Sunday, 2 August 2015

White Beaked Dolphins- Northumberland

Yesterday (01.08.15) I joined Dr Ben Burville and Skipper Alan Leatham for a pelagic tour searching for whales and dolphins onboard Ocean Explorer. This tour operates miles off the Northumberian coast in an area known for its population of White Beaked Dolphins, Lagenorhynchus albirostris, a temperate and sub-arctic species (http://www.whaledolphintrust.co.uk/species_details.asp?inst=18&species_id=118). The briefing began as Alan tried to manage our expectations "there is no guarantee we will spot whales and dolphins, we are simply exploring an area and recording what we find". After some more health and safety talk- we were on our way.
It didn't take long for us to find some diving gannets- normally an indicator of a good feeding area. Alan cut the engine as we bobbed around the North Sea in hope of spotting of a fin. "Over there- 10 o'clock from the boat" someone had spotted a lot of splashing from a pod of up to 20 White Beaked Dolphins.

The dolphins spotted us immediately and headed straight towards the boat. Ben (under licence from the MMO) slowly entered the water to collect his important research. Working with Newcastle University (among others) Ben's footage has identified individual animals and proven site fidelity of this species over several years.

Onboard we were treated to a spectacular show from the dolphins, swimming around and underneath the boat. They seemed to dominate the whole area- it was difficult to know where to look next! They swam alongside the boat, rolling onto their sides to get good views of everyone onboard. The dolphins stuck around for the best part of 20-30 minutes before eventually heading off into the horizon. As Alan restarted the engine, all of the passengers sat in awe and marveled at the amazing experience of seeing these wild animals up close and personal.

Thank you to Dr Ben Burville (@sealdiver), Alan Leatham and William Shiel- boat owner and son of Billy Sheil MBE who founded "Glad Tidings" (@thefarneislands). Interested in learning more about the trip- see http://www.northseapelagics.co.uk/expedition-trip-dates/

Individuals can be identified by their markings (photo by Laura Shearer)

What a vista! (photo by Laura Shearer)

The visibility allowed us to follow them under the water (photo by Laura Shearer)

Swimming alongside the boat (photo by Laura Shearer)
Here you can see their obvious white beak (photo by Laura Shearer)

2 comments:

  1. Great pics Laura. Amazing creatures!

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  2. Amazing, well done. Keep up the good work.

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