boardwalks. Late July is a very different experience though…
I collected Ruth and Ann from Ponteland and we drove across to the coast before heading north for a day of bespoke beginners birdwatching, culminating in a trip across to Inner Farne. Curlew, Redshank and a stunningly orange Black-tailed Godwit were all in the shallows as a female Red-breasted Merganser appeared to be delivering flying lessons to her little black-and-white ducklings who were still way too small to get airborne. Sailing across to the islands after lunch we soon encountered rafts of Puffins and Guillemots, Grey Seals were lazing in the surf and the vertiginous seabird colonies were now reduced to only Kittiwake and Shag. Landing on Inner farne, Puffins were whizzing by with beaks filled with small fish, and weren’t subject to the kleptoparasitic attention of Black-headed Gulls, in stark contrast to just a few weeks ago. Terns were represented by single Arctic and Common Terns carrying fish to small chicks and a pair of Sandwich Terns engaged in courtship flight as a Lesser Black-backed Gull gave us a malevolent stare from the wall around the lighthouse.
A great day out with really lovely clients, and now I know what make and model of car Ann drives I can give her a wave when I’m cycling through Ponteland on a Sunday morning 🙂
If there’s anything that’s even less predictable than wildlife on our 4hr evening pelagics, it’s the weather/sky/sea state. One minute it can be flat calm, the next there’s a rolling swell, one minute it’s overcast, the next the clouds disperse and the sun breaks through…
Our 9th evening pelagic for 2016 set sail on Friday and we started to notice the swell while we were still in the river. Once we were out of the shelter of the piers there was a long rolling swell as we headed north. The usual suspects passed by; Puffin, Guillemot, Gannet, Herring Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Kittiwake, Manx Shearwater and Fulmar. As we headed closer inshore ready for the journey south, the swell subsided and the sea took on a glassy sheen as the sunset started to develop…
After our successful search for White-beaked Dolphins on Wednesday, we sailed at 18:00 on Friday for our 7th 4hr evening pelagic this year.
As we sailed past North Shields the heavens opened and as we left the shelter of the piers, the surface of the sea looked to be boiling as the rain hammered down. That was round about the point where I checked my mobile for any recent dolphin reports…and there was a text message to say that there had been 6-8 White-beaked Dolphins just off Seaton Sluice for the last hour and they were heading south, inshore of the yellow buoy off St Mary’s Island 🙂 I went across to that side of the boat, indicated the area we needed to be watching…and up they popped 🙂 For the next hour we watched up to 20 dolphins as they fed, breached, tail-slapped and did all the stuff that makes dolphins so fantastic to watch, then we left them behind and headed up to Blyth where we found another 4! Gannets, Puffins, Razorbills, Guillemots. Kittiwakes and Fulmars provided a supporting cast and a stunning sunset brought the curtain down on the evening 🙂
After a couple of cancelled sailings, with weather conditions that we felt would just be uncomfortable for everyone, we set sail on our 6th 4hr pelagic this year on Wednesday evening.
As we headed north, small rafts of Puffin were seen regularly, Razorbill, Guillemot, Kittiwake, Fulmar and Gannet provided a supporting cast and with a boat full of clients all scanning the sea, in good visibility, I was feeling confident…
The call from Tim “dolphins!” had everyone suddenly very animated…and there they were; 4 White-beaked Dolphins, including a very small calf 🙂 One of the adults came across us close to the bow, and then they quietly slipped away from view after five minutes or so. Encounters with dolphins are always exciting, but your truly learnt a very painful lesson; even when you’ve photographed hundreds of dolphins and seabirds from moving boats, in everything from flat calm with glorious light, through to challenging swell and heavily overcast…it counts for nothing if you’ve managed to leave the house without any memory cards in your camera 🙁 After the dolphin encounter, one of our clients was kind enough to lend me a memory card so I’ve got lots of images from the second half of the evening!
Monday was our 5th evening pelagic and we boarded JFK Two at Royal Quays with Common Terns flying back to their nests and a chilly breeze stiffening the flags on the boats moored in the marina.
Herring and Lesser Black-backed Gulls soon formed a stalking party just behind us and Gannet, Kittiwake, Guillemot, Razorbill, Puffin, Fulmar, Manx Shearwater and Common Scoter were all seen, as well as a couple of Curlew. Away to the west of us the weather over Northumberland looked poor, and on the eastern horizon we could see rain. The dark, brooding waves lapped against the side of the boat and, as we made our way back down the coast, breaks in the leaden grey cloud brought another spectacular sunset 🙂
No two days are ever the same – that’s pretty much the only thing that’s guaranteed where wildlife is concerned..
We set sail from Royal Quays for our fourth evening pelagic this year and although we had blue skies and sunshine, in sharp contrast to Wednesday’s trip, the sea was a bit choppier with a stiff westerly wind keeping us close to the sheltering effect of the land. Gannets, Guillemots and Puffins are regular at this time of the year, and we weren’t too far from the Tyne when the Herring Gulls started following us. With barely any effort they hang in the air just behind the boat, obliging subjects for any photographers on board. This time they were joined by a Kittiwake; delicate and incredibly agile, it twisted and turned around the rear deck providing a bit more of a challenge for the lenses that were pointed in its direction.
As we made our way back down the coast, the setting sun provided an impressive backdrop for St Mary’s lighthouse. Despite all of the whales, dolphins and seabirds we’ve found over the last few years, the thing that still seems to be commented on more than anything else, is just how incredible the views of the sunset are from a boat in the North Sea 🙂
Our third evening pelagic for 2016 sailed from Royal Quays under an unremarkable grey sky and with good visibility and a calm sea.
Three hours later, and after Common Scoter, Gannet, Puffin, Razorbill, Guillemot, Fulmar and Kittiwake had kept everyone occupied, we were heading south towards the marina. The ‘ping’ of a text message arriving on my mobile distracted me from my focus on the water close to the shore…
‘bottlenose dolphins going south past Seaton Sluice, heading towards St Mary’s, swimming slowly along the tide line’.
A quick ‘phone call brought more information ’10-15mins ago they were right where you are now’…and then they surfaced 🙂
Friday was our second North Sea pelagic trip for 2016 and as we sailed from Royal Quays the sky looked a bit dark away to the north…
By the time we were off Whitley Bay we were under blue skies and sunshine while away to the west of us Northumberland was being battered by storms of hail and rain. Suddenly the wind picked up and the sea became a mass of foaming white horses and the first drops of rain hit the boat. With the wind whistling around the boat we soon picked up an entourage of Herring and Lesser Black-backed Gulls. Gulls may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but against a dark grey sky there’s no denying they’re quite impressive birds. Just a few metres above the deck they seemed to be sheltering in the lee of the wheelhouse as we headed into the wind. Gannets flew by and a flock of Common Scoter, looking to be just perfectly placed in the dark weather conditions, overtook us and headed north. Fulmars flew effortlessly just a few centimetres above the waves while Puffin and Guillemot made flight look like a much more laboured undertaking and away to the east a double rainbow had formed. As conditions settled back down we found a small group of Gannets diving into the water and it was time to head back to port.
Wednesday was the first of this years NEWT North Sea Pelagic trips and the weather forecast looked good…
Allan had been out with a party of anglers all day, and the sea was still pretty calm when he sailed back to Royal Quays before the start of our trip. I’d been seawatching during the morning, watching what was only the third record of a live, offshore, Sperm Whale for Northumberland, and there were lots of Gannets feeding, so clearly lots of food available which is always a good sign 🙂 The sea is a fickle mistress though and , driven by a stiff breeze that had picked up just as we sailed, the long rolling swell from the north slowed our progress. Gannets, Puffins, Guillemots, Razorbills, Fulmars and Kittiwakes passed by, a Grey Seal poked it’s head out of the water near St Mary’s and a flock of Common Scoter were characteristic even at a distance. With the swell building further we headed to the relative calm of Newbiggin Bay and our sailing back down the coast was close to shore where, sheltered from the breeze and with the tide pushing us from behind, it was like a different world 🙂