Sightings Archives: February 2012

MARINElife Survey Report: Poole-Santander 'Cotentin' 18 - 20 February 2012

Posted 21 February 2012

Stephen Dunstan and Hugh Cairns, Research Surveyors for MARINElife

Weather: Southbound: SW 7-9; Northbound: SW 2-4

Cetacean Recorded
Common Dolphin Delphinus delphis  31
Unidentified Dolphin species 2
Unidentified Large rorqual species 1

Seabirds Recorded
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 42
Gannet Morus bassanus 515
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 6
Great Skua Stercorarius skua 11
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 13
Yellow-Legged Gull Larus michahellis 38
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 23
Common Gull Larus canus 1
Little Gull Larus minutus 1
Red-Throated Diver Gavia stellata 1
Common Scoter Melanitta nigra 8
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 82
Guillemot Uria aalge 64
Razorbill Alca torda 56
Common Scoter Melanitta nigra  8   
Unidentified Auk Species 6
Unidentified small Gull Species c650
Unidentified large Gull Species 5

We were checked in by welcoming Brittany Ferries staff and soon transferred onto the ship.  We headed onto deck whilst we waiting to go on the bridge and scanned Brownsea Island lagoon as we passed.  Here we were very pleased to pick out a Spoonbill feeding among more regular birds, a good record at any time but particularly in winter.

We saw four groups of Common Dolphins before the weather closed in mid afternoon.  All of these came in to bow ride, offering excellent views.  A good variety of seabirds was also seen before mist and rain stopped play, latterly including several Great Skua to add to the auks, gulls, Gannets and Fulmars. All in all, a good return for the Channel in February. 

Common Dolphin 5Sunday saw calmer conditions than Saturday so we were hopeful of something good.  We weren't to be disappointed as a large whale surfaced quite close to the ship.  Unfortunately it was probably spooked by the close encounter and didn't resurface in view, but it was almost certainly a Fin Whale.  Birds wise we added Common Scoter to the trip list, a surprise so far off the coast.

We wandered around Santander before returning to the ship. As we edged away from port we did see the only Mediterranean Gull and Sandwich Terns of the trip.  As we resumed the survey a few Yellow-legged Gulls were seen near the coast, even better an adult Little Gull was seen deep into the Bay of Biscay, reflecting the pelagic habits of this tiny gull in winter.  A couple of Common Dolphins were also seen before sunset.

Our final day began with the calmest conditions of the trip and we were optimistic of dolphins and porpoises.  We did indeed see several more pods of Common Dolphin coming in to the bow, but porpoises eluded us before the wind picked up a little and that was that.  Seabirds were generally similar to other days, but included very large groups of Gannet and several hundred presumed gulls distantly around fishing boats.  It was very quiet nearing Poole again but persistence was rewarded with a Red-throated Diver and the only Common Gull if the survey.

Thanks to Brittany Ferries and particularly the crew of the Cotentin for terrific hospitality as usual.

Stephen Dunstan and Hugh Cairns, Research Surveyors for MARINElife