ORCA Wildlife Officers recent sightings 24th July Netherlands Porpoise pods x3 25th July Newcastle 4x Minke whales. 1 breaching x3 times next to ship. 1 porpoising alongside ship. Off Flamborough Head 2x harbour porpoise pods
DFDS Ferry Newcastle-Amsterdam 10th July 2010 Leaving Netherlands 2 x dolphin sp. 17th- 19th minicruise 1 Minke Whale 1 pod of Harbor porpoise 19th - 21st Mini-cruise 1 pod of Harbour porpoise 21st July Leaving Newcastle 1 Minke whale 10 pm off Flamborough Head 2 x porpoise pods 22nd July Netherlands 1 x porpoise pod
2 large dolphin sp reported past South Shields yesterday (P. Collins)and a belated report, to the Northeast Cetacean Project, of 200 White-beaked Dolphins off Eyemouth in June. Angling charter boats are reporting increasing numbers of WBD so we could be in for a better year than the rather sparse 2008 and 2009.
3/6/10 10 small pods of harbour porpoise feeding from 19.45-23.00 3 minke whales seen 10.05pm 10.45pm and another after 11pm so approx 40 miles out.
Also 2 more small pods of dolphin seen from observation deck 21.00 2 Bottlenose dolphins 20.30 3White beaked dolphins bow riding The King of Scandanavia GPS for sightings was around 54 23.3335N 0 17.9634E
4/5/10 Pod of 2 and one of 3 Harbour porpoise 10-20 miles off Imojdeon on the Dutch coast
5/6/10 5 risso dolphins- tight group feeding seen off ship coming into Newcastle 08.04hrs 54 48 540N 0 48.681W
19.00 3 Bottlenose dolphins seen from the ship off the Durham coast
HELP US MONITOR NORTH EAST WHALES AND DOLPHINS Sightings website and postcard survey launches
In January this year, a partnership of organisations launched the North East Cetacean Project (NECP) to discover more about dolphins and whales off the Northumberland coast. The partnership includes Marinelife, Natural England, the Northumberland and Tyneside Bird Club, the University of Aberdeen, and Northern Experience Wildlife Tours.
A series of winter surveys, funded by Natural England and lead by Martin Kitching of Northern Experience Wildlife Tours were undertaken, targeted in the cold, deep waters of the Farne Deeps, which have been described by local fishermen as an important wintering ground for White-beaked Dolphin.
The surveys generated some both anticipated and unexpected results. Harbour Porpoise, a small cousin of dolphins, were, as anticipated, encountered during the surveys. However, rather than White-Beaked Dolphin, a species limited in distribution to the colder waters of the Atlantic, Common Dolphin, a warmer water species was found.
Dr Tom Brereton, Marinelife Research Director who analysed the results commented “This was disappointing but not unexpected as Common Dolphins have been spreading north in recent years, presumably due to warming sea temperatures. However, occurrence in Northumberland waters is a potential cause of concern because studies in other regions have shown that the arrival Common Dolphins coincides with a corresponding disappearance of White-beaked Dolphins.”
The project also analysed data submitted by members of the public since 2003, with the majority of sightings being recorded from land. The results indicate that whales and dolphins are possibly changing their North Sea distributions. There is an urgent need for more offshore data to fully understand these changes, especially in light of new Government initiatives to improve conservation measures in our seas.
To this end the project has now launched a sightings website (www.northeastcetaceans.org.uk) and a postcard survey from this spring to engage the local community, including local fishermen, recreational dive and angling boats, yachtsmen, pleasure craft operators and the general public to get involved and help increase the understanding on where dolphins, whales and porpoises are found off the North East coast of England.
The website and the postcards contain information on the different species which are likely to be encountered and requests information on the number of each species seen, where the sighting was made and when.
Dr Martin Kitching, lead surveyor from Northern Experience said: “With the start of the spring and summer season, the number of boats on the water will increase and this offers a great opportunity to find out more about the whales, dolphins and porpoises off the Northumberland coast – please get in touch with your sightings and help us with this important research project.
How you can help: If you see a dolphin or whale, please report the information to us. You can use our online recording form at www.northeastcetaceans.org.uk, fill in a sightings postcard, available from North East Cetacean Project (NECP), 18 Frances Ville, Scotland Gate, Northumberland, NE62 5ST, or phone in you sightings to NECP co-ordinator Martin Kitching on 01670 827465 or mobile: 07908 119535.
With ORCA (Organisation Cetacea) having wildlife officers and volunteer surveyors on the DFDS ferry King of Scandinavia for this coming summer, they'll be adding to our knowledge of cetacean distribution in the North Sea. Kathryn and Steph have kindly offered to let me know of any cetacean and seabird sightings they have so that we can add them to the blog. Updates will initially be as comments below this post, but we're hoping to welcome the girls as authors on northeastcetaceans soon.
A quick glance at the database I've collated as part of the Northeast Cetacean Project has some really exciting cetaceans in amongst the 'expected' species; Bottlenose Dolphin, Common Dolphin, Harbour Porpoise, Humpback Whale, Minke Whale, Orca, Pilot Whale, Risso's Dolphin, Sei Whale, Sperm Whale, Striped Dolphin, White-beaked Dolphin and White-sided Dolphin have all been reported in the last decade.
Birdwatching in the North Sea can be a bit erratic, but it can be extremely good...so I'd like to wish Kathryn and Steph luck in finding something really special on one of their crossings. Hmmm...Black-capped Petrel :-) Not Cape Gannet or Pacific Fulmar though - they're my top tips for this year's Northern Experience Pelagics..or for the Northumberland seawatching mecca that is Newbiggin by the Sea ;-)
Yesterday saw the finale to the winter phase of the Northeast Cetacean Project...and there couldn't have been a more appropriate way to do it. Our specially invited list of participants gathered at Royal Quays marina just before 9am ready to board the SarahJFK for a trip to the Farne Deeps. We'd invited all of the key organisations so there were representatives from Natural England, Marinelife, Northern Experience Wildlife Tours, Northumberland & Tyneside Bird Club, Northumberland Wildlife Trust, Newcastle University and the Sea Fisheries Protection Office. Sadly, David Steel was stuck on the Farne Islands so couldn't join us, and the Chief Exec of the NWT had had a breakdown in his car (not him personally, his car had broken down).
As we set sail on a flat calm sea (so very, very different from any of the survey dates...) the draft report for the initial project was available for discussion, plans were formulated for the next stage of the project and we were able to enjoy some very relaxed birdwatching. Puffins were probably the most numerous bird seen during the day, Kittiwakes followed the boat for much of the trip, being their endearing selves, Gannets passed by, an occasional Fulmar glided along effortlessly and we managed to see two cetaceans; both were very brief - one Harbour Porpoise and one unidentified animal. As we returned to Royal Quays there was great deal to ponder; our report will draw some interesting conclusions, which will surely lead to more questions, more surveys, more seawatching, more pelagics.
As part of the Northeast Cetacean Project (a partnership involving Marinelife, Natural England, NTBC and Northern Experience Wildlife Tours) we are compiling a database of cetacean sightings for northeast England.
Northumberland and Tyneside Bird Club and Durham Bird Club members, along with Marinelife volunteers, are involved in our ongoing seabird/cetacean surveys, but we are keen to extend our cetacean database as far back as 2003 (or even earlier if significant records can be unearthed).
Whilst compiling the database it has been noticeable that there seem to be a lot of cetacean sightings that are written in notebooks but not published anywhere. If you do have sightings of any cetaceans then we would be grateful if you would submit them for inclusion in our database. We're including tideline strandings/corpses in the database so please send records of those if you have any.The key data are; Date, Species, Number, Location, Observer. Less important, but still of interest if you have this level of detail are Time, Behaviour, Direction of Travel.
Please send records to Northeast Cetacean Project, 18 Frances Ville, Scotland Gate, Northumberland, NE62 5ST or e-mail martin.kitching1'at'btopenworld.com
Martin Kitching Lead Surveyor, Northeast Cetacean Project
Marinelife and Natural England launch a new project to monitor White-Beaked Dolphins and other marine wildlife in the waters off the Northumberland coast with Northern Experience Wildlife Tours.
The White-Beaked Dolphin is a little studied species which occurs around the coast of the UK and is vulnerable to the effects of global warming. It lives in the cold waters of the northern Atlantic and its available habitat is thought to be shrinking. There is little detailed information on the status of the species around the UK and the charity Marinelife has been studying these dolphins as well as other marine mammal species and seabirds off the south west coast of the UK for a number of years.
Now thanks to funding from Natural England (£17,700) and the Northumberland and Tyneside Bird Club (£1000), a new project starts this month to discover more about White-Beaked Dolphins and other species in the rarely studied Farne Deeps off the Northumberland coast. The partnership includes Marinelife, Natural England, the Northumberland and Tyneside Bird Club, the University of Aberdeen, and Northern Experience Wildlife Tours - who will coordinate the winter surveys in the Farne Deeps and surrounding waters.
Dr. Tom Brereton, Research Director for Marinelife commented: “Our work along the coast of the south west has provided useful information on the distribution of White-Beaked Dolphins and their preferred habitats and this project will help complement and extend the existing work. Anecdotal evidence suggests that the area around the Farne Deeps will be important not only for White-Beaked Dolphins, but also for wintering seabirds”.
As with the project along the south west coast, the aim is to engage the local community in the conservation work and the value of safeguarding this species. It is believed the work can also raise the profile of Northumberland as an eco-tourism destination. A sightings website and postcard survey will be launched for local fishermen, recreational dive and angling boats, and yachtsmen to submit any sightings of White-beaked Dolphin and other cetacean species.
Dr. Catherine Scott, Marine Advisor for Natural England North East added: “Natural England is delighted to be supporting this exciting project. The survey will help us understand more about the importance of the sea off Northumberland for these little-known marine mammals, which are a priority species for wider marine protection. This is a great way for the North East to mark the start of the International Year of Biodiversity and it’s possible that this survey will discover that we have a nationally important stronghold for White-Beaked Dolphins off the coast of Northumberland. Through this new project, the North East is playing a vital role in identifying the areas which need protection to safeguard the future for this species around the UK.” Dr. Martin Kitching, lead surveyor from Northern Experience said: "We have been recording White-Beaked Dolphins and other wildlife along the coast of Northumberland for seven years, and now systematically investigating the off-shore waters during the winter months, and engaging with the local community, provides a real opportunity to define the North Sea off Northumberland as an important area for conservation efforts".
The project also involves setting up a photographic database of dolphins that will help experts to identify individual animals. In future, the ‘photo fits’ taken of dolphins in waters off South West and North East England will help find out how wide ranging the animals are and whether the two populations are linked.
White-Beaked Dolphins are a species limited in distribution to the colder waters of the Atlantic. The North Sea represents some of the coldest waters around the UK coastline and this new project will strengthen the scientific data about this and other species in this area and help support conservation efforts for this vulnerable species.