Posted by: orcaweb | July 4, 2017

Tiny guillemots in the big North Sea

This fortnight on board the DFDS King Seaways didn’t really start with very good weather. And despite Lucy’s wishes for me to have a nice week of sightings, unfortunately I did not see many cetaceans. The sea often was quite rough and stormy and it was raining, too. More than once I was a bit surprised to find that it’s the end of June and then beginning of July already, when I looked at the calendar.

Nonetheless, I was fortunate enough to see a few white-beaked dolphins and the occasional harbour porpoise during this last week on board. And as of Friday evening the North Sea did calm a bit – which made me really hopeful to get a few more sightings – and I could enjoy a bit of sunshine.


Some much needed sunshine

Although the sightings didn’t increase immensely, I had a fantastic deck watch on Saturday evening because of the wonderful bird life I saw. I was joined by several passengers out on the observation deck, all keen to spot some whales and dolphins. Instead we saw a lot of gannets, kittiwakes and fulmars. But what really excited me was that we saw the first guillemot chicks of the season, on the water accompanied by their parents. So cute! At first passengers and I couldn’t see any birds and were wondering where these chirping sounds came from. But then I quickly realised that these must be the little guillemots that had left their nests. After a while we then spotted these tiny birds sitting on the water surface.

Guillemot with chick.JPG

Adult guillemot with tiny chick

Juvenile kittiwake.JPG

Beautiful juvenile kittiwake in the sky

Guillemots spend almost the entire year out on the open sea and only come on land for nesting. You might remember that both Lucy and I visited the Farne Islands recently where we saw huge breeding colonies of guillemots and other seabirds. Guillemots usually lay one egg on a bare ledge of a cliff and it’s from there that the young chicks jump onto the water after about two to three weeks after hatching – without even being able to fly yet!! So although they are not fully fledged yet they make their way onto the sea where they are joined and fed by their parents for some time.

Adult guillemot Farne Islands.JPG

Adult guillemot at Farne Islands

Another special guest during that deck watch was a great skua, which we don’t get to see that often. We saw it right ahead of the ship and apparently it had caught something on the water surface. Unfortunately it dropped the item as the ship approached and I couldn’t see what it was. But as this large bird was really close to the ship it was really exciting to observe it.

Great skua.JPG

Great skua

This week the presentations I gave in our ORCA Wildlife Centre on board were really well visited as well. Often there weren’t enough chairs and passengers had to stand or sit on the floor to listen to the presentation. Next to the information about our most commonly sighted species – harbour porpoise, white-beaked dolphin and minke whale – people are always fascinated by the amazing facts about the blue whale. Just to name a few: a new born blue whale weighs almost three tonnes, the size of an adult blue whale’s heart is about the same size as a small car and the tongue is comparable to the weight of an African elephant!

So the first week of this fortnight on board brought some exciting bird sightings and now I hope for some more whales and dolphins! I’m still waiting for my first minke whale, so I’m really looking forward to spotting one soon, hopefully. I hope you are all enjoying summer and have some fantastic wildlife sightings as well!

Faint rainbow.JPG

A faint rainbow over the North Sea

Until next time,




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