Posted by: orcaweb | June 20, 2017

Paul finds his porpoise in life

This week I am joined by our second placement of the season, Paul, after saying a fond farewell to Lexie, wishing her all the best with the rest of her studies. Paul is currently studying Wildlife Conservation at Liverpool John Moores University and has a keen interest in the natural world. Paul had stated that he was really looking forward to seeing our beloved harbour porpoise in the North Sea so I was hopeful that our first deck watch would give him this opportunity.

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Our second intern of the season, Paul with his friend Harry the harbour porpoise

It was looking good as we didn’t have to wait long to see some Gannets diving in a feeding frenzy not far from the mouth of the River Tyne.

Birds are a great indicator of whale and dolphin activity due to the fact that they often feed on the same fish species. When we see gannets dive feeding in this way, we make sure to keep our eyes on the water in the hope of some fins above the surface. This time however we were not so lucky and we finished the evening with no cetaceans to speak of.

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Always a favourite, a beautiful gannet

The next morning, as we approached Holland our first mammal sighting was not a cetacean but in fact a common (or harbour) seal. This is one of the two species of seal we see regularly on the crossing, the other being the grey seal. Seals can easily swim between Holland and North Shields, taking time to rest and feed on the rich fish stocks the North Sea has to offer on the way. It wasn’t long after this that Paul finally got to see his favourite species, the harbour porpoise. Three swam close by the ship, leaving a row of ripples in their wake.

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A Grey Seal at the surface

Thursday came around rather quickly and we were extremely pleased to greet our fellow wildlife enthusiast friends Delta Safari back on board. You may remember that 2 weeks ago they had shared a rough crossing with Julia and Lexie, thankfully for all, the weather had improved greatly for this trip and we were happy to have them all outside on the observation deck. Being keen bird watchers, the group all had eagle eyes and were extremely helpful in spotting many species.

The start of the weekend gave us all exactly what we’d been waiting for, a calm flat sea. Not quite a mirror but close enough, we saw many white-beaked dolphins and harbour porpoise as we sailed back in to North Shields. Usually once we arrive, I often feel rather sad as I know this means the end of the deck watch and time to knuckled down with some of our administrative tasks. Luckily Delta Safari had other plans for us.

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Delta Safari on the observation deck

After disembarking as quickly as we could, donned in our rather fetching Delta Safari caps (made entirely of recycled plastics!!) we boarded our coach and made our way to the Farne Islands. I had been to the Farnes once before with friends for a boat trip and loved it, this time we were not only taking the boat trip around the island but also getting off on one of the islands where many bird species are currently nesting. Almost immediately after stepping food on the island we were all attacked from above by extremely protective Arctic Terns. Some were still incubating their eggs whilst others already had their chicks. After making our way out with our ears still attached, we then came across a mass gathering of puffins, some resting, some scurrying in and out of burrows and others fighting off black headed gulls who were trying to steal their afternoons catch of fish.

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A Puffin seen on the Farne Islands

We also saw European shags, guillemots, razorbills and kittiwakes, all with fluffy babies close by. I feel I could write an entire blog post about this visit to the Farnes but I must continue with our week because things really were starting to hot up from the decks of the DFDS King Seaways.

When we returned to our home from home, the King, we were delighted to see that the sea was wondrously tranquil, perfect for spotting whales and dolphins. With the elated Delta Safari team by our sides we spent the evening spotting several white-beaked dolphins racing towards the ship as well as many harbour porpoise. The next morning again was also filled with many harbour porpoise as we sailed back into the port of Ijmuiden and said ‘tot ziens’ to Delta Safari.

Sunday started off with a nice treat of lots of seals (common and grey) and harbour porpoises, many of whom were accompanied by their calves. By that evening, the sea had become a mirror and within seconds of being out on deck we were seeing small groups of harbour porpoise in the brilliant sunlight.

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A harbour porpoise caught in the sunlight

I end this week feeling very grateful for the wonderful sightings, the beautiful weather and our wonderful friends who have joined us throughout the week.

Come back next week for further updates from Paul to see how he’s getting on with life at sea.

Lucy

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