Posted by: orcaweb | July 11, 2017

Magnificent minke and the power of good thoughts

In my last blog I contemplated writing about how I’m still waiting for my first minke whale sighting. But then I decided against it, as I kind of didn’t want to jinx it and also because I thought I should just have patience – after all that’s what wildlife watching is all about. And then on Monday, starting this shift’s second week on board I actually did see one!!! And what a marvellous sighting it was! I was very very happy.

That day the sea was beautifully calm, being almost as flat as a mirror. We usually stay out on the observation deck for an hour and this hour was unfortunately coming quickly to an end. So I was contemplating whether to go back inside to open the centre again or to stay out a little bit longer, as these were really fantastic spotting conditions. Plus, I had seen a couple of porpoise earlier and a lot of seabirds. So it didn’t take long to reach a decision – I kind of had a feeling that I should stay out a little longer.

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Beautiful calm sea and perfect spotting conditions

I thought that I was ready and prepared to see a minke whale now and tried to hold on to these positive thoughts and ‘welcoming’ attitude. And maybe these thoughts did indeed help, because a few minutes later I saw a beautiful minke whale appear. It really was amazing. I could see a perfect dive sequence in this beautiful calm water. First I saw the sharply pointed snout breaking the surface, followed by the blowhole and back with the dorsal fin visible. Then the back and tail stock began to arch until this lovely rorqual whale disappeared under the surface again. This was not very far from the ship at all and both passengers and I could clearly see this minke whale. It was fantastic! (I apologise for the lack of a photo, but I was too excited to think about that.)

In this lovely weather we could also enjoy many bird sightings over the next few days. Although it’s possible to see gannets nearly every day on our route, I’m still fascinated by these birds. Ranging from a blackish body in the first winter to blackish with many white spots to pure shining white plumage when adult, these birds are just a beautiful sight to behold. Also, this week we could again see many tiny guillemots, accompanied by an adult bird, sitting on the water surface and then diving as the ship approaches. I also saw puffins, manx shearwaters and terns.

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Three gannets of differing ages

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Cute tiny guillemot

This week was also very exciting for 48 Denbigh Community Primary School children, whom – together with their six teachers – I welcomed here on board. They were all very excited to be away from their parents and home, and to actually spend two nights on a ship! These children in the age of approximately eight to ten years old took part in a Wildlife Watching Study Trip, which we organise for school classes. Our lovely ORCA wildlife centre provided a unique setting for them to learn about whales and dolphins here in the North Sea. Of course we also spent a lot of time out on the observation deck to actually spot some of this amazing wildlife. Although unfortunately I didn’t have any cetacean sightings during their time on board, the kids still had a great time and according to their spotting sheets they saw many, many whales and dolphins – so maybe I just missed them!

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Grey seal saying hello

One sighting I had this week that was not amazing at all was a gigantic, floating spiderman balloon. Unfortunately we are quite used to seeing pieces of rubbish and often balloons floating on the water surface – which causes huge problems to the marine environment and all its inhabitants. But this one shocked me even more, because it was just so big! Polluting the North Sea – this spiderman really was no superhero. Quite the opposite! Balloons can hurt or kill countless animals, as balloons entangle animals or block their digestive tract, when they mistake them for food and it them. Sadly, the results of the Great British Beach Clean last year also showed an increase of balloon related litter up over 50 % on 2015.

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Gigantic spiderman balloon

As always, I can’t quite believe that my two weeks on board are already coming to an end. I certainly enjoyed my time here in the North Sea, especially the last week with the lovely weather and the awesome minke whale sighting. Now I hope that my colleague Lucy and our new placement Rebecca will have a fantastic time as well and spot many more minke whales – fingers crossed!

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Beautiful sunset

Until next time,

Julia

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