A tale of 3 pelagics

by on Aug.04, 2011, under Druridge Bay, North Sea, Southeast Northumberland, White-beaked Dolphin

After our stunning pelagic on Friday, we had 3 more evening trips in 5 days, all concentrating on the southeast Northumberland coast.

Saturday was a massive contrast with Friday; only 2 brief White-beaked Dolphins, but Gannets and Fulmars were in great abundance and 3 Great Skuas, 2 Manx Shearwaters and 5 Sooty Shearwaters added to the birdwatching interest.

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Monday was the day that the weather forecast was really, really wrong.  Just 20 minutes out of the Tyne, the heavens opened and most on board headed for the shelter of the wheelhouse.  With the North Sea appearing to be coming to the boil, fortune favoured the brave, and the 2 participants who stayed on deck with me during the deluge were the only ones lucky enough to see the White-beaked Dolphin that surfaced just a few metres away from us.  Manx Shearwaters, Arctic Skuas and lots of Gannets provided entertainment once the rain had ceased, but the dolphins remained elusive.

That brings us to yesterday evening.  A very calm sea and cetacean reports from earlier in the day (12 unidentified dolphins south past Tynemouth at 06:30, porpoises just off Cullercoats from the SarahJFK and 2 White-beaked Dolphins in Newbiggin Bay at 17:15 all seemed to bode well).  We’d just passed between the Tyne piers and started to head north when we came across 8 White-beaked Dolphins and 3 Harbour Porpoises!  After enjoying several views of them, I explained to all on board that it isn’t usually that easy and we continued north.  Arctic Skuas were seen as we passed St Mary’s Island but the real entertainment began when Andy spotted a distant fin north of Blyth.  After a wait of several minutes the dolphins began to surface in ever-increasing numbers, eventually we were surrounded by over 30 animals bow-riding, breaching and milling about.  As the dolphins began to drift away, presumably to feed once they’d finished playing with our boat, we continued north into Newbiggin Bay.  Our return journey produced more dolphin sightings, including one animal repeatedly ‘spyhopping’, and some incredible views of animals swimming slowly around the boat.  The only downside (if there really was a downside) was the murky, overcast conditions made it seem like dusk almost from the moment we set sail.  We can choose times/dates appropriate to what our clients want to see, we can use our knowledge and fieldcraft to maximise the chances of encountering any desired species…but we can’t control the weather.  Wouldn’t it be a dull life if we could though?

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