Posted by: orcaweb | August 7, 2017

ORCA OceanWatch on the North Sea!

What an unbelievable four weeks I’ve had at sea. I can’t quite believe how fast it has come around. As you may remember from my earlier blog, my name is Beccy and I have been training to be a wildlife officer with Lucy and Julia over the last month, by taking part in ORCA’s Wildlife Officer Placement scheme. It has been absolutely incredible. We have seen seals, harbour porpoises, white-beaked dolphins, incredible seabirds and not forgetting one very special minke whale.

We have had another wonderful week here on the North Sea. The weather hasn’t been marvellous but it has in no way dampened our spirits. Especially as it is a very exciting time of the year – ORCAOceanWatch. It is during this time of the year when our incredible network of Marine Mammal Surveyors go out on our ferry and cruise routes to survey UK and adjoining sea regions as much as possible.  Throughout the year, ORCA also train many bridge crews on how to survey and identify different cetacean species and we are very fortunate and excited that so many different companies are taking part this year. They were joined earlier in the week by four ORCA Marine Mammal Surveyors who very excitingly spotted a minke whale on Monday morning as well as lots of harbour porpoises.

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Stunning sunset view from bridge

Out on the observation deck, Julia and I have been accompanied by lots of eager passengers which has been fantastic. It is always great having some extra sets of eyes on the lookout especially during OceanWatch. On Monday evening, we spotted a small pod of dolphins whilst leaving North Shields which led to some very excited passengers. However this had been the most recent cetacean sighting of the week due to us experiencing some very adventurous and rocky seas. Thankfully by the weekend the ocean calmed and when approaching Ijmuiden on Saturday morning we spotted a very inquisitive grey seal who popped its head up quite close by which was a lovely start to our day.

Our luck of calm seas continued as we approached North Shields on Sunday morning. The sea was quite still and all of a sudden our attention was drawn to big splashes halfway out towards the horizon. It was a small pod of white beaked dolphins with one particularly acrobatic individual who was leaping in and out of the water for us all to see. And then when sailing passed the breakwater, we spotted a mother harbour porpoise and her calf right next to the ship! An excellent end to our OceanWatch! We have also been very fortunate in seeing a variety of amazing seabirds, including huge flocks of terns (as many as 100), flocks of cormorants and I even saw my first great skua on Saturday night.

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White beaked dolphin leaping out of the water

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Gannets soaring the North Sea winds in perfect synchrony

In other news I have been very excited about giving both the general presentation as well as our Wine & Whales presentation to passengers on board. The wine and whales presentation mostly discusses the threats to cetaceans and it is something I feel very passionately about and have really been enjoying giving it. We have had a full house every night and many different people of all ages have been coming to listen. What is particularly nice is that this presentation can be a very discursive open “chat” at times. Many guests feel equally as passionate and it is always wonderful to see so many people take a keen interest in the issues that all cetaceans are sadly faced with and we have had some excellent discussions about some of the small changes that we as individuals can introduce to make a difference.

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Myself (Beccy) using a model of a bottlenose dolphin skull to demonstrate odontocetes teeth during presentation

Our evening children’s activities have also been one of my top highlights. Every night we host a variety of fun educational games and activities in the ORCA Wildlife Centre, such as; harbour porpoise snakes and ladders, colouring and drawing and of course my personal favourite – ORCA fun fact treasure hunt.

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Excellent colouring in skills by one of our smaller passengers

As well as learning all about being a Wildlife Officer, as placements, we are also given a wonderful opportunity to expand or create ideas for ORCA. So over the last few weeks I have been working on my own personal project and it has been inspired by our wine and whales presentation.

I sometimes feel like there are so many issues in the world and it can be quite easy to feel quite helpless. ‘What can I do?’, and ‘I don’t know where to start’ are some of the thoughts that cross my mind and I am sure this is something that a lot of us think. So, my project is precisely that – where to start.  I have named it ‘Small Changes’ and I have created tables that could be included in ORCA membership packs as motivational fridge posters or wall stickers.

One table shows the most commonly found litter found in beach cleans and the other shows the biggest threats that face marine life. The following column then shows examples of small everyday changes that we can introduce that can help make a difference.

For example, it is estimated that in the UK we use over 38 million plastic bottles per day with only just over half being recycled. Around 16 million bottles are either burnt or end up in landfill, the environment or our oceans every day. Plastic bottles and bottle tops were one of the most common items found in British Beach Cleans in 2016. So in my ‘Small Changes’ table the next column is ‘reusuable bottle’.  It is simple solution but I think that’s the beauty in small changes – you don’t have to drastically change your lifestyle to make a difference in the world.

My ORCA adventure on board the DFDS is now almost over but I cannot be sad as it has been more than I could have ever hoped for. I genuinely can’t thank everyone at ORCA enough for this incredible experience. It has been one of the best things I have ever done and I know it is just the beginning of a wonderfuI future with ORCA. If you are reading this and considering applying for 2018, all I can say is – DO IT! You will not only get to see some amazing birds and cetaceans but you also learn so much and you will meet some fantastic people. Lucy and Julia, I would like to thank you both for making my time so special. We have had so much fun and you have both been so encouraging and supportive and have taught me so much. It has been an absolute pleasure and I wish you both all the best in the future.

And to ORCA readers, I would like to thank you for reading and I hope you all have a wonderful week. Until next time.

Beccy

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Beccy and Julia (left)                                                             Beccy and Lucy (right)

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