Tag: North East Cetacean Project

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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Deep water; NEWT’s North Sea Pelagic 14/08/2013

by on Aug.27, 2013, under Birdwatching, North Sea, Northumberland, White-beaked Dolphin

Probably my favourite pelagic of all of the North Sea pelagic trips that we run (although I enjoy all of them immensely!) is our 10hr Farne Deeps – Northumberland’s ‘Ultimate Pelagic’.  The forecast looked about as promising as it gets and I arrived at Royal Quays in good time, to discover that most of our participants were already there 🙂  This was just a day before I would be heading south to the British Birdwatching Fair and five of our participants would also be visiting Rutland over the coming weekend.

As we sailed north east we soon found our first cetaceans of the day, a small pod of Harbour Porpoise.  10 minutes later our progress northeast was slowed as we enjoyed prolonged views of a Minke Whale.  Continuing towards the Farne Deeps, a deep-water offshore area that I’ve been interested in since the late 1990’s and the North East Cetacean Project has been surveying since 2009, we encountered our first White-beaked Dolphins of the trip.  In an interesting rolling swell seabirds were passing by too; Fulmars, Gannets, Kittiwakes, Guillemots, Razorbills, Manx and Sooty Shearwaters, Great and Arctic Skuas and the occasional Puffin all attracted interest.  Small groups of White-beaked Dolphins were found in locations where we expected them before we headed further offshore to the area that we’ve shown to hold large aggregations of dolphins in the mid-late summer.  Almost exactly where we would expect them to be we found several dolphins breaching.  Others began bow-riding and soon there were groups of White-beaked Dolphins in every direction; tail-slapping, breaching, spy-hopping and just generally performing.  Eventually as many as 60 of these stunningly beautiful dolphins were in view and all of the photographers on board were busy filling their memory cards.  16 years of organising North Sea pelagic trips and they just get better every year 🙂

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Jumping ship; NEWT’s North Sea Pelagic 12/07/13 Part 1

by on Jul.17, 2013, under Birdwatching, MInke Whale, North Sea, Northumberland

Our fourth evening pelagic for 2013 was last Friday, and it was looking like I wasn’t going to make it…

05:00 and the alarm cuts through my slumber.  I get out of bed, go downstairs and make coffee.  Camera equipment, cetacean survey kit (gps, rangefinder binoculars, recording forms) and food had been sorted out on Thursday evening so no rush.

06:00 I board the St Oswald for a North East Cetacean Project transect survey with Steve and Charlotte as my survey team members, and within minutes we’re sailing out of the Tyne.  Then I find out that our route for the day has changed and we’re not due back into Royal Quays until 20:00!  A quick text to Sarah ‘…we might not be back until 8!!! Can you lead the pelagic for me if I’m not back please?’ received a response that would shock anyone who knows her 😉  A quick exchange of texts and all was sorted…Sarah is very popular with our clients, and Allan and Jimmy are by some distance the most experienced pelagic boat crew in the North East so I settled, relaxed, to a day of surveying.

Small groups of White-beaked Dolphins and Harbour Porpoises were found throughout the day, and 2 Minke Whales added some ‘bulk’ to our sightings.  By 17:00 I was texting a route, based on the last 11h of observations, for the evening pelagic to Sarah and Allan.  With the flooding tide hastening our southward journey we knew that we would be passing the SarahJFK somewhere around North Shields Fish Quay…

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