Tag: Harbour Porpoise

A Whale of a time; NEWT’s North Sea Pelagic 12/07/13 Part 2

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

It was a chance I wasn’t going to miss; I was on the PV St Oswald, we were about to pass the SarahJFK in the River Tyne at North Shields, Sarah was on board with 10 of our clients and a late withdrawal had left a space free 🙂  The smoothest of  ship-to-ship transfers – accomplished by two excellent skippers who I would trust with my life – took place, and I was heading back out into the North Sea for another 4hr sailing 🙂

Heading back to the location of the last White-beaked Dolphin sighting I’d had during the survey, we were on the North Sea in quite remarkable conditions.  So flat that it looked like glass, Gannets, Fulmars, Manx Shearwaters, Puffins, Guillemots and Razorbills were all reflected in the glassy surface.  A small group of dolphins surfaced, but only myself on the starboard side, and Jon on the back of the boat on the port side managed to see them as they were directly in front of us.  We continued our search as a spectacular sunset started to develop and then, as we headed back through the area where the dolphins had been, and it suddenly turned overcast, Ruth said “there’s something over there”.  That something was a Minke Whale, and soon everyone on board had excellent views as it surfaced and fed 🙂  Could it get any better?  Of course it could…then there were 2 together!  Away to the south, what was, probably, a 3rd Minke Whale surfaced and then the sort of magic that our summer evening North Sea pelagic trips seem to produce so often happened.  The sun broke through the clouds and I could see some interesting photographic opportunities developing…as long as the whale was going to be obliging 🙂

Northern Fulmar,Fulmarus glacialis,North Sea,Northumberland,North Sea Pelagics,Whalewatching. Dolphin watching,Birdwatching

Common Guillemot,Uria aalge,North Sea,Northumberland,North Sea Pelagics,Whalewatching,Dolphin watching,Birdwatching

Minke Whale,Balaenoptera acutorostrata,North Sea,Northumberland,North Sea Pelagics,Whalewatching,Dolphin watching,Birdwatching

We’ve got a few spaces remaining on some of this year’s North Sea pelagic trips so give us a call on 01670 827465 to find out what’s available and to book your place.  You’ll get to spend time on the North Sea and all of the sightings we make on our pelagic trips are contributing to a genuinely groundbreaking research project that’s the only one providing vital information about the distribution and abundance of Northumberland’s whales, dolphins and porpoises, to the ongoing Marine Conservation Zones process.

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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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Mirror calm; NEWT’s North Sea Pelagic 05/07/13

by on Jul.06, 2013, under Birdwatching, North Sea, Northumberland

The North Sea can be a strange place.  I’ve been out there in calm, sunny conditions, heavy rain, and I’ve carried out survey work for the North East Cetacean Project in conditions – dense fog, white-out blizzard, ‘interesting’ swell – where we wouldn’t have hesitated to cancel the trip if it was part of our North Sea Pelagics programme.  Yesterday was probably the oddest conditions I’ve seen though…

The northward stretch of our trip was in very calm sunny conditions that Mary likened to the Greek islands and Andy thought was reminiscent of a sheltered Scottish sea loch.  Gannets were soaring by, Puffins were bobbing about on the barely noticeable swell, small rafts of Guillemots weren’t doing very much at all and there didn’t seem to be a great deal of activity until we were just off Cresswell and amongst the flocks of gulls and terns.

Then, the journey south brought conditions that were just surreal.  First the sea began to flatten, until what little swell there had been was gone, and it was mirror calm.  Then a hazy mist developed and the reflection of the sky in the water meant that it was no longer possible to see where the sea ended and the sky began; all was a monochrome canvas in front of us – no visible horizon, just a flat grey sheet liberally washed with dense flocks of gullsFulmars and Manx Shearwaters were gliding by just above their own reflections, a flock of Common Scoter flew north just after a Red-throated Diver had passed by and a Harbour Porpoise betrayed the interface between air and water as it surfaced nearby.  As the deep red orb of the sun dipped below the horizon away to the north west, the temperature dropped dramatically and we sailed back into the Tyne.

All of our evening pelagics from North Shields are sold out (except for one place remaining on July 26th) but we still have a limited number of spaces on our Farne Deeps pelagics, our all day pelagics from Royal Quays in September and our Whale and Dolphin Cruise on August 31st.  Give us a call on 01670 827465 for more details, to check availability or to book 🙂

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Seabird Spectacular 10-13 June 2013; birdwatching on the Northumberland coast

by on Jun.13, 2013, under Birdwatching, Coquet Island, Druridge Bay, Farne Islands, Northumberland, Northumberland Coast

Arriving at The Swan on Monday evening I met up with Ronnie and Liz at the start of our Seabird Spectacular holiday.  Of all of our holidays, this is the one that concentrates on the really outstanding wildlife available on the Northumberland coast in the summer.

Tuesday started out very nice, although cloud cover was increasing and, by lunchtime, eventually it was overcast, misty and spotting with rain.  We’d spent the morning around Druridge Bay, with one of the highlights being a very obliging male Reed Bunting who sat just a few metres away from us and sang for over 20 minutes, Wall and Green-veined White Butterflies flitted across the tracks ahead of us, Sedge and Reed Warblers played hide-and-seek in the edge of the reeds and a male Marsh Harrier quartered a reedbed, giving prolonged views at relatively close range.  As we ate lunch, overlooking the North Sea, watching Eiders, Guillemots, Kittiwakes, Fulmars and Gannets, the southeasterly breeze was starting to build a noticeable swell…

The inevitable happened and our planned sailing around Coquet Island was cancelled on safety grounds, so we continued around Druridge Bay.  Sandwich Terns and a Grey Seal were near the weir between Amble and Warkworth and we ended up watching five Otters as they munched their way through a feast of Eels 🙂 A Great Northern Diver flew south between Coquet Island and the mainland and we could see clouds of Puffins and a few ghostly white Roseate Terns from our clifftop vantage point.  Swifts were around in good numbers – a scythe-winged menace to flying insects – and at the end of the day we returned to The Swan and were joined for dinner by Sarah.

After Tuesday’s cancelled boat trip it was a relief to see that the wind had died down by Wednesday morning, and our all-day birdwatching trip to the Farne Islands went ahead as planned.  There were lines of Puffins, Guillemots and Razorbills streaming back towards the islands, Gannets were effortlessly heading either to or from the Bass Rock, and the sights, sounds and smells of the seabird colony were just a few minutes away when we came across two Harbour Porpoises. Cormorants and Shags perched sentinel-like  on the Scarcar rocks and landing on Staple Island we watched Guillemots, Fulmars, Kittiwakes, Puffins, Razorbills, Shags and Rock Pipits at close range before having our picnic lunch in superb weather conditions on this magical rock just a few miles offshore from the Northumberland coast.  Transferring across to Inner Farne at 13:00, via a brief detour to look at the Grey Seals lazing in the sunshine, we were greeted by Head Ranger David Steel and then enjoyed the very different experience of running the gauntlet of a succession of angry Arctic TernsCommon and Sandwich Terns were around too, and we watched Puffins skilfully avoiding the attention of Black-headed and Lesser Black-backed Gulls.  A pair of Rock Pipits nesting beneath the boardwalk were carrying beakfuls of food and I had a Farnes ‘tick’ in the shape of a Swift soaring over the lighthouse buildings.  We tried to find a Roseate Tern in amongst the roost by the Inner Farne jetty, but without success.  Back to The Swan for tea, reflection on a successful day and my Plan B…

Today was planned to be a one-day extension to the holiday, visiting the North Pennines, but we’ve moved that to tomorrow and the ladies have an extra afternoon out with me, to take the boat trip around Coquet Island 🙂

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A Whale of a time on a millpond

by on Sep.09, 2012, under North Sea, Northumberland

Our ‘Whale and Dolphin Cruise’ has become an integral part of the Northern Experience Pelagics annual itinerary, and with an excellent weather forecast for yesterday’s sailing (and some detailed discussions between Martin and our skipper, John) optimism was running high.

As we boarded Glad Tidings 5 with 50 clients, there was a really sociable atmosphere.  Plenty of returning clients, and lots of new faces, were soon scanning the sea all around the boat.  Martin started in the wheelhouse with John and they soon spotted a distant whale surfacing.  The quite young animal surfaced again as we passed, another could be seen away to the north near the Farne Islands, and we headed in the direction of a feeding frenzy of Gannets.  Another whale appeared, then another, and another.  All told, in 4 hours we had 5 or 6 different Minke Whales 🙂  Gannets provided a spectacular wildlife experience as vast flocks plunged into the sea in search of Herring, 3 Sooty Shearwaters soared effortlessly past the boat, a single Great Skua carved a path through the circling mass of Gannets, Fulmars glided by on stiff outstretched wings, a small flock of Kittiwakes lifted from the water as the boat approached, and one of the largest cheers of the day came when a small pod of Harbour Porpoises surfaced just ahead of us.  Martin was kept busy, answering lots of questions from our very enthusiastic clients about whales and dolphins in the North Sea, and managed to grab a few images as well 🙂

Sooty Shearwater,Northumberland,North Sea,pelagics,bird photography

Sooty Shearwater

Northern Gannet,pelagics,North Sea,Northumberland,bird photography

Northern Gannet

Northern Gannet,North Sea,Northumberland,pelagics,bird photography

Northern Gannet

Minke Whale,whale watching,dolphin watching,North Sea,Northumberland,pelagic,wildlife photography tuition

Minke Whale

Minke Whale,whale watching,dolphin watching,North Sea,Northumberland,wildlife photography tuition

Minke Whale

Minke Whale,whale watching,dolphin watching,North Sea,Northumberland,wildlife photography tuition

Minke Whale

Minke Whale,whale watching,dolphin watching,North Sea,Northumberland,wildlife photography tuition

Minke Whale

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Against the light

by on Aug.03, 2012, under Birdwatching, Farne Islands, North Sea, Northumberland, Northumberland Coast

In near-perfect conditions we arrived at Seahouses yesterday evening for our 3hr coastal cruise on Ocean Explorer.  As well as some of our ‘regulars’ we had Andy, Jan and Sam on board, on their final evening in Northumberland.

Soon after heading south down the coast towards Dunstanburgh we came across a couple of Harbour Porpoises.  Typically shy, they surfaced a few times and then vanished into the depths.  Gannets featured throughout the evening, passing both north and south, and one or two were seen diving.  Puffins, Guillemots and Razorbills were bobbing about on the water and a mixed flock of Arctic and Common Terns and Kittiwakes had found something to hold their interest.  We stopped to see if anything else would come along, and were soon joined by a Fulmar, stunning in the beautiful light.

Fulmar,bird photography tuition,Northumberland

We gradually headed north, and approached the Farne Islands as the sun began to set.  Grey Seals poked their heads out of the water and came off the rocks to investigate our boat, Cormorants and Shags perched sentinel-like on the rocky islets, Turnstones prodded and poked their way around the edge of the mass of Seals and Sam punched the air in elation as his first Curlew flew by 🙂  The setting sun provided an opportunity to experiment with an aspect of photography that I’ve never really been able to get to grips with, and one which I’ve always been fairly ambivalent about.  Excellent light, excellent location, all the ingredients were there to convince me…

Farne Islands,Inner Farne,Northumberland,landscape photography tuition,seascape photography


Farne Islands,Northumberland,landscape photography tuition,wildlife photography tuition,seascape photography

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Dark night

by on Jul.12, 2012, under Birdwatching, North Sea, Northumberland, White-beaked Dolphin

This has been a difficult year for boat operators on the east coast, with unseasonable winds and frequent heavy rainfall making it unwise to head out to sea.

Tuesday was the first of this year’s evening pelagics to survive the weather so, as we set out from Royal Quays on the SarahJFK, I was full of optimism.  Soon after leaving the mouth of the Tyne, Allan spotted a Harbour Porpoise, although it remained typically elusive.  Kittiwakes were following us throughout the evening, no doubt wondering if we were going to throw any scraps overboard, Gannets and Fulmars were passing by and, all around us, the sky looked heavy with something…

I’d had a call earlier in the day to say that a small pod of dolphins were passing Newbiggin, so I took a guess on where they would be by mid-evening and asked Allan to plot a course that would take us through the area.  Sure enough, just where we expected them, 6 White-beaked Dolphins, including the smallest calf that I’ve seen in the ten years since we first found White-beaked Dolphins on one of our pelagic trips, appeared in front of the boat and then came in to bow-ride 🙂  They stayed with us for several minutes before heading south, probably to feed, and we continued north.    5 Manx Shearwaters were heading north, and a flock of 30 Common ScotersAll the while the weather around us was looking poor, and eventually we found ourselves in a heavy, misty drizzle as we headed back to port, and by the time we docked it was properly dark – not something we’d normally expect in mid-July.

Glowering, oppressive weather conditions, remarkably good visibility, a sea state that was ideal for cetacean spotting, a boat full of enthusiastic clients and a pod of dolphins…perfect 🙂

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North East Marine Wildlife Festival Pelagic 10/06/2012

by on Jun.13, 2012, under Farne Islands, North Sea, Northumberland

Our Marine Wildlife Festival pelagic trip should have taken place on Saturday, but the poor weather led to several ‘phone calls and e-mails, and a re-scheduling to Sunday instead.

We lost a few participants who couldn’t make the rearranged date, but we gathered a few extras on Saturday/Sunday too, and arrived at Seahouses Harbour full of enthusiasm for our first pelagic trip this year.  In the extremely capable hands of John, onboard Glad Tidings V, we headed across to the Farne Islands and the Guillemots, Razorbills, Puffins, Shags, terns, Kittiwakes, Fulmars and Grey Seals.  After a journey through the islands we sailed south and then east before heading back north along the coast.   Harbour Porpoises provided the cetacean interest, lots of Gannets were soaring majestically by and three Manx Shearwaters flew north.  The number of positive comments by text, e-mail and ‘phone, since Sunday evening has been great and it’s always good to see how much people appreciate the marine environment of the North Sea, even if it sometimes seems impenetrable.

Bird of the day though, was the one that was only seen by a couple of very lucky participants.  We were a couple of miles south of the islands when someone asked the question “Martin, which Storm-petrel is it likely to be that we saw back there?”…

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Raptors, raptors everywhere

by on Feb.02, 2012, under Birdwatching, Holy Island, Lindisfarne, Northumberland, Northumberland Coast

Standing on the Heugh on Holy Island with Jill and Steve, we’re all scanning towards Guile Point.  Cormorants, Shags, Red-breasted Mergansers and Eider are all bobbing about on the water, Pale-bellied and Dark-bellied Brent Geese, Bar-tailed Godwits, Grey Plover, Curlew and Oystercatchers are flying by, Common and Grey Seals are splashing in the surf as the tide falls…and I’m focused on the sea with one species in mind.  Then 2 distant white dots, gradually narrowing the gap toward us, and I know I’ve achieved that primary target.  Soon, I’ve got 2 very happy clients watching an immaculate drake Long-tailed Duck.  Outrageously attractive, he waved that eponymous tail in the air before taking off and vanishing out of sight around the headland.

At the other end of the day we watched a flock of 20 Slavonian Grebes and a similar number of Common Scoter, another 6 Long-tailed Ducks, an elusive Black-throated Diver and 3 equally elusive Red-throated Divers and 2 Harbour Porpoises as the light faded to the point where even the impressive assembly of optical equipment wasn’t offering an advantage any more.

Sandwiched in between though, was a veritable feast of raptors;  we’d already had a couple of Common Buzzards (and I’d had 2 on the drive to Hauxley before collecting Jill and Steve), 2 Sparrowhawks and several Kestrels by lunchtime, but the best was yet to come.  First a Merlin perched on a post in front of us for 10 minutes, then we found 2 Peregrines sitting on boulders at low tide.  Soon a wave of panic spread through the assembled waders, and the Barnacle, Greylag, Pink-footed and White-fronted Geese, as the 2 Peregrines swooped back and forth.  Then, our second Merlin of the day began harrassing one of the Peregrines. As chaos raged across the mudflats, one of the Peregrines made a kill; an unfortunate Redshank.  It took it’s prize to a rock and began plucking it…and 2 more Peregrines arrived!  All 3 tussled over the spoils of the hunt, before 2 of them conceded and sat a little distance away.  A dry, cold wintry day and spectacular drama played out by some excellent wildlife.  The Northumberland coast in the winter – there’s nothing better 🙂

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Long, lazy swell

by on Sep.19, 2011, under Birdwatching, Druridge Bay, Grey Seal, North Sea, Northumberland, Northumberland Coast, Southeast Northumberland

When I was on the coast just south of Cresswell on Friday evening, I didn’t hold out much hope for Saturday’s pelagic going ahead;  a menacing sea, with waves forming towering peaks, didn’t look likely to abate.

However, the sea is often fickle and Saturday saw nothing more than a long, lazy swell as we set sail into the North Sea for a day of offshore birdwatching along the coastlines of Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland.  Conditions changed throughout the day with, at times, the sea as calm as a millpond.  3 ‘Blue’ Fulmars, 5 Great Skuas, a probable Pomarine Skua, 3 Arctic Skuas, 5 Sooty Shearwaters, 4 Red-throated Divers, 2 Manx Shearwaters, Teal, Puffins, Guillemots, Razorbills, Kittiwakes, Gannets, Mediterranean Gulls and Swallows! were all appreciated and a Grey Seal and 2 Harbour Porpoises added some mammalian interest.

Gannet,Northumberland,offshore wildlife trips,pelagic trips,birdwatching


Fulmar,offshore wildlife watching,pelagic trips,Northumberland,birdwatching


Sooty Shearwater,offshore wildlife watching,pelagic trips,Northumberland,birdwatching


Blue Fulmar,offshore wildlife watching,pelagic trips,Northumberland,birdwatching


Mediterranean Gull,offshore wildlife watching,pelagic trips,Northumberland,birdwatching

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