Welcome to the first blog of the 2016 season from the ORCA Wildlife Centre on-board the DFDS King Seaways. The two of us that will be rotating throughout the season this year are Rachael Forster (Community Wildlife Officer for the North East) and Kerry Heseltine (North Sea Wildlife Officer). The first week on-board has been manic, ensuring the centre was up and running so we could have passengers involved as soon as possible.
For those of you who don’t know the ORCA Centre is a fun filled room of information and activities on the wonderful whale, dolphin and porpoise species that can be seen in the North Sea. Passengers can learn what creatures are beneath the waves and how they can get involved with their conservation. There are scheduled presentations and talks for passengers travelling between North Shields – Ijmuiden throughout the ORCA season (21st March – 13th September 2016) as well as family fun, arts and crafts.
On our first trip out of Newcastle we had our first sighting of a grey seal, who popped his head up out of the water to say hello. Over the last couple of days the sea has been a little rough due to Storm Katie, so we have not had many sightings of cetaceans, however we have had a few lovely views of Gannets and Kittiwakes to keep us and the passengers joining us on deck occupied. We were lucky enough, however, on Wednesday evening as we departed North Shields to see four harbour porpoises. One by himself and three in a small pod.
After a few quieter days, the weather kept deteriorating! Yet still as we departed Newcastle on Sunday evening 4 dorsal fins became visible through the waves! Unfortunately, we could not clearly identify which species they were, however they were definitely big enough to be a species of dolphin as opposed to a harbour porpoise. Fingers crossed for a calmer week weather wise, and many more sightings!
With this week including Easter Weekend, visitors to the centre have been creating their very own marine themed Easter eggs. You can see some of their creations below.
We are looking forward to our official launch day on the 31st March when we will be joined by local children, the captain of the King Seaways and artist Izzy Moreau. Izzy Moreau is an artist who specialises in mixed media art and is creating us a wonderful new showcase piece that will be unveiled and displayed in the Wildlife Centre on-board! This showcase piece has been created using litter collected from beach cleans on both sides of the North Sea. I will not give any more away now, you shall have to read on next week to see and hear more about the sculpture.
We are looking forward to the rest of the summer season, and will keep you updated with all of our sightings along the way.
Kerry & Rachael