North Sea

Subtle sunset…and here come the White-beaks :-) NEWT’s North Sea Pelagic 10/07/19

by on Jul.11, 2019, under North Sea

After a cetacean-free pelagic last Friday I was hopeful that Bottlenose Dolphins have mainly moved north and White-beaked Dolphins would be here any day now…

A flock of Common Scoter off Whitley Bay liftg4d from the water and flew past us, Puffins and Common Guillemots were sitting on the sea, Gannets soared past and myself and Tim both spotted a large, slow moving fin away to the north. It looked like a probable Minke Whale, although we couldn’t relocate it, but then breaching White-beaked Dolphins appeared from the north and showed brief interest in the boat 🙂

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St Mary’s sunset; NEWT’s North Sea Pelagic 05/07/19

by on Jul.09, 2019, under North Sea

Friday’s 4hr pelagic demonstrated just how quickly things can change with our marine wildlife. A few Puffins, Guillemots, Razorbills, Gannets and small flocks of Manx Shearwaters and a bigger flock of Common Scoter were far fewer birds than on our previous sailings and the echo finder showed that there was very little in the way of shoals of bait fish. The end of the evening brought another stunning sunset behind St Mary’s Island, with a whale-shaped gap in the clouds, as we headed back towards the marina 🙂

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Dolphins and a stunning sunset :-) NEWT’s North Sea Pelagic 03/07/19

by on Jul.04, 2019, under Bottlenose Dolphin, North Sea

We set out from Royal Quays in better conditions than on Friday and Laura quickly found the Bottlenose Dolphins just around the corner in King Edward’s Bay again 🙂

With Puffins, Guillemots, Razorbills, Gannets, Kittiwakes, Fulmars and Common Scoters all seen as we headed north towards Newbiggin, Laura spotted more dolphins and they came to bow-ride the JFK Two as the dipping Sun bathed them in beautiful light as Jupiter rose through the Belt of Venus and a stunning sunset provided a backdrop to St Mary’s Island as we headed back to the river 🙂

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A cracking start, and 1000-up :-) NEWT’s North Sea Pelagic 28/06/19

by on Jul.02, 2019, under North Sea

Incredibly this is our 1000th blog post, and it coincides with our first pelagic trip of 2019

We’d been watching reports on the North East Cetacean Project Facebook group through the day so we knew there’d been dolphins at the mouth of the Tyne most of the afternoon, and Allan had seen them at 16.30 on his way back in from an angling trip.

We weren’t even out of the mouth of the river when the first breaching Bottlenose Dolphins could be seen just north of the piers 🙂

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Bow-riding; NEWT’s (pen)Ultimate North Sea pelagic 15/09/18

by on Sep.18, 2018, under North Sea

Saturday was our penultimate pelagic trip for 2018; another 10hr Northumberland Ultimate Pelagic out to the Farne Deeps in search of Minke Whale and White-beaked Dolphin.  We started our exploration of Northumberland’s offshore waters, as a partner in the North East Cetacean Project, in 2009 and we’ve been able to demonstrate some quite specific site fidelity by White-beaked Dolphins since 2010 so we always know where we’re heading once we’re out of the Tyne.  We can get distracted on the way though and while I was watching a distant flock of circling Gannets towards the shore I was sure I’d seen a whale lunge-feeding under them.  As we approached them they didn’t move away – lots were sitting on the sea and even more were circling and diving, and there were a few Fulmars and a Sooty Shearwater among them too.  Sure enough, a Minke Whale soon surfaced and came straight towards the boat!  Once it had done that very Minke thing of apparently vanishing without trace we resumed our original course and, right on cue, the White-beaked Dolphins appeared as expected 🙂  Some remarkable bow-riding included a group of 6 dolphins that appeared once we were making tracks back to the Tyne and stayed alongside us for nearly 5 miles!

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We’ve got one final pelagic this year, another fully booked 10hr sailing this Saturday, but 2019’s dates are on our website calendar and starting to fill already 🙂

 

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Having a whale of a time; NEWT’s North Sea Pelagic 29/08/18

by on Sep.03, 2018, under North Sea

Last Wednesday was our second 10hr ‘Northumberland Ultimate pelagic’ for this year and the sea was looking about as calm as we could have hoped for…

Our first White-beaked Dolphins appeared off Blyth but they weren’t in a mood for playing with the boat and were engaged in high speed pursuit of prey.  Gannets, Fulmars and Kittiwakes were regular throughout the whole day and then circling flocks of Gannets took us to Minke Whales, more Minke Whales, White-beaked Dolphins, even more Minke Whales, more White-beaked Dolphins, even more White-beaked Dolphins and more Minke Whales before a final group of White-beaked Dolphins and a scattering of Harbour Porpoises as we headed south with a day total of 50+ White-beaked Dolphins and up to 12 Minke Whales 🙂

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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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A grand finale; NEWT’s North Sea pelagic 10/08/18

by on Aug.13, 2018, under North Sea

Friday was our final 4hr evening pelagic for 2018 and so far we’d managed to run 12 out of 13 pelagics (with one cancelled due to poor weather conditions), with those 12 producing Bottlenose Dolphin on 2 trips and White-beaked Dolphin on 6.  Allan had been out with the boat during the day and, incredibly, they’d been followed back in to the river by a group of White-beaked Dolphins who’d made it as far as the first navigation buoy before turning and heading back to sea 🙂

We checked towards Whitburn first in case they were still hanging around nearby but there was no sign of them so we turned north and followed our usual search pattern.  This year we’ve been gathering effort data for the North East Cetacean Project/MARINElife on all of our pelagics so I’m usually in the wheelhouse and carrying out 180 degree scans ahead of the boat and as we passed St Mary’s Island and some impressive storms over Northumberland I spotted a distant fin.  Soon there were 12 White-beaked Dolphins feeding around us in small groups as the sky darkened and the first drops of rain began to patter against binoculars and cameras.

Our evening pelagics may be over for another year but our 10hr ‘Northumberland Ultimate Pelagic’ sailings start tomorrow, with a trip that’s been sold out for a while, and we’ve got a couple of spaces available on August 29th, September 15th and September 22nd so get in touch with us today on 01670 827465 to book your place before they’re all taken!

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Dolphins in the dark; NEWT’s North Sea pelagic 08/08/18

by on Aug.10, 2018, under North Sea

Wednesday was our penultimate 4hr evening pelagic for this year, and after a few splashes that we couldn’t pin down to anything specific we were heading back south as the sun dipped below the horizon and White-beaked Dolphins appeared 🙂  Light levels were challenging, and didn’t help with achieving the sort of exposure times necessary for fast moving dolphins bow-riding so video proved to be much better and you can see a few minutes by clicking here 🙂

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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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