Posted by: orcaweb | August 26, 2011

Where have all the White-beaked Dolphins gone?

I’m back on board the ship now for a couple of weeks. It has got a bit quieter on board in terms of sightings so I thought I would write a bit about the numbers of White-beaked Dolphins we’ve seen this year.

The number of sightings of white-beaked dolphins has decreased dramatically compared to last year’s observations (where dolphins were seen every day throughout June).  Interestingly, this year has also been a record year for spotting white-beaked dolphins along the coast just north of Newcastle. So why were we not seeing them from the ship? Well white-beaked dolphins are a cold water loving species. One theory is that the warm spring brought the sea surface temperature south of Newcastle above the preferred level for white-beaked dolphins (around 12-14⁰C). Female white-beaked dolphins come to the Northumberland coastline in June and July to give birth, they like the slightly warmer waters to their usual cold Scottish habitat, but obviously not too warm.   This could also explain why sightings increased just north of Newcastle where the temperatures would be slightly lower. Therefore, the distribution of their preferred water temperature for calving was more restricted this year.

Distribution of white-beaked dolphin sightings from the King Seaways between the 2nd June and 20th July 2011, where the green dot = white-beaked dolphin sightings.

I’ll update you with more sightings soon

Richard Bull
Senior Wildlife Officer

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