Posted by: orcaweb | August 6, 2015

Cormorants, gannets and guillemots, oh my!

29.07 – 06.08 2015

Hello, my name is Sasha and I am the ORCA intern for the 4-week period from 22nd July – 18th August. So far I am two weeks into my time on board the DFDS King Seaways and I have settled in nicely. I’ve made friends among the crew (one crew member is attempting to teach me Tagalog, (a Filipino dialect) and I believe I have finally gained my sea legs.

sasha (2)

That’s me ^ surveying the North Sea on an evening deck watch 🙂

The first weeks rough weather made sightings from the observation deck rather difficult due to a high swell and lots of white caps on the water. However the second week brought calmer weather, increasing chances of seeing something exciting as I will never forget my first ever sighting of a minke whale at the ‘tail’ end of July. Since then we’ve seen 4 white beaked dolphins, 19 harbour porpoises , a seal and most recently 2 common dolphins spotted by Ruth on our way out of Ijmuiden on the 3rd August.

harbour porpoise ripple

A ripple in the water caused by a harbour porpoise

common dolphins about to surface

Some common dolphins about to surface, causing some white water on a calm day.

My seabird ID has greatly improved under Rachael and Ruth’s tutelage and I no longer identify most species as gull variations. Seabird sightings are plentiful and I can now confirm (Thanks to Rachael and Ruth!!)  that they include gannets, cormorants, kittiwakes and guillemots to name but a few as well as some more unusual sightings, such as curlews and turnstones.


A cormorant mid flight

juvenille kittiwake

A juvenile kittiwake with the tell tale ‘M’ mark along its wings.

diving gannets (1)

Some diving gannets creating a splash. Lots of bird activity is an indicator of fish in the area which could attract nearby cetaceans.

gull with tumour

A black backed gull we spotted with a curious looking tumour.

turnstone (2)

An unusual sighting of a turnstone which are a coastal species. We spotted a couple of these and this one we managed to snap a photo of

Due to my interest in marine litter and its effects on the marine environment, I have been keeping an eye out for any marine litter/debris and although I was aware of its presence in the worlds oceans I have been surprised at how easily spotted it is. Plastic bottles, deflated balloons, beach balls, jerry cans and fish netting is only a small example of what I have seen.

IMG_7502 (2)

Just one of the many deflated balloons we have spotted during our deck watches

IMG_7523 (2)

A beach ball spotted in the mouth of the Tyne, however I spotted many of these along the whole route.

IMG_7572 (2)

An upside down rubber dinghy on our way into Ijmuiden port, this will likely end up somewhere 1000’s of miles from where it entered the sea.

In the wildlife centre I am enjoying talking to the various passengers about everything marine related and I particularly enjoy introducing them to the sperm whale teeth we have on display and getting the children involved with education activities (educational origami is my favourite).

Finlay (9) and Cooper (8) Wilde

Finlay (9) and Cooper (8) showing off their impressive origami skills.

As well as seabird, cetacean and pinniped spotting I’ve also enjoyed seeing the jellyfish, which can be easily spotted bobbing just below the surface when the sun is out.  I equally enjoy the view when the sun is going down.

Sunset photo

I will definitely never get sick of this view, which I’m glad to say is a regular occurrence when the weather is calm.

Its safe to say after the excitement of my first two weeks I am looking forward to what the next two will bring!

If you would like to become a member, donate or train to become a marine mammal surveyor, more information can be found on our website.

– Sasha Taylor


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