Sightings for the week got off to a slow start with only 3 white-beaked dolphins seen over the 21st and 22nd, however with the beginning of ‘ORCA OceanWatch’ (Saturday 23rd) this didn’t last long. ORCA OceanWatch is a 9 day period during which we survey for all of the daylight hours that we are sailing and although this has meant some early starts we have been rewarded for this extra time on deck with some impressive numbers. The first morning alone produced 24 white-beaked dolphins, 3 harbour porpoise and one common dolphin, our third sighting of this species this year!
For the first couple of days of OceanWatch we were also joined by an ORCA Marine Mammal Surveyor team, who were with us from the evening of the 23rd until the morning of the 25th. Although little was seen on our way out of Newcastle in the evening we woke up the next morning to perfect sea conditions on the way into Ijmuiden. With the survey team on board I only spent an hour and a half out on deck, but still managed to see 29 harbour porpoise; at one point they were appearing so frequently I was struggling to keep up with all the sightings! That morning the survey team finished with a grand total of 47 harbour porpoises and 2 grey seals.
The 23rd proved to be a particularly busy day, not only did we start OceanWatch and welcome a survey team on board, we also had 848 passengers on for a day sail for the Sunderland Airshow. Rebecca and I spent the day out on deck with passengers enjoying the lovely weather. Whilst we didn’t manage to spot any whales or dolphins, we were treated to some impressive fly-bys and an amphibious beach assault by the navy.
Unfortunately the next couple of days weren’t quite as successful for our survey team, but it wasn’t the end of the big sightings for the week as on the 26th we were again treated to perfect conditions on our way out of Ijmuiden. I was joined on deck by large group passengers making the most of the good weather and in a couple of hours we saw 29 harbour porpoises, including a calf and 2 unidentified dolphins.
I am now coming to the end of my Wildlife Officer placement, with only one full day remaining. I have thoroughly enjoyed my time on the ship and it has been fun meeting and talking to all the different people who visit the ORCA Centre. It’s great to see people of all ages get excited about the natural world, with many of them leaving the Centre with a new resolve to do their bit to help conserve and protect the marine environment by making a pledge to ‘Make a Small Change‘ project.
The only thing left for me now it to see a minke whale and with a few hours of deck watch left there’s always a chance!