Posted by: orcaweb | May 15, 2017

Some special guests this week

It’s week 8 for the North Sea Wildlife Officers!  On Monday morning I disembarked the ship to meet a group of 50 students from Newcastle University, who boarded the King Seaways to learn about North Sea wildlife.  These students are taking courses in Marine Zoology, Marine Biology as well as Marine Biology and Oceanography.

Students learning about North Sea Wildlife in the main bar on board the DFDS King Seaways

As – together with the university staff and the photographer accompanying us for the visit – we counted 55 people, the ORCA wildlife centre wasn’t big enough to accommodate us all. That’s why we had to move to the main bar area of the ship where the students could follow the presentation on a big screen. After delivering the presentation about ORCA, our main projects and scientific surveys that we do, I proudly showed the students our wildlife centre. As usual, the wildlife artefacts, such as the skulls of bottlenose dolphin, grey seal and harbour porpoise, were very popular. Then, we moved to an outside deck of the ship to spot and identify some of the bird species. Unfortunately we quickly had to say goodbye to each other, as they had a very tight schedule and a busy programme ahead of them during their field week. It was nice having them on board and I hope they enjoyed their visit!

Gulls

A flock of gulls

After this busy afternoon having the students on board, I had a lovely evening with some very eager passengers who attended the main talk of the evening on the wildlife of the North Sea. Equipped with some binoculars they were also keen on joining me for the scheduled deck watch. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to spot any cetaceans that day.

I have met a lot of fantastic passengers this week, who keep telling me about their amazing adventures. For example, I had the pleasure of meeting a nice Scottish man, who’s now retired and is doing sightseeing tours with his boat, where he also spots lots of different whales, dolphins and porpoises! I also had other interesting conversations with a nature photographer – who’s living half the year in Scotland and the other half taking photographs of the northern lights in Sweden – and someone managing nature reserves in Scotland!

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Two lovely guillemots

One evening I had a few Dutch visitors attending the presentation, so I gave it a go to actually deliver the talk in Dutch. With a little bit of help from my lovely audience I managed to tell them all about the amazing wildlife you can find here in the North Sea. Although I had to switch back to English at some point, as new passengers joined us, this was definitely fun! This week I also met a very eager young boy and his family, and he was already quite an expert in marine wildlife!

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Eager passengers

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Adult and juvenile herring gull ready for take off!

On Friday afternoon, an ORCA survey team came on board to conduct a marine mammal survey from the bridge of the King Seaways.  Such survey teams consist of ORCA members who also train to become Marine Mammal Surveyors! They kept watch from the bridge after we left port until sunset and the following day, and from sunrise to arrival in port. Although the visibility was poor that first day due to fog, the team managed to spot several harbour porpoise – and so did I! Luckily we had less fog on Saturday and very good spotting conditions, as the sea surface was really calm. This brought them, me and some passengers some more sightings of harbour porpoise!

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This week’s ORCA survey team

You might remember Ruth (second from the right), as she was a Wildlife Officer in the North Sea 2 years ago!

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Not ideal spotting conditions…

On Sunday morning I had to say goodbye to the lovely survey team. It’s really great that there are so many ORCA volunteers who take part in these offshore surveys, as they collecti vital data about marine mammals, and therefore identifying important areas for these animals. If you are interested in becoming an ORCA member and in training to become a Marine Mammal Surveyor, you can have a look at our website www.orcaweb.org.uk! Taking part in surveys can be an amazing opportunity to help cetaceans and to see some fantastic wildlife!

Although their last survey on Sunday ended with no further cetacean sightings, we could enjoy some nice bird sightings when the survey team joined me on the observation deck, as we approached our landing spot in North Shields. Next to observing the cormorants drying their feathers on a fence, we could also see a beautiful male Eider duck swimming in the water.

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Cormorants in North Shields

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A beautiful male Eider duck

Monday morning, during my deck watch, I was surprised by a slightly unusual visitor – a collared dove. Shortly after landing on the guard rail of the ship, it took off over the water together with another fellow dove. Apart from this and some other bird sightings I couldn’t spot any whales or dolphins. So now I hope that my colleague Lucy and our first placement Alexandra, who will come on board tomorrow, will have a lot of fantastic sightings the next two weeks, as my fortnight on board has already come to an end. I’m looking forward to meeting Alexandra and hope she will have a great time with us!

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A coloured dove visiting the ship!

Until next time,

Julia

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