Monthly pic September 2012

Harbour seal (Phoca vitulina). Canon 50D, Canon EF 400mm f/5.6 L USM, 1/400, f/13, iso 100, handheld.
I'm quite fond of this photograph! It show the head of a harbour seal (Phoca vitulina), which was bobbing up and down vertically in the Oosterschelde and enjoying some well deserved sunshine. You can only see the silhouette of the seal, though it's whiskers catch the light. The repetitive lines of the waves create a soothing background, while the reflecting sky adds a nice touch of color.

I made this photograph aboard the Stern during the 4th Oosterscheldescan of the Rugvin Foundation, although we were actually looking for harbour porpoises (Phocoena phocoena). I am a volunteer with Rugvin since their very beginning and we do a monthly survey on the Stena Line ferries between Hoek van Holland (NL) and Harwich (UK). We are gathering data on whales and dolphins occurring in the North Sea. We mainly see harbour porpoises, but occasionally we also observe white-beaked dolphins (Lagenorhynchus albirostris) and even killer whales (Orcinus orca).

In 2008 Rugvin decided to research the occurrence of harbour porpoises in the Oosterschelde in collaboration with WWF. The Oosterschelde is an estuary and the largest national park in the Netherlands. It is partly blocked from the North Sea by the so called 'Oosterscheldekering', a storm surge barrier and dam. It is quite unique that harbour porpoises are occurring in a partly closed estuary. They are seen year round and their numbers seem to be rather stable. We try to collect more data, while simultaneously raising awareness with the general public over the occurrence of whales on their very doorstep. This year we observed 42 different animals, which is 19 animals less then last year's scan. Unfortunately this year had a lot of dead and beached porpoises ending up on our shores. We will press on with gathering more data, which will hopefully bring more insight into the lives of these fascinating creatures.

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