Posted by: orcaweb | October 2, 2017

A final farewell for this year’s Wildlife Officer season

I really can’t believe that this day has come, and I have to say goodbye to our lovely wildlife centre on board the DFDS King Seaways, to the amazing North Sea – which can range between lovely and quite uncomfortably stormy – to all the fantastic wildlife that’s flying above and swimming below, to the lovely crew on board, my fellow Wildlife Officer Lucy and our colleagues in the office and of course to all the great passengers and readers that have joined our journey these past few months.

These past few days on board have been a mixture of ‘business as usual’ and slowly realising that the end of the season is approaching quickly, especially as I slowly had to remove things from our beautiful wildlife centre to safely store away in our absence over the winter. I feel sad that our programme on board is now finished, but I’m also really grateful and happy about all the great experiences these past few months have brought.

IMG_20170708_220547

Stunning view on the observation deck

In total this season we have seen nearly 400 marine mammals. Our most commonly seen species was the harbour porpoise with about 243 individuals sighted. This is followed by 58 white-beaked dolphins and 34 seals. We spotted 10 marvellous minke whales and 3 bottlenose dolphins. The rest is made up of ‘other’ recorded sightings, so that means that we didn’t see enough of the animal to accurately identify it to species level. What a fantastic season!

Regarding my wildlife sightings highlights, I definitely have to name my first ever spotted minke whale here in the North Sea in just absolutely perfect, calm conditions.

This highlight is followed closely by a pod of white-beaked dolphins with one in the group leaping clear of the water several times in a row, putting on a spectacular show for me and the passengers who were watching. And of course not to forget all the lovely harbour porpoise sightings, especially in calm waters, when you could see them surfacing with their characteristic rolling swimming motion.

Even if we weren’t always lucky enough to spot whales, dolphins or porpoises, all the lovely birds were our loyal companions. We could observe gannets, guillemots, puffins, razorbills, cormorants, great skuas, different gull and tern species and many more. Our all-time favourite were the beautiful gannets, soaring in the sky or plunge-diving to catch their fish. Another season highlight for both Lucy and me were our visits to the Farne Islands, where we could marvel at some amazing bird life!

Besides our observations out on deck, which Lucy and I always enjoyed very much (most of the times even when it was really cold and windy), we welcomed a lot of amazing passengers into our wildlife centre, where we delivered talks and lectures, children’s activities and just chatted to people about the wonderful wildlife we have here on our doorstep! In total, we engaged with nearly 23,000 passengers from more than 20 different countries! We were also involved with the local community in North Shields and run events and visits for school and university groups here on board. During the summer months, we had four lovely Wildlife Officer Placements, who did an amazing job at helping us with all our people engagement activities. A huge thanks to you again!

It really has been an amazing experience to run the Wildlife Officer programme on board the King Seaways. I learned so much about the wildlife here in the North Sea and I thoroughly enjoyed meeting so many nice passengers that are really interested in nature and seeking ways how to protect it. I absolutely loved doing both the surveys out on deck and giving the presentations in the ORCA wildlife centre – which is quite amazing, if I think back to my school days; then I never would have thought that I would ever enjoy public speaking!

Both Lucy and I would like to thank all the lovely crew on board, who made our stay here that much more enjoyable. They are probably the hardest-working people we have ever met. We wish you all the best and hopefully we’ll see each other again soon! Also a huge thank you to the fabulous ORCA team in the head office and DFDS, who have always supported us here up in the North and who made our wonderful North Sea experience possible. And of course we are grateful for all the fantastic passengers that joined our activities and for you, the readers of this blog, for taking an interest.

Me & Julia

Wildlife Officers Julia & Lucy ready to spot some whales and dolphins

So now, it is really time to say goodbye. Thanks everyone for making these past six month an unforgettable experience. We are sad to leave now, but wish all the best to ORCA and this wonderful programme. It was absolutely great being a part of it! Looking forward to seeing what next Wildlife Officer season will bring, so do check back in next year again, in March 2018!

All the best,

Julia

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