Posted by: orcaweb | April 10, 2015

North Sea: A sea full of White-beaked dolphins, waves and wind!

The last few weeks have been incredible. There has been so much to learn and adjust to being crew on board.


– Departing on 25th March following the launch of the Wildlife Officer season.

I feel right at home living on the DFDS King and it’s going to be strange not being rocked to sleep by the waves each night. Following the launch of our new ORCA centre on March 25th, heading out onto the observation deck to survey the North Sea wasn’t possible for a few days due to poor weather conditions. But as soon as it cleared up I had some great sightings.


Surveys start from 8am – 9am each morning as we approach each coast. I am using Opticron Marine 2 retical binoculars and recording the GPS of each sighting as well as pod size,


– An atmospheric Ijmuiden

Despite the sea state the first sighting of the season 2015 was a white beaked dolphin spotted at 18:26 CET from the bridge (deck 12) on 26th March.


Through the dark waves and rain the White-beaked dolphin could not be unidentified, but I was unable to get a photo


The first sightings of Harbour porpoises was on Good Friday, (3rd April). Notice the distinguishable triangular fin that dutch passenger Denise ten Broeke spotted at 18:37 leaving Amsterdam.


– Two Harbour porpoises

The following morning ORCA were in luck once again, as we departed the North East coastline the conditions were perfect. Here are some of the best sightings. There were some days where I was able to get that incredible mirror sea state 0 where photos of a pod of 30 White-beaked dolphins was possible. Many thanks to passenger James McMahon for sharing these photos with us!

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Puffin party! So the dutch for puffin is papa gaaiduiker which I have decided I prefer! CBcB1AnUcAAsMGE

There have been so many more species of birds than I anticipated seeing in March/ April in the North Sea. From rare sightings of storm petrels to common kittiwakes, guillemots, gannets, cormorants, my ornithology skills are soaring!

- Flock of Egyptian geese

– Flock of Egyptian geese







A line of razorbills


Lovely view to wake up to. Those of you who don’t know I am local to the North East but I will never tire of waking up to these views of Souter Lighthouse and Penshaw Monument.


As you will see I have captured a few balloons and discarded marine litter (or ghost gear) on the crossing to Amsterdam as well. The display in the centre shows, ORCA work with World Animal Protection , helping them quantify the amount of ghost gear that is found in UK waters as part of the Global Ghost Gear Initiative.



Many passengers don’t believe me when I inform them that an adult gannet has a two metre wingspan. Those of you keen to see your first whale or dolphin in the North Sea, gannets are a great indicator to where shoals of fish are, as well as being a scale of measurement if you are lucky enough to see feeding cetaceans beneath the waves.

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The evening talk by ORCA is advertised to passengers and as the Easter Holidays, started I was able to fill all the seats and even had people sitting on the window sill in the ORCA Wildlife Centre on deck 9. IMG_1306 IMG_1305

The evening deck watches have been a great way for friends, family and wildlife fans to take in the scenery as well as hope to see some of our local species.

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In the ORCA Centre arts and crafts are always happening. Rory McCanns mural on the North Sea is very popular. I may have even found a budding young artist.


Our lovely blue ORCA inflatable is very popular and greets our passengers as they check in on deck 7. Did you know that an ORCA or more commonly named killer whale is actually a dolphin!


Ruth and I have just handed over and you will be able to read her sightings blog in the next few weeks.


If you would like to learn more about ORCA, visit our website.  You can find information on how to get involved as well as become a member and help support our work!

I will be back on board on 22nd and can’t wait!



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