Sightings Archives: November 2011

MARINElife Survey Report: Poole-Santander 'Cotentin' 19 - 21 November 2011

Posted 24 November 2011

Rick Morris and Gareth Bradbury Research Surveyors for MARINElife

Weather: Southbound: SE-SSE 3-5; Northbound: SE-ESE 2-4

Common Dolphin Delphinus delphis 108
Bottlenose Dolphin Tursiops truncatus 2
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 2
Pilot Whale Globicephala melas 7
Unidentified Dolphin Sp. 8

Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 2
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 1
Balearic Shearwater Puffinus mauretanicus 1
Gannet Morus bassanus 250
Great Skua Stercorarius skua 85
Parasitic (Arctic) Skua Stercorarius parasiticus 1
Common Gull Larus canus 2
Mediterranean Gull Larus malanocephalus 1
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 2
Yellow Legged Gull Larus michahellis 1
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 19
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 85
Little Gull Larus minutus 3
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 99
Puffin Fratercula arctica 1
Guillemot Uria aalge 21
Razorbill Alca torda 12
Unidentified Auk Species 11
Unidentified Large Gull Species 123
Unidentified Small Gull Species 1
Unidentified Shearwater species 1
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 1
Shelduck Tadorna tadorna 1

Terrestrial Birds
Meadow Pipit Anthus pratensis 1
Short Eared Owl Asio flammeus 1
Starling Sturnus vulgaris 43
Woodcock Scolopax rusticola 1
Blackbird Turdus merula 2
Passerines 2
Unidentified Finch sp. 18

The Brittany Ferries Staff at the Poole Terminal were, as usual, extremely helpful in getting us on board for the early (7 am) start. Crossing Poole harbour, we had excellent views of Spoonbills in the lagoon on the starboard side, together with other waders, and a Black-Necked Grebe, with Brent Geese surfing at the Harbour entrance.

We were welcomed to the bridge as we left the harbour, but had to wait until midday for the first group of Common Dolphins to come to the ship, and thereafter we had more distant views of a couple of Bottlenose Dolphins, and two further groups of Common Dolphins close to the vessel. A distant view of 4 lethargic animals, suggested possible Risso's Dolphins, but distance precluded confirmation. A steady trickle of the usual birds was seen, but it was already noticeable that there were exceptional numbers of Great Skuas (Bonxies) evident. We lost light after 4.30pm, and were able to have an early night, to catch up on lost sleep.

Common Dolphin 1Great Skua 3

At first light we found ourselves in Southern Biscay but the cetaceans were not obliging on this trip. Notable birds included Little Gulls, Arctic Skua and Balearic Shearwater, a species we study in the Channel. After a walk around a park area in Santander where we encountered Chiffchaffs, Blackcaps and heard Cetti's warbler we headed back on board for the return crossing.

Overnight the sea state had settled to 2 and by morning we had reached the Channel, just off northern Brittany. Migrant birds were evident, including a flock of 40 Starlings, and a Short Eared Owl flying high back towards land. We were startled by a Woodcock which appeared suddenly, like a large bat, possibly having roosted on board.

We were surprised and pleased to see a pod of 6 adult and 1 young Long-Finned Pilot Whales just to starboard of the ship, and thereafter we had frequent groups of Common Dolphins in various behaviour modes, feeding, bow-riding and swimming leisurely, a total of 93 in all. We also had glimpses of a couple of Harbour Porpoises.

Balearic Shear 3Pilot Whale 1

Great Skuas kept coming in exceptional numbers, at times threatening to exceed Gannets.  A group of 16 together on and above the water, around a feeding Harbour porpoise was very unusual.

 An altogether enjoyable and interesting trip and we were very grateful for the hospitality and interest of the crew of the Cotentin.

Michael Bamford and Sean Minns, Research Surveyors for MARINElife