Sightings Archives: August 2011

MARINElife Survey Report: Poole-Santander 'Cotentin' 20 - 22 August 2011

Posted 25 August 2011

Stephen Dunstan and Diederik Dherte, Research Surveyors for MARINElife

Fin Whale Balaenoptera physalus 4
Minke Whale Balaenoptera acutorostrata 3
Large Rorqual sp. 2
Sperm Whale Physeter macrocephalus 1
Northern Bottlenose Whale Hyperoodon ampullatus 4
Cuvier's Beaked Whale Ziphius cavirostris 3
Common Dolphin Delphinus delphis 249
Bottlenose Dolphin Tursiops truncatus 36
Dolphin Sp. 5
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 78

Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 157
Cory's Shearwater Calonectris diomedea 4
Great Shearwater Puffinus gravis 19
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 15
Sooty Shearwater Puffinus griseus 3
Balearic Shearwater Puffinus mauretanicus 15
Small Shearwater Sp. 3 
European Storm-petrel Hydrobates pelagicus 51
Gannet Morus bassanus 1694
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 10
European Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 1
Great Skua Stercorarius skua 59
Black-headed Gull Larus ridibundus 2
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 11
Yellow-legged Gull Larus cachinnans 14
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 208
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 44
Sabine's Gull Larus sabini 5
Common Tern Sterna hirundo 2
'Commic' Tern Sterna hirundo/paradisaea 1
Large Gull Sp. 57


We left Poole at 08h00 in good weather conditions: cloudy, but only a moderate wind and little waves so expectations were high - and they were met!

Soon after we left, the first Harbour Porpoises were seen. Early afternoon we spotted a very distant Minke Whale, and only a couple of minutes later, a second Minke surfaced quite close to the ship. Small groups of Bottlenose Dolphins were seen at several locations. As sunset began, a group of Common Dolphin joined the ferry to bow ride. Fabulous!

Minke 1Common Dolphin 1

The first day was also enlivened by three adult Sabines's Gulls and good numbers of Great Skua (47) and Fulmar (64). Further sightings included 4 Balearic and 6 Manx Shearwaters, 25 Storm-Petrels and 1000+ Gannets.

August is a great month in the Bay of Biscay, where we started the next day. Weather conditions were again excellent for observation: only a light wind and small waves.

The most spectacular sighting was a group of 4 Northern Bottlenose Whales that surfaced just in front of the ferry. Some groups of Common Dolphin (totaling 72 individuals) were seen as well as 3 Cuvier's Beaked Whales. Three Fin Whales were also recorded and two whale blows were left unidentified.

Cuviers 1Fin 1

When we left Santander, we were initially trapped in a dense fog bank which reduced visibility to less than 300m, but luckily it disappeared quickly. On the Northbound part of the trip a single Fin Whale and 19 Common Dolphin were added to the list. Some notable birds were seen including good sightings of Great Shearwater (15), Cory's Shearwater (2), Manx/Yelkouan Shearwater (3) and another stunning adult Sabine's Gull.

On the third day, back in the Channel, 30 more Common Dolphin were seen. Several small groups of Harbour Porpoise (totaling 22 individuals) were observed in calm seas. We noted a good number of seabirds as well, including 93 Fulmars, 11 Balearic Shearwaters, 4 Great Shearwaters, 2 Cory's Shearwaters, 3 Sooty Shearwaters and 9 Manx Shearwaters as well as another adult Sabine's Gull.

Our thanks go to all the bridge crew members who were extremely interested in the sightings during the survey.

Stephen Dunstan and Diederik Dherte, Research Surveyors for MARINElife