On the DFDS Seaways ferry King of Scandinavia which leaves from Newcastle’s Port of Tyne to go to Ijmuiden the deck Watches in my first shift weren’t very successful, as I was always on the observation deck alone. Now that the weather has brightened up, deck watches are fun and filled with excitement. Now there are lots of passengers getting involved, some are bird fanatics, some just want to see a whale or dolphin and others are just curious, whatever the reason, it doesn’t matter as it is so much more interesting when there is a group of people observing rather than just one. Also the more people out on deck looking, the higher the chance will be to see amazing wildlife. Such as for today coming back from Ijmuiden a passenger spotted a porpoise, which is dark grey dorsally with a paler front side. Porpoises are small cetaceans reaching lengths of up to 1.9m, and they are common all round the UK coast. Also, a Gannet was spotted near the coast of Ijmuiden, which is quite rare. These large sea birds (wing span of 2m) are uncommon around this area as there are no cliffs, and they usually breed on cliff tops.
On the deck watches, as a wildlife officer I am there not only to record the wildlife observed but to tell people about the wildlife that we see. At the weekends we have ORCA volunteers on board to participate in marine surveys, where they just record their sightings of cetaceans, not birds. Their data is used to estimate cetacean populations, identify the habitats and so predict where they live. In this way we will know what areas are the most important for them to be protected. So it is used for research, campaigning and to inform policy makers.
So deck watches are becoming a more exciting thing now, and who knows what the summer will have in store for us, I cannot wait.
Orca Wildlfie officer