Posted by: orcaweb | July 31, 2017

Excited about ORCA OceanWatch

The unusual rough weather that my colleague Lucy and our current intern Beccy experienced during their past two weeks unfortunately persisted during this past week, with sea states showing numerous white caps and often spray as well.  We are quite used to a wavy, choppy, windy, sometimes stormy North Sea, but I have to admit that we were hoping for some better weather, since it is after all summer time!

Choppy North Sea.JPG

A choppy North Sea

Despite this not so lovely ‘summer weather’ both Beccy and myself were very excited to have the start of ORCA OceanWatch on Saturday! ORCA OceanWatch runs from 29th July to 6th August, and it an initiative that aims to involve seafarers in the collection of cetacean data. During this concentrated time period of nine days trained bridge crews, as well as ORCA Marine Mammal Surveyors and Wildlife Officers record all sightings of whales, dolphins and porpoises and raise awareness of these wonderful animals. If you want to keep up to date with all our sightings during OceanWatch, please follow us on twitter at #ORCAOceanWatch!


A lovely ORCA Marine Mammal Surveyor team on board

On Saturday, a dedicated volunteer team of four ORCA Marine Mammal Surveyors boarded the ship in North Shields to stay on for a mini-cruise and to record some of the amazing cetaceans in the North Sea. It is always really nice to have a survey team on board and to chat about any sightings. Although the weather wasn’t great, they were able to spot a handful of harbour porpoises and a minke whale when approaching Newcastle on Monday morning.

Flock of black-headed gulls.JPG

Flock of black-headed gulls

One time Beccy and I were out on deck to conduct our daily surveys of whales, dolphins and porpoises we actually did have quite a nice flat sea. So our hopes of having some sightings were high and we were enthusiastic about these calm seas. After a while, Beccy got really excited and pointed towards several splashes on the starboard side of the ship. We both thought these must be a small group of porpoises or dolphins. But it turned out that these splashes were created by a few – seemingly very agile and lively – guillemots! Although we were slightly disappointed to not have seen any cetaceans, these sneaky guillemots made us laugh nonetheless.

Calm seas.JPG

A calm sea surface for a change

Maybe you are thinking that we only talk about the bad weather and how we do have hardly any sightings… Just to reassure you (and maybe ourselves as well) we have already had plenty of sightings this season. To date we have seen 197 harbour porpoises, 47 white-beaked dolphins, three bottlenose dolphins, four minke whales, 25 grey or common seals and 30 unidentified cetaceans (that is mostly when we can’t identify the species for sure, as we’ve seen not enough of the animal to accurately identify it to species level). So hopefully we can add some more sightings to this count in the next week.


Beautiful gannet

I really enjoyed having Beccy, our third Wildlife Officer Placement of this season, on board. She is now heading into her fourth week already and despite not having too many cetacean sightings, she is always enthusiastic about the ORCA Wildlife Officer programme on board this ship. Our presentations this last week, delivered both by Beccy and myself were all very well attended. It is always really great for us to have so many interested people attending our talks and activities and it is even more rewarding whenever we get positive feedback from passengers. We also had some really interesting conversations during and after our wine & whales evening lecture, which deals with the threats, conservation status of the cetacean species we see here in the North Sea and ways how we can help. It is amazing to hear that people think about and do make small changes to help the (marine) environment and to discuss different possibilities!

Black-backed gull.JPG

Black-backed gull

It has been great to work with Beccy and I am looking forward to our next week on board. Fingers crossed for some nice and calm seas and a lot of sightings during ORCA OceanWatch! Thanks for stopping by and reading this blog. Next time you will hear from Beccy, when she will tell you all about her four week internship with us on the King Seaways!




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