Posted by: orcaweb | July 9, 2013

Whales, sun and sharks

Thanks to good weather (it’s been boiling this week, both in Newcastle and Amsterdam!), sightings this week have been great! I had another primary school crossing to Amsterdam at the beginning of the week with 23 children who put their ID skills to the test and did some great wildlife spotting.

On the crossing that evening we saw 4 pods of white beaked dolphins, several porpoise and 2 minke whales! The pupils wrote fantastic diary entries about their sightings and what a memorable experience they had had on the boat – for most of them it was their first time at sea. It’s certainly rewarding to see a group of young students writing with such enthusiasm about whales and dolphins!

The next crossing from Newcastle to Amsterdam the water was even calmer and in addition to spotting over 30 dolphins and seals, guests and I watched in amazement as a mystery dorsal fin gently broke the still water leaving a trail of ripples behind it as it moved slowly from side to side.

“Shark!” I yelled, as we all rushed to the side of the boat just in time to see the grey shape of the 3 metre shark loom through the ripples before it slowly sunk down out of sight.

The shark fin that appeared by our ship. Duh dah duh dah duh dah...

The shark fin that appeared by our ship. Duh dah duh dah duh dah…

Guests gasped, cameras flashed and I did a little victory dance on the deck (these seem to be coming more frequent). After that we saw 3 more sharks meandering in the cool evening waters and all were right next to the ship! I’m not 100% sure what sharks they were – common ones in the North Sea include the Porbeagle Shark, Thresher, Basking and the Blue Shark.

I have sent off a description to the UK Shark Trust and am awaiting suggestions on the most likely ones that I saw – but I think they were Porbeagle Sharks. You can click this link to read more about the Porbeagle:
http://www.sharktrust.org/en/factsheets/39/porbeagle-shark.html

Along with seeing dolphins almost every time on the Newcastle side, I’ve also been keeping an eye on two herring gull chicks which have recently started wandering out of their nest. As always, the mother has chosen an interesting spot – the air bridge – so I can stand and watch them daily as they venture further and further from the nest.

The two herring gull chicks wandering from the nest (to the left of the picture) and scanning the busy car park below.

The two herring gull chicks wandering from the nest (to the left of the picture) and scanning the busy car park below.


I even watched in delight as they instinctively pecked away at their mother’s beak, encouraging her to regurgitate food for them. She obliged, and rather inelegantly spat out what look like pieces of bread for them to eat.
The two chicks pecking their mother's beck for food

The two chicks pecking their mother’s beck for food

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The food that the mother regurgitated for the chicks.

The food that the mother regurgitated for the chicks.


Today one of them was desperately flapping its wings (which at the moment seem rather disproportionately long in comparison to the rest of its fluffy body) in a confused effort to understand what they were for. It took a peak over the air bridge and upon seeing the car park far below it quickly waddled back to the safety of the nest.

In other birdy news, the waters outside of Newcastle are now full of guillemots with their chicks and every day I’ve been seeing an adult bobbing about on the water with a little golf ball-sized chick paddling behind it desperate to keep up. There have also been plenty of puffins, kittiwakes and gannets around this week – much to the delight of guests.

I hope the weather next week continues to be as good as this week – and I’m really hoping to see more sharks!

Will be back soon
Sara

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