Sightings Archives: April 2013

MARINElife Survey Report: Brittany Ferries ‘Cotentin’ Poole-Santander survey 20-22 April 2013

Posted 13 May 2013

Fiona McNie and Stephanie Czudaj, Volunteer Research Surveyors for MARINElife

Weather: Light winds and sea state 3 or less.

Marine Mammals
Minke Whale Balaenoptera acutorostrata 1
Common Dolphin Delphinus delphis 342
Striped Dolphin  Stenella coeruleoalba 5
Long-finned Pilot Whale Globicephala melas 15
Dolphin sp  65
Blackfish sp. 10

Storm petrel  Hydrobates pelagicus 3
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 9
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 221
Gannet Morus bassanus 318
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 5
Great Skua Stercorarius skua 5
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 34
Greater Black-back Gull Larus marinus 19
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 1
Guillemot Uria aalge 67
Shearwater sp  16
Skua sp  3
Gull (immature) sp  538
Tern sp. 31
Auk sp  8

Terrestrial Birds
Swallow sp.                   2

Cotentin sunset Stephanie Czudaj 01I was really excited to have the opportunity to do a survey on the MV Cotentin but being on a commercial ferry was a new experience for me.  I was grateful for the friendliness of the staff and their willingness to guide us, particularly in making sure the exit on and off the vessel through the myriad of moving lorries was safe and easy.  The facilities on board, food, and cabin were also of a high standard.  The crew on the bridge were very friendly and interested in the survey, particularly when they were able to spot any cetaceans before us!

We left Poole at 11:15 on the 20 April. The FNMOC weather website was suggesting we would have fine weather and low sea states for the majority of the trip and this was indeed the case, with sea state mainly between 1 and 3, and visibility 5 and 6 for most of the journey.

Despite staying on the bridge until the last shred of light we were only just rounding the Brest peninsular at sunset, so unfortunately the vessel reached northern Biscay just after dark.

Unid cetacean Stephanie Czudat 01No cetaceans were seen on the first day, though this did provide the opportunity to see many more coastal birds and a magnificent sunset behind the islands. The second day provided far greater opportunity for cetaceans and, with the earliest possible start, came a steady flow of Common and the occasional Striped Dolphin for the journey into Santander. There were also several sightings of Pilot whale and an unconfirmed blackfish sighting very close to the Spanish coast ­- initial thoughts were that it may have been a False killer whale!  We also seemed to be attracting a number of Swallows which landed on the decks in front of us on a number of occasions.

We arrived in Santander at midday and left again at 4:45 later that afternoon. This provided for another 3.5 hours of daylight, many more dolphin sightings, a brief sighting of a Minke Whale but alas no other whale sightings.

The following morning we arrived on the bridge at sunrise to find the Captain had agreed to allow a crew member to disembark due to a bereavement. This meant a slight change of course, as the vessel was heading towards a harbour on the coast of Brittany where a pilot vessel would come out to meet the crew member. The process of disembarking only took 10 minutes but the survey was halted during the time the vessel was stationary.

Pilot Whale Stephanie Czudaj 01Following the coast of France and up into the channel presented one more Common Dolphin sighting and also a wonderful encounter with large numbers of shearwaters and several auks.  However sightings dwindled through the day, and birds in the English Channel seemed fewer than expected.

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

Fiona McNie and Stephanie Czudaj, Volunteer Research Surveyors for MARINElife