Posted by: orcaweb | September 19, 2013

An Explosion of Life!

That is the best way to describe the last 6 months in the North Sea! The 2013 summer season began slowly with a few porpoises keeping our Wildlife Officers company out on the bitter cold decks of the DFDS King Seaways in March, but soon this would all change. By the second week of April we’d had our earliest recorded white-beaked dolphin sighting and the Minke whales weren’t far behind with our first sighting just a few days later! By May the sea had calmed and the animals were everywhere! Barely a day went by without sightings of white-beaked dolphins and porpoises. It is fair to say that 2013 has been one of our best years for whale and dolphin sightings between Newcastle and Amsterdam – just look at the numbers below – nearly 300% up on 2012 ‘sighting event’ figures.

2013

2012

2011

Total number of sighting events

267

91

86

Total number of animals

699

183

148

Total number of positively identified cetacean species

6

3

4

White-beaked dolphins

267

32

20

Minke Whales

23

5

5

Porpoises

392

136

106

WOsightings2011speciesSquaress

A total of 4 species of cetacean were recorded in 2011, compared to 6 in 2013.

WOsightings2012speciesSquaress

A total of 3 species of cetacean were recorded in 2012, compared to 6 in 2013.

WOsightings2013speciesSquaressincCD

A total of 6 species of cetacean were recorded this year, including rare sightings of a humpback whale and a pair of Atlantic white-sided dolphins!

WOsightings2013speciesSquaressincCDNewcastle

Zoomed in view of sightings along the North East and North Yorkshire coastline.

There has been a real buzz on board with so many people seeing their first North Sea whale or dolphin, including many local school children! Even our experienced Wildlife Officers had a few firsts:

“For me, this season was better than I’d ever hoped for. Highlights for me were seeing so many white-beaked dolphins (having never seen them before) and standing out on the deck for hours in the calm evenings with guests as we sail into the sunset watching whales and dolphins.” Senior Wildlife Officer, Sara Frost

IMG_1598 (2)

White-beaked dolphins were a cetacean first for both Wildlife Officers!

After spending last season as a Wildlife Officer in the Bay of Biscay, one of Europe’s whale and dolphin hot spots, even Ben managed a few species first in the North Sea (Go North Sea!):

“It has been fantastic spotting species of cetacean I have never seen before. The Humpback whale was the biggest surprise! I also saw my first white-beaked dolphins and a pair of Atlantic white-sided dolphins, which surfaced only a few metres from the bow. I set out this season with an aim to spot two new species of dolphin; never did I imagine spotting a Humpback whale, especially a breaching one!” Wildlife Officer, Ben Jones

HumpbackWhaleBreachingSequence©TheoMerkus

Biggest surprise of the season!

“I love the huge difference in behaviour between North Sea species. I couldn’t help laughing out loud as I caught a glimpse of a tiny lone porpoise scooting discreetly away from a heard of rowdy white-beaked dolphins as they headed for the ship breaching and splashing. You could almost hear the porpoise yell ‘that’s it, I’m outa here!’ Such a great little moment of contrast amongst so much excitement!” Alison Lomax, Community Engagement Officer.

Porpoise_Calm Sea®BenjaminOJones

This porpoise isn’t hanging around… ‘I’m outa here!’

What a thrill is has been for all three of us to watch as people spotted their first whale or dolphin especially when the animals are so close to home. It is a great feeling to witness people’s eyes open to how fantastic the North Sea really is!

We have met some inspirational people and learnt a lot from them; from determined young children who show surprising patience while waiting for animals to appear to holidaying wildlife experts and even an ex Norwegian whaler. It really has been a truly international environment with guests from all over the world. We’ve all loved every minute of it.

Thumbs up for a great season in the North Sea!

Until next year!

Alison, Sara and Ben

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