Tag: Harbour Porpoise

Heading offshore; NEWT’s North Sea pelagic 14/08/18

by on Aug.15, 2018, under North Sea

Yesterday was the first of our 10hr ‘Northumberland Ultimate Pelagic’ sailings for this year and it started well with two Harbour Porpoises at the mouth of the Tyne, then another two a couple of miles further north.  As Gannets soared by, Fulmars circled us and Kittiwakes and Lesser Black-backed Gulls tagged along in our wake, two White-beaked Dolphins put in a brief appearance and the swell started to build.  By mid-afternoon we’d got heavy rain and then another 5 dolphins spent a couple of minutes bow-riding 🙂

Our August 29th, September 15th and September 22nd 10hr sailings each have two places still available so give us a call on 01670 827465 to book your place 🙂

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

by on Jul.21, 2018, 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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Ten years on…

by on Jan.04, 2018, under Bamburgh Castle, Northumberland Coast

Ten years ago we had our first Safari Day with clients and back then we didn’t have a blog (that was something we only added to our website in June of that year) so here’s a short trip report from my memory…

4th January 2008 was a cold, gloomy day as we headed to the North Northumberland coast.  We’d had a minor setback in that the council hadn’t got their heads around how to license a vehicle that was going to be used to carry paying clients but was clearly neither a hackney carriage or a private hire vehicle – so our insurers wouldn’t let us use it for it’s intended purpose.  That’s how I found myself as navigator and wildlife guide, but in our clients’ car instead of in the NEWT Landrover.  When Karen booked the day for herself, Paul and Ash a few weeks earlier, there was one particular target species – Roe Deer.  I’d got 2 or 3 sites in mind that should produce sightings of deer, and we did eventually track down a small group as they grazed in a coastal field 🙂  Early January doesn’t have a lot of daylight and in the gloom of dusk we watched a Harbour Porpoise in the shadow of Bamburgh Castle as a lone surfer demonstrated that there are far crazier things to do on the Northumberland coast in the middle of the winter than search for wildlife 😉

Over the following weeks the calls from journalists and radio presenters started to come; “Wildlife Safaris in Northumberland?” “Wildlife Safaris in southeast Northumberland?” “Is this really what you’re doing?”  “Who would want to come to Northumberland for a Wildlife Safari?  This isn’t Africa.”

Along with skepticism from local media, there was the harsh assessment by a local tourism marketing expert – “You’ll never make it work.  There simply isn’t the market to support a year-round wildlife guiding business in Northumberland. You might survive a couple of years.”

Ten years on and we’re still here, still growing, still developing – we’ve been an active member of the Birdwatching Northumberland/Wild Northumberland consortia, promoting our beautiful county as a nature-based tourism destination, we’ve delivered press/media trips ranging from stargazing on Holy Island to a week identifying potential filming locations along Hadrian’s Wall with a Belgian TV presenter and producer,  we’ve grown our pelagic trip programme from 2-3 sailings each year to 19-20, led a marine conservation project that became the first to identify the key feeding and calving areas for White-beaked Dolphins off the Northumberland coast, supported the process that’s designating Marine Conservation Zones in the North Sea and never stopped looking for new wildlife locations around our stunning county  🙂

Some huge thank yous are due here: Iain Scott, Karen Davies, Keith Raine and the Go Wanbeck project for all of the support pre-NEWT and in the very early days when we were on an occasionally terrifying learning curve, all of the partners in Birdwatching Northumberland/Wild Northumberland, all of the other businesses who we’ve worked with over the last ten years, and to all of our clients – you’re just as important a part of the experience as the wildlife, and your love and enthusiasm for Northumberland and its wildlife keeps us continually motivated to deliver a more engaging experience.

Here’s to the next ten years of sharing our passion for Northumberland’s wildlife with clients on NEWT trips 🙂

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Dolphin days; NEWT’s Northumberland Ultimate Pelagic 26/08/17

by on Aug.28, 2017, under North Sea

With a forecast of light westerlies and good weather, I arrived at Royal Quays ahead of our 10hr Northumberland Ultimate Pelagic confident that we’d have a memorable day offshore…

Gannet, Fulmar, Kittiwake, Guillemot, Razorbill, Puffin, Manx Shearwater, Great Skua and Arctic Skua all gave obliging views and then we started finding Minke Whales 🙂  Continuing northeast I was sitting alongside Allan in the wheelhouse and noticed some distant splashing – and there were six White-beaked Dolphins heading toward us!  More dolphins followed and we finished the day with a total of 3 Minke Whales, 6 Harbour Porpoise and 37 White-beaked Dolphins 🙂

We’ve got a few spaces available for our next 10hr sailing from Royal Quays (08:00, Saturday 2nd September), so give us a call on 01670 827465 to book your space before they’re gone!

Our 10hr Northumberland Ultimate Pelagic to the Farne Deeps on 26/08/17 produced an outstanding encounter with White-beaked Dolphins. as well as Minke Whales, Harbour Porpoise, Guillemot, Razorbill, Puffin, Gannet, Fulmar, Kittiwake and Manx Shearwater

Our 10hr Northumberland Ultimate Pelagic to the Farne Deeps on 26/08/17 produced an outstanding encounter with White-beaked Dolphins. as well as Minke Whales, Harbour Porpoise, Guillemot, Razorbill, Puffin, Gannet, Fulmar, Kittiwake and Manx Shearwater

Our 10hr Northumberland Ultimate Pelagic to the Farne Deeps on 26/08/17 produced an outstanding encounter with White-beaked Dolphins. as well as Minke Whales, Harbour Porpoise, Guillemot, Razorbill, Puffin, Gannet, Fulmar, Kittiwake and Manx Shearwater

Our 10hr Northumberland Ultimate Pelagic to the Farne Deeps on 26/08/17 produced an outstanding encounter with White-beaked Dolphins. as well as Minke Whales, Harbour Porpoise, Guillemot, Razorbill, Puffin, Gannet, Fulmar, Kittiwake and Manx Shearwater

Our 10hr Northumberland Ultimate Pelagic to the Farne Deeps on 26/08/17 produced an outstanding encounter with White-beaked Dolphins. as well as Minke Whales, Harbour Porpoise, Guillemot, Razorbill, Puffin, Gannet, Fulmar, Kittiwake and Manx Shearwater

Our 10hr Northumberland Ultimate Pelagic to the Farne Deeps on 26/08/17 produced an outstanding encounter with White-beaked Dolphins. as well as Minke Whales, Harbour Porpoise, Guillemot, Razorbill, Puffin, Gannet, Fulmar, Kittiwake and Manx Shearwater

Our 10hr Northumberland Ultimate Pelagic to the Farne Deeps on 26/08/17 produced an outstanding encounter with White-beaked Dolphins. as well as Minke Whales, Harbour Porpoise, Guillemot, Razorbill, Puffin, Gannet, Fulmar, Kittiwake and Manx Shearwater

Our 10hr Northumberland Ultimate Pelagic to the Farne Deeps on 26/08/17 produced an outstanding encounter with White-beaked Dolphins. as well as Minke Whales, Harbour Porpoise, Guillemot, Razorbill, Puffin, Gannet, Fulmar, Kittiwake and Manx Shearwater

Our 10hr Northumberland Ultimate Pelagic to the Farne Deeps on 26/08/17 produced an outstanding encounter with White-beaked Dolphins. as well as Minke Whales, Harbour Porpoise, Guillemot, Razorbill, Puffin, Gannet, Fulmar, Kittiwake and Manx Shearwater

Our 10hr Northumberland Ultimate Pelagic to the Farne Deeps on 26/08/17 produced an outstanding encounter with White-beaked Dolphins. as well as Minke Whales, Harbour Porpoise, Guillemot, Razorbill, Puffin, Gannet, Fulmar, Kittiwake and Manx Shearwater

Our 10hr Northumberland Ultimate Pelagic to the Farne Deeps on 26/08/17 produced an outstanding encounter with White-beaked Dolphins. as well as Minke Whales, Harbour Porpoise, Guillemot, Razorbill, Puffin, Gannet, Fulmar, Kittiwake and Manx Shearwater

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From the very small to the very large; NEWT’s North Sea Pelagic 05/07/17

by on Jul.10, 2017, under North Sea

After a couple of weather affected planned sailings we headed out on Wednesday for a 4hr evening pelagic.  There was a long rolling swell as we left the mouth of the Tyne, but that settled as we headed further north and offshore.  As Gannets soared by there were Puffins dotted around and Guillemots with recent fledglings.  Kittiwakes were above bait balls of tiny fish and a Harbour Porpoise was followed soon after by a Minke Whale that was feeding beneath a flock of Gannets before heading across our bow and vanishing into the mysterious deep.  A quiet evening, but two cetaceans in less than ideal viewing conditions wasn’t a bad start 🙂

Our 4hr evening sailings are almost all sold out but there are a few places remaining, and we’ve still got availability on our 10hr ‘Northumberland Ultimate Pelagic’ sailings in August and September.  Give us a call on 01670 827465 for more information or to reserve your place 🙂

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Whale Tales of the North Sea 25/03/17

by on Mar.27, 2017, under North Sea

Following an invitation from DFDS, I arrived at the Royal Quays passenger terminal on Saturday morning for the ‘Whale Tales of the North Sea’ event, celebrating 10 years of DFDS and the charity ORCA working together.

I spend part of my time working for MARINElife, but I’ve also been an ORCA member for nearly two decades and NEWT’s involvement with them goes back to 2010. when I led a familiarisation trip for the wildlife officers ahead of their season onboard.  Our own Whale and Dolphin trips during the summer usually pass by one of the Newcastle-IJmuiden ferries, either as we sail out of the Tyne, or return at the end of the day, and the NEWT team enjoyed a mini-cruise to Holland in 2010 as guests of DFDS.  We’d highly recommend it 🙂

Following a packed lunch, Michaela Strachan presented a series of short clips of some of her experiences with whales and dolphins around the world, which kept all of the younger members of the audience entertained.  With only ~90 different species, cetaceans are poorly represented compared to terrestrial mammals (~4200 species), birds (~10000 species) and insects (~1000000 species, with potentially another 5-29000000 million species still to be discovered!).  What they lack in numbers they make up for in sheer size, and some of the film clips demonstrated just how big they are.

Anna Bunney from ORCA gave a presentation about the cetaceans of the North Sea and there we have an even smaller range of species.  Harbour Porpoise, Bottlenose Dolphin, White-beaked Dolphin and Minke Whale are all relatively common, but there’s a range of rarer visitors to the waters of North East England; Risso’s Dolphin, White-sided Dolphin, Killer Whale, Sperm Whale, Pilot Whale and Humpback Whale have all appeared in recent years and historical records contain some real oddities.

Educating people about the wealth of marine wildlife in the North Sea is something that ORCA and DFDS are doing really well, and the data that surveyors are gathering onboard is a valuable resource, combined with the ferry data gathered by MARINElife on other North Sea routes and the small-boat survey data from the North East Cetacean Project in Northumberland.

Many thanks to DFDS for the invitation to join them for the celebration with ORCA 🙂

If you’re not already convinced that our marine wildlife is awesome, here are a few pictures that should speak for themselves 🙂

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Weather window; NEWT’s North Sea Pelagic 10/09/16

by on Sep.12, 2016, under North Sea

My obsession with the weather forecast tends to intensify whenever we’ve got a pelagic wildlife trip coming up, and even more so when it’s one of our 10hr ‘Northumberland Ultimate Pelagic’ sailings.  In the far reaches of the Farne Deeps even a fairly benign wind direction like southwesterly (which isn’t a problem in nearshore waters) can produce ‘interesting’ conditions…

I’d been out on Friday carrying out survey work for the North East Cetacean Project, and the southerly wind had piled the sea up into a white-capped deep rolling swell.  Sunday’s forecast was for similar, but Saturday looked as though we’d have a nice weather window 🙂  Heading north from the Tyne we had the wind and the swell behind us, so it was a fairly smooth journey.  By the time we reached the edge of the Farne Deeps, having encountered our first group of White-beaked Dolphins along the way, that swell was up around 1.5-2m.  Then the dolphins started to appear – a group of 10 were joined by more and we’d soon got up to 25 White-beaked Dolphins around us 🙂  At one point we had 11 bow-riding between the hulls, packed together like sardines in a tin, and another ten alongside us.  Eventually they stopped playing and gradually peeled off to return to feeding, just before Anthony spotted a Minke Whale ahead of us…which proved to be two Minkes, an adult and a juvenile.  As we headed back south, with a Harbour Porpoise putting in a typically brief appearance in a flat, glassy calm, sea and odd Sooty Shearwaters added to the day total (which was around 50) Anthony asked me if I would scan the horizon out the east through my binoculars, as he’d seen what looked like very distant splashing.  Sure enough, there were the splashes, which eventually resolved into a group of at least 30 White-beaked Dolphins and a memorable end to a stunning day.

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Whale(less) but definitely a dolphin cruise :-) NEWT’s North Sea pelagic 27/08/16

by on Aug.28, 2016, under North Sea

Yesterday was our annual Whale and Dolphin Cruise from Seahouses and, after Manx Shearwater, Gannet, Fulmar, Puffin and Guillemot, the marine mammals put in an appearance.  Harbour Porpoises were typically brief and shy, but the White-beaked Dolphins drew plenty of ooohs and ahhhs from everyone on the boat 🙂

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We’ve got very limited places available for our 10hr ‘Northumberland Ultimate Pelagic’ sailings on 2nd, 10th and 24th September, so give us a call on 01670 827465 to reserve your place before they’re all filled!

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Autumn passage; Northumberland Coast Bespoke Birdwatching 01/09/2015

by on Sep.03, 2015, under Druridge Bay

The start of the month brought returning clients, David and Mary who were out with us in 2009 and 2012 and who we see at the Bird Fair each August.

Starting at Newbiggin we set out south down the coast and soon found ourselves standing on a track with nine Blackbirds ahead of us, along with Chaffinches, Greenfinches, Goldfinches, Linnets and House SparrowsLittle Grebes slept and dived as young Grey Herons stalked along the water’s edge and demonstrated just how inelegant they are in flight – and especially in landing 🙂  A lunchtime stop overlooking the North Sea produced rafts of Eider, Fulmars arcing effortlessly over the waves and a Harbour Porpoise feeding just offshore as Dunlin, Ringed Plover and Turnstone explored the shoreline.  The afternoon was dominated by waders; Black-tailed Godwit, Redshank, Lapwing, Ruff, Curlew, Common Sandpiper, Dunlin. Greenshank, Oystercatchers arriving for their high-tide roost stunning in beautiful light against a dark brooding sky and Common Snipe demonstrating their exceptional camouflage in amongst clumps of rush.  Stonechats flicked their tails nervously from precarious perches on barbed wire and Goldfinches, Willow Warblers and Chiffchaffs swarmed in rank vegetation and nearby trees.

See you at the Bird Fair next year 🙂

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Eight year itch; Otter Safari 18/07/2015

by on Jul.20, 2015, under Druridge Bay, Otter

It’s always a pleasure when clients who haven’t met before get on so well with each other.  Of course they always have a shared interest in wildlife, and other shared interests feature regularly (camping, walking and cycling in particular), and long quests in search of an elusive species soon become a talking point…

I arrived at Church Point for an afternoon/evening search for Otters, and quickly met up with John, then Lucy, Matt and Graham and finally Kate.  Conversation quickly turned to Otters, and the pressure was ramped up when Kate revealed that her attempts to see an Otter had stretched over several holidays…and eight years 🙂  Conditions weren’t promising – a howling wind that was tossing Starlings and Lapwings around and a male Marsh Harrier was battling into the breeze, almost at a standstill.  Whitecaps on a pond is never a situation that fills me with joy on an Otter safari, and we continued checking all of the likely locations.  Mediterranean Gull, Avocet, Knot, Black-tailed Godwit, Little Egret, Grey Heron, Common Sandpiper, Dunlin, Little Grebe and Yellow Wagtail were all added to the bird list for the day, Kate spotted a Red Fox creeping into the reeds, but there was still no sign of the sinuous predator.  Early evening, the conditions changed 🙂  The wind died off and the sea was suddenly very calm, so much so that we were able to enjoy watching Harbour Porpoises from our picnic spot.  Things were looking up…

We settled into position at the site where I’d planned to spend the last couple of hours of daylight, enjoying a chat with Cain, then the day suddenly got really interesting.  First a Barn Owl, white death on silent wings, ghosted by just a few metres away from us.  I concentrated on an area of water with very few birds on it – often a good indication that there’s something the birds are unhappy about.  Scan left to right – two Little Grebes sleeping, scan right to left – two Little Grebes sleeping, scan left to right – three Little Grebes sleeping?  The third Little Grebe didn’t look quite right…which wasn’t a surprise as it was an Otter with just it’s nose sticking up through the blanket of weed on the water’s surface 🙂  A quick text to Cain and he joined us again, and the Otter entertained us for an hour.  Emotional at seeing her first Otter, Kate still grabbed her camera, pointed it down the eyepiece of our ‘scope and started filming it 🙂  The magic continued, as a Long-eared Owl flew around the edge of the bushes in front of us before perching on a fence post, baleful orange eyes staring at us.  Then a second Otter swam across in front of us, while the first one was still hunting in the darkening gloom and the eeirie cries of Curlew coming to roost cut through the chill evening air.

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