MARINElife Survey Report: Poole-Santander 'Cotentin' 17 - 19 December 2011

Richard Price and Tim Balmer Research Surveyors for MARINElife

Weather: Southbound: NW 4-6; Northbound: W 3-5

Cetaceans
Common Dolphin Delphinus delphis 25
Unidentified Dolphin Sp. 2

Seabirds
Storm Petrel Hydrobates pelagicus 1
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 6
Gannet Morus bassanus 9
Great Skua Stercorarius skua 5
Mediterranean Gull Larus malanocephalus 1
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 20
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 3
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 29
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 121
Puffin Fratercula arctica 2
Guillemot Uria aalge 93
Unidentified Auk Species 5
Unidentified Large Gull Species 3
Unidentified Small Gull Species 3

Terrestrial Birds
Osprey Pandion haliaetus 1

Departure was prompt, and after leaving the harbour we were welcomed by the very helpful crew.

As we sailed down the Channel, numbers of the more coastal seabirds such as the Black-backed and Herring gulls decreased, while sightings of species such as the hansom Kittiwake, Great Skua and Guillemot became more frequent. 

Great Skua 3

The cetacean watching was a little frustrating, as despite good light conditions the wind ruffled the water causing tiny whitecaps which made viewing of Harbour Porpoises challenging.  We know Harbour Porpoises can frequently be seen on this route, but their tiny size and undemonstrative behaviour make them difficult to spot unless the sea is mirror calm.

Due to the limited daylight hours at this time of year, it wasn't long before we had to draw our observations for the day to a close. The next morning, dramatic cloud formations meant we were treated to a superb sunrise. Again, we were soon recording a gentle trickle of seabirds, with Fulmars and a Mediterranean Gull also adding to the mix.

Whilst in Santander harbour, we encountered the avian highlight of our trip, an Osprey. It was certainly a great sight to see this magnificent raptor successfully catch a fish relatively close to the ship, before taking its prey out of view.

Our final day saw us take a route close to the Brittany Coast, past Roscoff before picking our way through the Channel Islands to cross straight into Poole. 

Common Dolphin with calf 3

The Channel Islands appeared to be quite productive, with many seabirds here, including a couple of drab looking Puffins in their winter plumage as well as Common dolphins. This larger cetacean is more obvious to us especially when they energetically approach the ship leaping and turning to bow ride. It is always exciting to see these charismatic animals so close to the ship and mothers with small calves by their side made this encounter even more rewarding.

Once again our thanks go to the staff and crew of the Cotentin who made this a very enjoyable crossing.

 

Richard Price and Tim Balmer, Research Surveyors for MARINElife