Tag: Killer Whale
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 🙂
We’re in one of our busier periods at the moment; two trips on Thursday, two on Friday and then we’ll be out again tomorrow.
Thursday’s two mini-safaris featured some of our old favourites; Little Owl is one of the best crowd-pleasers that there is, Dunlin, Greenshank, Common Sandpiper, Grey Heron and summer-plumaged Knot all went down very well and some attractive insects added a touch of glitter – Common Darter, Blue-tailed Damselfly, Small Copper, Red Admiral and Dark Green Fritillary are all easily overlooked (well maybe not Red Admiral), but quite stunning if you take the time to search for them and then look closely. After finishing Thursday’s first trip, and dropping Kevin, Angela and Georgia back at Newbiggin, I went back to the office, dealt with a few e-mails, packed the head torches and bat detectors ready for the evening and then headed back out for the day’s second tour of Druridge Bay and Southeast Northumberland. Then the heavens opened. With windscreen wipers barely able to provide a clear view, traffic was crawling. I was considering the unthinkable – cancelling a trip. The rain eased and I collected Andy and family. The trip list was very similar to the morning and then I thought it might be worthwhile to have a quick look at the sea.
Now, seawatching is an obsessive pastime but it isn’t for everyone; I’m certain that long periods staring at the sea, hoping that something exciting will appear, don’t make for good client experiences. So we don’t do it…very often. The sea had been flat calm during the day and there was only a gentle breeze. Ideal conditions for searching for cetaceans, in fact. The number of e-mails, texts and ‘phone calls I’d had during the week was the clincher. I knew that cetaceans sightings were increasing and viewing conditions were just right…surely the right time to take clients for a seawatch. Gannets were passing by and we all scanned the sea. Quickly I picked up 2 dolphins away to the south. Then another 2, then 3 including 2 calves. Through binoculars I had little doubt that these were White-beaked Dolphins. A quick look through the ‘scope revealed all of the relevant ID features; tall falcate dorsal fin, white flanks arcing up behind the dorsal to form a pale saddle. As everyone managed to see the dolphins, I scanned slowly to estimate how many dolphins there were. At least 25 individual animals were found, and the pod was spread out over at least 6 square miles of the North Sea! Another birder arrived and we managed to get him on to the dolphins as well. It’s almost impossible to describe just how extraordinary such a sighting is. Normally the best opportunities arise when you’re on an organised pelagic trip. We’ve got 4 more of these this year; and with only one place remaining on September 18th, two places on September 4th and four places on August 12th, get in touch now on 01670 827465 to join us and experience the best pelagic wildlife and birdwatching opportunities available on the east coast. August 12th will be a groundbreaking trip; we’re heading out to the Farne Deeps and reports from anglers and researchers suggest that the area could produce sightings of some spectacular wildlife. Minke Whale, White-beaked Dolphin, Common Dolphin and Killer Whale have all been found previously.
After the dolphins we had another of the species that always captivates our clients as a Barn Owl allowed a prolonged period of observation as it hunted along the coastal dunes. As darkness descended and we headed back to our starting point the raindrops began to speckle the windscreen of the Landy again.
The highlights of Friday’s first trip were Red Squirrel and Little Owl (for Kate and Lucy) and a very unexpected Green Sandpiper (for me).
The evening pelagic took place with some extraordinary glowering skies to the north. As the swell began to develop, we were treated to very close views of Gannet and Fulmar before returning to Royal Quays in the dark, but the abiding memory of the last week is the extraordinary spectacle of a little-known cetacean, hunting, leaping and playing in the seas off Northumberland.