MARINElife Survey Report: Brittany Ferries ‘Contentin’ Poole – Santander, September 21st – 23rd 2013

Duncan Fyfe and Dick Lorand, Research Surveyors for MARINElife

Weather: Day 1 SW 3-4 with poor visibility but SE to E 4-6 on day 2 and 3 with bright sunshine.

Summary of Sightings
Cetaceans:
Fin Whale Balaenoptera physalus 1
Minke Whale Balaenoptera acutororostata 1
Common Dolphin Delphinus delphis 25
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 2
Large Roqual sp 11

Seabirds:
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 22
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 2
Sooty Shearwater Puffinus griseus 2
Gannet Morus bassanus 210
Shag  Phalacrocorax aristotelis 2
Grey Phalarope Phalaropus fulicarius 1
Great Skua Stercorarius skua 20
Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis 1
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 8
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 3
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 2
Arctic Tern Sterna paradisaea 1
'Commic' Tern Sterna hirundo/paradisaea 14
Guillemot Uria aalge 1

Terrestrial Birds:
Shoveler Anas clypeata 21
Kestrel Falco tinnunculus 1
Turtle Dove Streptopelia turtur 1
House Martin Delichon urbicum 1
Yellow Wagtail Moticilla flava 1
Meadow Pipit Anthus pratensis 2
Swallow Hirundo rustica 10
Passerine sp. 1
Hirundine sp. 6

We were efficiently booked in and taken aboard the Cotentin to our very pleasant cabins. Just after we left Poole berth we were escorted to the bridge where we welcomed by Captain Patrick de St. Pierre and his very friendly crew. It was good to see a healthy flock of c. 120 Avocet on Brownsea Island just before the start of the survey.

As we headed out into the western Channel the visibility started to close in, we managed to see a single Sooty Shearwater and 6 Great Skua before the fog curtailed the survey on a couple of occasions. The only cetacean sighting was a single Common Dolphin just in front of the bows.

ContentinBridgeSurveying from Cotentin (Richard Lorand)

Day 2 dawned with better visibility and stronger winds, but birds were thin on the sea with only 17 seen in the first six hours.

A single Kestrel headed south accompanied with a small passerine as did a single Grey Phalarope, an Arctic and 10 "Commic" Tern. Cetaceans appeared as we approached deeper water with blows from large rorqual sp. seen at 2kms from 2 and 3 animals. A pod of c. 15 Common Dolphin headed towards the bows for a free ride shortly followed by another 3. Arriving in Santander in very warm sunshine we relaxed on deck while the ship discharged and reloaded. Whilst that was happening we had excellent views of a Honey Buzzard and as we left Santander the ship was accompanied by 3 adult Mediterranean Gull. Starting our return survey we noted 2 Manx Shearwater and 21 Shoveler just north of Santander. Approaching deeper water 4+ Common Dolphin approached the bows and our first Fin Whale was noted. Four more sightings of large rorqual blows totalling 6 animals were noted whilst crossing the deep canyon.

RorqualBlowRorqual blow (Richard Lorand)

Day 3 saw us on the bridge at 06:45 where we were greeted by a Turtle Dove. During the day the commonest birds were Gannet totalling 134 and Great Skua at 14 birds. A few more passerines were seen with singles of Yellow Wagtail and House Martin, 2 Meadow Pipit and 10 Swallow. 2 Common Dolphin joined the ship in the early morning and, after lunch, the crew saw a single Minke Whale slip past the port side of the ship, followed by a pair of Harbour Porpoise shortly afterwards.

More Gannets and a few Fulmars were noted as we approached Poole with a couple of Shags flying westwards.

Despite rather low numbers of birds this was a very interesting and rewarding survey made even better by the warmth and friendliness of the crew of the Cotentin whom we cannot thank enough. Let us hope that the service resumes again quickly.

Duncan Fyfe and Dick Lorand, Research Surveyors for MARINElife