Tag: Minke Whale

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 🙂

Minke Whale,Balaenoptera acutorostrata,North Sea,Northumberland,North Sea pelagics,whalewatching Northumberland,dolphin watching Northumberland,www.northernexperiencepelagics.co.uk

White-beaked Dolphin,Lagenorhynchus albirostris,North Sea,Northumberland,North Sea pelagics,whalewatching Northumberland,dolphin watching Northumberland,whalewatching North Sea,dolphin watching North Sea,Farne Deeps,www.northernexperiencepelagics.co.uk

White-beaked Dolphin,Lagenorhynchus albirostris,Farne Deeps,North Sea,Northumberland,North Sea pelagics,whalewatching North Sea,dolphin watching North Sea,whalewatching Northumberland,dolphin watching Northumberland,www.northernexperiencepelagics.co.uk

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Supporting cast; NEWT’s North Sea Pelagic 19/07/2013

by on Aug.06, 2013, under Birdwatching, Grey Seal, MInke Whale, North Sea, Northumberland, Northumberland Coast, White-beaked Dolphin

In late July there are a few species that we’d be amazed to not find on a North Sea pelagic trip; Guillemot, Razorbill, Puffin, Kittiwake, Fulmar and Gannet are all great birds to see, and are all part of the experience that is the North Sea in mid-summer.  There are other species that can overshadow the regular cast list though; Sooty Shearwater is a real ‘birders bird’, close views of any of the skuas grab the attention and, with seabirds covering such vast distances, there’s always the possibility of something completely unexpected.  But, for crowd-pleasing spectacular there’s little that can compete with our marine mammals.  Grey Seals often pop their heads up as we pass, but the real awe-inspiring species are whales and dolphinsOur previous pelagic had been illuminated by Minke Whales but on this trip we were confident of finding a different species.  Ten years of finding, studying, and mapping the distribution of, White-beaked Dolphins gives us a narrow target area to search in the third week in July…

As we headed north, a shout from Jimmy alerted everyone to the presence of a small pod of dolphins ahead of us.  Sure enough, the White-beaked Dolphins came across to investigate our boat and we soon had 12 of them around us 🙂  Once I was sure that everyone had seen them – which didn’t take too long! – I waited for them to surface alongside us so that I could take photographs of their dorsal fins.  Through a combination of NEWT pelagic trips and survey work for the North East Cetacean Project, we’ve built up a catalogue of individual White-beaked Dolphins off the Northumberland coast.  Having been the first pelagic tour operator to regularly find White-beaked Dolphins off the Northumberland coast, and the only one to have contributed to the Marine Conservation Zones project, we’re proud to have been involved in leading the way in groundbreaking research to map the distribution and abundance of White-beaked Dolphins. We’d like to thank all of our clients who’ve contributed, and continue to contribute, to the catalogue too 🙂

Of course, dolphin dorsal fin images aren’t the most exciting shots you can get, and the glassy calm water produced lots of other interesting possibilities…

White-beaked Dolphin,Lagenorhynchus albirostris,Northumberland,North Sea,North Sea pelagics,dolphin watching Northumberland,whale watching Northumberland

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Mirror-calm

by on Aug.05, 2013, under Birdwatching, Druridge Bay, MInke Whale, Northumberland, Otter, Southeast Northumberland, White-beaked Dolphin

As I collected Carol and Howard from their holiday accommodation in Alnwick, the bright afternoon sunshine was going to make viewing conditions difficult for the first few hours.  The plan for the afternoon and evening was the one that has worked so well for us in mid-July previously; birdwatching around Druridge Bay, a quick scan of the sea while we have our picnic stop, then settle down to enjoy the wildlife that makes its appearance as daylight fades.

Little Egrets were the highlight of the first section of the afternoon, but what came next was so astonishing that I was lost for words…

As we arrived at our picnic spot, overlooking the North Sea, I was amazed to see that the sea was absolutely mirror-calm;  not a ripple or wave as far as the eye could see.  We’d only just started our soup and sandwiches when the mirror was shattered…by a White-beaked Dolphin 🙂  Many of our encounters with dolphins are small groups of animals that are travelling from one spot to another. Not this time though, as another three appeared next to the first one and they spent nearly an hour in the one small area, along with another eight animals in three small groups.  We watched them breaching, and circling in one tight area, presumably over a food source.  The most remarkable thing though, was that the sea was so flat that we could see the tell-tale fluke prints when they were just beneath the surface.  As the groups moved a little way, we knew exactly where they were going to surface next.  Now, watching dolphins in Northumberland waters is “something really special” ((c) Joanne, one of our regular North Sea pelagic clients) and the only way to top it is…to watch a Minke Whale surfacing just beyond the dolphins at the same time!  Awesome 🙂

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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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Sunset spectacular; NEWT’s North Sea Pelagic 28/06/13

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

We’ve seen some fantastic wildlife during the 16 years that I’ve been running pelagics in the North Sea off Northumberland; Wilson’s Petrel, Great Shearwater, Grey and Red-necked Phalaropes, Sabine’s Gull, Ocean Sunfish, Minke Whale and White-beaked Dolphin are just a few of the highlights.  One thing that so many clients mention though, is just what an experience it is to be offshore approaching sunset and to see the Northumberland coast in a different light (no pun intended!).

Last Friday brought a reasonable amount of swell, the ‘usual suspects’ – Gannet, Fulmar, Kittiwake, Guillemot, Puffin, Razorbill, Manx Shearwater – and a dense feeding flock of terns and gulls just off Cresswell.  The other thing the trip brought though was probably the best sunset I’ve ever seen on a pelagic.  As the sun dropped out of sight and we were approaching the Tyne piers, the sky away to the northwest was a stunning pinky-orange.  Some things really do take your breath away 🙂

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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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My lucky Tilley hat

by on Jul.26, 2012, under North Sea, Northumberland, Northumberland Coast

It protects my head from attack by Arctic Terns on trips to the Farne Islands, it prevents me getting sunburn, but now it seems to have developed an additional, almost mystical, power…

With a spell of settled weather, and incredibly obliging sea conditions, I was full of optimism as I arrived at Seahouses Harbour for the first of this year’s Northern Experience Pelagics Farne Deeps trips.  We boarded Ocean Explorer and headed offshore, in search of Minke Whale and White-beaked Dolphin.  As always we found birds close to land, and then a period with little wildlife other than an occasional Gannet gliding by.  With land-based trips you learn to ‘read’ the habitat and weather conditions.  At sea, you don’t have that luxury; whatever the sea bed is like, the surface always looks pretty much the same 🙂  The wildlife itself provides the visual clues, and splashing in the distance simply didn’t look right for diving Gannets. Alan slowed the RIB and I scanned the horizon.  Again the same splashing, and it became obvious that there were lots of Gannets sitting on the sea in that area as well.  The first dorsal fins began to appear, and soon we could see a small pod of White-beaked Dolphins heading towards us.  Then more appeared…and more…and more.  Eventually we had between 60-100 dolphins bow-riding, breaching, feeding and generally providing excellent entertainment for all on board.

White-beaked Dolphin [Lagenorhynchus albirostris],whale watching,dolphin watching,Northumberland

White-beaked Dolphin [Lagenorhynchus albirostris],whale watching,dolphin watching,Northumberland

White-beaked Dolphin [Lagenorhynchus albirostris],whale watching,dolphin watching,Northumberland

White-beaked Dolphin [Lagenorhynchus albirostris],whale watching,dolphin watching,Northumberland

White-beaked Dolphin [Lagenorhynchus albirostris],whale watching,dolphin watching,Northumberland

The dolphins, Gannets and the fish they were feeding on drifted away so we sat with engines off and had our own meal break.  Just over half an hour later we encountered the dolphins again and they charged headlong towards the boat.  After another long session of breaching and bow-riding, we stopped the engines and let the dolphins head off to whatever they were planning to do next.

We were heading back to shore at just over 30knots when my Tilley hat was lifted from my head by the breeze and landed in the wake 🙁  Now, one of the things about a Tilley hat is that if it falls in the water it floats.  Alan turned the boat and a few minutes later we recovered my hat 🙂  After nearly 4 hours of staying firmly on my head, it was a surprise that it had suddenly departed seawards…

We’d just started heading again towards the shore when Sue said that she’d seen a fin and thought it might be a Harbour Porpoise.  Alan slowed the boat right down, and the fin surfaced again.  Much better than a porpoise though, it was a distant Minke Whale 🙂  We watched it surface several times, and then it became obvious that although everyone on board was watching a Minke Whale not everyone was looking in the same direction!  There were at least two, and possibly three, whales around us and, even though the dolphins were spectacular, there was something really special about watching these huge marine mammals as they surfaced with a stunning sunset, and the distant Northumberland coast, as a backdrop.

The best pelagic that we’ve organised? Probably…

We’re heading to the Farne Deeps again on August 15th (from Royal Quays) so give us a call on 01670 827465 to book your space before it sells out.

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Deeply moving

by on Jul.29, 2011, under Farne Islands, North Sea, Northumberland

Yesterday brought a new product to the NEWT stable, as we launched our first RIB trip to the Farne Deeps on Ocean Explorer.

As we headed southeast at a speed of 27knots Puffins, Guillemots, Razorbills, Gannets, Kittiwakes and Storm petrels were seen.  In less than an hour we were over the edge of the deep water, and the first cetaceans of the trip were spotted; 2 fins were seen, and just a few minutes later we found ourselves surrounded by White-beaked Dolphins 🙂  At least 6 animals, including a calf, came to investigate the boat – bow-riding, racing past within a few metres of us and, for the lucky crew member with the wetsuit and camcorder with underwater housing, performing like the stars that they are.  Eventually they vanished back into the deep as unexpectedly as they’d arrived, and we watched for a Minke Whale that surfaced to breathe just once.

After an exhilarating ride around some of our offshore waters, we finished with something a little more familiar to most of our clients and a sailing around the Farne IslandsGrey Seals watched us from the rocks as some impressive white surf rolled along the edges, and an Arctic Skua (the only one of the trip) harrassed terns as we headed back towards the harbour.

We’re running 3hr evening trips on Ocean Explorer on August 2nd, 9th, 16th and 25th, searching down the coast to Dunstanburgh and back up to the Farne Islands for seabirds and cetaceans.  Give us a call on 01670 827465 to find out more and book your place, or click here to book now.

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Exposure compensation

by on Jul.18, 2011, under Birdwatching, Druridge Bay, Northumberland, Southeast Northumberland

When we’re on a trip with a specific target, we usually find what we’re looking for.  Sometimes, we don’t though…and sometimes we find something that we hadn’t even considered as a possibility.

I collected Gary and Stephanie from Seahouses and we headed south towards Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland.  ‘Red Squirrel and raptors’ was the aim of this photography/birdwatching trip.  Our first raptor of the day was a Common Buzzard, although it was soaring too high in the morning heat to allow Gary any realistic chance of locking onto it with his camera.

For once, we didn’t have any luck with the squirrels.  I’d checked and replenished our feeding site a couple of hours earlier but, although there was evidence that food had been taken in the 2 hours prior to us arriving, the squirrels stayed high in the canopy and out of sight.

Heading inland, through some of our favourite Northumberland countryside, a distant speck over a plantation caught my eye.  The speck had that almost undefinable ‘something’ about it that set my pulse racing.  I knew what it was, and it was all I could do to not yell the name loudly enough to deafen my clients.  Lazily drifting like an oversized gull, carrying what seemed an impossibly large (and recently decapitated) fish, the Osprey eventually passed overhead 🙂

Dropping back to the coast, we stopped for lunch just south of Cresswell…and watched a Minke Whale lunge-feeding offshore.

Rare birds, scarce mammals.  All part of what makes Northumberland so very, very good 🙂

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