Hello my name is Kathryn and I am one of the Wildlife Officers on the Harwich-Esbjerg route this Autumn.
My first trip out from the Channel across the North Sea to Denmark has been a great experience. I was lucky to have really enthuastic ORCA passengers, as well as Mathew and Rachel from the ORCA survey team, on board with me. Leaving Harwich harbour Common terns were feeding very close to the ship. Later on during the deck watch we spotted the different gulls and watched as the juvenilles followed behind still begging their parents for food.
During a deck watch we had a fantastic a view of 50+ Common and Grey seals on the sand banks approaching Esbjerg.
The weather has certainly been challenging this trip, around force 8-9; but the Gannets, flocks of sea ducks (Common scoters), Artic terns (longest migrants) and a few migrating waders were fantastic to see. Mathew ORCA volunteer surveyor from his position high up on the ships bridge saw an Artic skua carrying a fish and later he saw a close up Great skua.
The ORCA passengers took the little ferry over to the Island of Fano where the starlings had begun flocking, creating spectacular patterns in the sky, as more and more small flocks joined up. Starlings come together to roost after the breeding season-finding the best places to feed and spend the night-to have safety in numbers. In between squalls and showers we watched a very close Cormorant on a rock drying its wings ready to dive for fish again. Cormorants have less oil on their feathers compared to other seabirds and are often seen on rocks spreading their wings to dry.
The return journey from Esbjerg took us back past the seals with 25 of them still out of the water digesting their food and resting. We hit a storm further out to sea with very strong SW winds slowing the ship down by 3 hours! The 6 metre swell had the oil and gas platforms bobbed up and down as the boat pitched and fell.
The sunshine in the morning brought us out on deck for some more seawatching. Gary the youngest ORCA passenger (10 years old) managed to spot a manx shearwater and was also a wiz on the Gannets ages now.
The strangest wildlife pointed out by a number of the passengers on the Dana Sirena were the large amounts of ladybirds (5 & 7 spotted) that we had on board the ferry. I had read about their population explosions in places such as Norfolk so are these the furthest migrants from there, or is the same thing happening in Denmark now?
I would like to thank the ORCA team, Gary, Pat, Jon and Christine; and the other Dana Sierna passengers, for sharing all their wildlife experiences with me-making this a very memorable and enjoyable first trip.