Mike bamford and Robbie Hawkins, Research Surveyors for MARINElife
Weather: Southbound: WSW 6-7; Northbound: N 3-8
Common Dolphin Delphinus delphis 37
Striped Dolphin Stenella Coeruleoalba 2
Unidentified Dolphin species 2
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 75
Gannet Morus bassanus 265
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 4
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 4
Great Skua Stercorarius skua 12
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 21
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 8
Common Gull Larus canus 1
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 8
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 49
Guillemot Uria aalge 137
Razorbill Alca torda 17
Unidentified Auk Species 47
Unidentified large Gull Species 14
Sun Fish Mola mola 1
We were escorted to the ship by the very efficient and helpful terminal staff, and set off just after 8 a.m. We were met by a freshening WSW breeze, which reached force 6-7, with associated sea states.
Setting off we saw scattered groups of migrating passerine birds, including some probable finches and pipits. As the ship got further into the western Channel, we were approached by a couple of fast moving pods of Common Dolphin.
It became clear we were taking a route close to the French coast and as sunset approached we saw the many lighthouses off the Isle of Ushant (Oessant). The bridge team negotiated the channel between the Island and the mainland. Sunset was at 18.20, and we planned for an early night in view of the early rise the following day.
The sea remained lumpy overnight with an increasing 2-3 m swell the following day, and with continuing strong winds, our ability to detect sea mammals was restricted to brief views close to the ship, including probable Striped Dolphins. An additional unexpected sighting was a Sunfish which obviously hadn't seen the weather!
In Santander there was a little more shelter from the wind - we had a brief look at the park to the east of the port (south of the railway terminus) where we saw Blackcaps, Willow Warbler, Chiffchaffs plus a White Wagtail. This patch has a potential for more migrants in favourable conditions amid the slightly unusual habitat of Pampas grass and Eucalyptus.
Rejoining the ship, the wind stayed brisk with a marked swell, which limited viewing. The ship's movement gradually settled overnight and we rejoined the bridge in a clear dawn, as we once again we approached the Ushant channel, with excellent views of the Lighthouses Kereon and Jument, made famous in the dramatic posters by Jean Guichard.
The sea calmed with a northerly breeze, and once again we had some brief visits by small groups of Common Dolphin. Seabirds included an increasing numbers of Auks, some coming into breeding plumage, and a large flock of loafing Fulmars. Once again we noted some migrating passerines including Redstart and Skylarks.
Thanking the bridge team, we left the ship with the assistance of the terminal staff.
Mike Bamford and Robbie Hawkins, Research Surveyors for MARINElife