Sightings Archives: September 2012

MARINElife Survey Report: Poole-Santander 'Cotentin' 15th-17th September 2012

Posted 19 September 2012

Rick Morris and Durwyn Liley, Research Surveyors for MARINElife
Weather: Southbound: WSW-SSE 2-4 Northbound: NE-SW 2-4

Cetaceans & Sharks:
Bottlenose Dolphin Tursiops truncatus 11
Short-beaked Common Dolphin Delphinus delphis 87
Striped Dolphin Stenella coeruleoalba 36
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 41
Fin Whale Balaenoptera physalus 9
Sperm Whale Physeter macrocephalus 17
Cuvier's Beaked Whale Ziphius cavirostris 1
Large Rorqual Sp.1
Shark Sp. 1

Fulmar Fulmaris glacialis 112
Cory's Shearwater Calonectris diomedea 105
Great Shearwater Puffinus gravis 10
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 36
Sooty Shearwater Puffinus griseus 25
Balearic Shearwater Puffinus mauretanicus 9
Storm Petrel Hydrobates pelagicus 2
Gannet Morus bassanus 894
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 23
Common scoter Melanitta nigra 1
Great Skua Stecorarius skua 26
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 46
Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis 19
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 1
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 45
'Commic' Tern Sterna hirundo/paradisaea 2
Guillemot Uria aalge 2
Razorbill Alca torda 1
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 30
Auk Sp. 3
Shearwater Sp. 15
Gull Sp. 2

Terrestrial Birds:
Sand Martin Riparia riparia 3
Yellow Wagtail Motacilla flava 2
Pied Wagtail Motacilla alba 1
Alba Wagtail 1
Wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe 1
Passerine Sp. 10

 Harbour Porpoise 1

On arrival at Brittany Ferries office on Saturday morning, we were quickly booked in and escorted to our survey vessel, the 'Cotentin' whereupon we enjoyed a superb breakfast before the start of a long days surveying.

We slipped our berth and headed out of Poole Harbour and were given permission to head up to the bridge. Weather conditions were very favourable so we were optimistic of some good sightings and we were not disappointed, as we had four Harbour Porpoise in the Channel as well as Great Skua, Fulmar and Gannets. We did have a quiet spell through the busy shipping lanes but were rewarded with more Harbour Porpoise sightings in the Celtic Sea, off the French coast. This included a small group (with accompanying Gannets) chasing their quarry, we have never seen them move so fast in the water, their blows clearly seen and one animal even breached clear of the surface, something I have never witnessed before, a truly great sight.

Corys Shearwater 5 Portland

Day two found us up on the bridge at first light and we were informed by the crew that we had just missed a Fin Whale, this we found encouraging and so we began surveying and within twenty five minutes had three Sperm Whale followed shortly after by a Fin Whale.

The rest of the trip southbound rewarded us with more Sperm and Fin Whale as well as small groups of Common, Striped and Bottlenose Dolphin. Also of note on this leg were good numbers of Cory's Shearwater as well as occasional sightings of Manx, Sooty, Great and Balearic Shearwaters. Heading into Santander, nineteen Cormorants flew overhead and as we reached the Isle de Mouro we packed away our kit and made our way down to chill out on the back deck during the turn-a-round.

The stop in Santander seemed to go quickly and we soon found ourselves back on the bridge after our lunch, surveying northbound towards home. Conditions were again good with a sea state of two most of the way, allowing for more sightings of whales as well as Striped Dolphin coming in to 'bow ride'. It was just before 16:30 that a brief view of a 'brownish' object appeared just to port in front of the ship, a brisk walk across to the port bridge wing gave a positive ID of a Cuvier's Beaked Whale, always a welcome sight even if brief. More Sperm and Fin Whale blows were observed before an unidentified shark appeared in front and disappeared down the starboard side, followed by more Sperm and Fin Whale taking us to dusk and on to our evening meal.

Gannet on deckWhilst dining we were shown a couple of photos by one of the crew of a 'large bird' that had landed on the outer deck and asked if we could identify it. To our surprise it was a Gannet, it looked a bit the worse for wear but we were informed that it eventually took flight and headed back out to sea.

The final day's surveying began again at first light where we found ourselves once more in the Celtic sea, again with good conditions, we scanned the surface and the sky but all was fairly quiet until just before 09:00 when we had our first Harbour Porpoise sighting of three animals. Further Harbour Porpoise sightings continued until 13:15, only interrupted by seven Bottlenose Dolphin just before 11:00. There were no further cetacean sightings but the rest of the afternoon was peppered with Gannet, Fulmar, Great Skua and gulls, and not forgetting a Guillemot and Shag. As we reached Old Harry rocks and turned into Poole Harbour we packed away our equipment and said our thanks and farewells to the crew before heading down below ready to disembark.

Our thanks go to the Captain and crew of the 'Cotentin' and to the shore staff that were as ever, very helpful.

We would also like to thank Brittany Ferries for their continued support in MARINElife's work.

Rick Morris and Durwyn Liley, Research Surveyors for MARINElife