Posted by: orcaweb | May 9, 2017

Starting the new month with lots of harbour porpoise

This fortnight on board was off to an amazing start! As I was embarking in Ijmuiden on Monday, I had a shared crossing with my fellow Wildlife Officer Lucy. We had a really beautiful calm sea and were rewarded with a lot of cetacean sightings this day! When Lucy had to return to our ORCA wildlife centre to run our evening programme I was lucky enough to be able to stay out on the observation deck for the entire evening. Due to the great spotting conditions I had about 8 sightings by the end of the evening, adding up to 20 harbour porpoise in total.

HP

A lovely harbour porpoise

In addition, this amazing – almost three hour long – deck watch came to a lovely end with a stunning sunset over the North Sea. What a great view to end the day with and what a great start to my next two weeks on board the King Seaways!

Sunset.JPG

A stunning sunset

After having had such a fantastic evening deck watch I was of course hopeful that this lovely calm sea would stay and bring more sightings of marine mammals. Unfortunately, the spotting conditions deteriorated throughout the week and the sea was rough once again. Having had no cetacean sightings on Tuesday, I even found the observation deck to be closed on Wednesday morning, when I wanted to start my deck watch after breakfast. Instead of doing a deck watch I opened the wildlife centre and so this was a good opportunity for people to have a look around.

The next few days didn’t bring any more luck regarding the spotting of whales and dolphins. But nevertheless passengers and I were able to spot many different kinds of birds, including sandwich terns, greater and lesser black-backed gulls, kittiwakes, fulmars, guillemots and cormorants.

Greater black-backed gulls.JPG

Greater black-backed gull about to take off

One day, after delivering our presentation in the centre, I put on some layers as usual to go onto the observation deck to do our daily deck watch. These layers include hat, scarf, gloves, waterproof trousers, at least two layers of fleece and a waterproof jacket.

Walking from the wildlife centre towards the observation deck at the front of the ship, you can sometimes get a few questioning and mildly amused gazes from passengers, probably asking themselves what on earth I am up to. Well I can’t really blame them – as I probably look like going on some winter expedition. But I can tell you it’s definitely worth on putting on some layers as usually it is quite cold out on the observation deck.

Even if passengers joining me are a bit doubtful in the beginning whether all these clothes are necessary, they usually agree after a few minutes standing in a cold breeze looking out onto the sea! Once you get to spot a whale or dolphin in the sea, everything about the weather is forgotten anyway and is well worth standing in the cold for!

Gannet.JPG

A beautiful gannet with its reflection

Although the sea continued to be rough, I spotted a harbour porpoise very close to the ship on Friday. So that is proof that it is always worth to keep looking out for whales and dolphins! Even if the conditions of spotting wildlife in the water aren’t ideal you never know what you might see. This proved to be true the next day as well, when I managed to spot three more harbour porpoise in the choppy sea.

Juvenile gull.JPG

Juvenile gull above the water

This week I also had a really good time in our wildlife centre on board, as most of the days I had quite a large audience joining me for our talk on the wildlife of the North Sea – often filling up all the chairs and even sitting on the floor. One evening I had two young boys attending the talk who were very keen on the topic and asked me lots and lots of questions about marine wildlife. To have an engaging audience is always really nice!

I also had a lot of Dutch visitors this week, which was great as I was able to give them information in their mother tongue. After having talked about all the species names in English during the presentation for example, it’s really great to watch people’s face lighten up with recognition when they realise which species I’m actually talking about once I speak to them in Dutch or German. Although many of the passengers are perfectly able to follow our program in English, it really comes in handy from time to time to be able to talk to passengers in different languages – especially when it comes to small children. So I’m really happy to be able to help them and to put my language skills to use.

Guillemot.JPG

Guillemot on a calm sea surface

As usual my week on board has gone by really quickly and now I’m looking forward to my second week here in the North Sea. I am hoping for some better weather, as this morning, on Monday, the observation deck was closed again due to the rough sea state. Fingers crossed for some more amazing wildlife sightings!

Julia

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