MARINElife Survey Report: Neptune Line ‘Neptune Aegli’ Southampton-Santander 19-26 April 2018

Carol Farmer -Wright and Steve Boswell, Research Surveyors for MARINElife
Weather: Day 1 North West 5 becoming North East 2; Day 2 East 4-5 becoming variable; Day 3 South West 4-5; Day 4 North West 3-4; Day 5 East 3; Day 6 West 6

Marine mammals
Bottlenose Dolphin Tursiops truncatus 25
Common Dolphin (Short-beaked) Delphinus delphis 169
Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus 3
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 10
Risso's Dolphin Grampus griseus 4
Unidentified Cetacean sp. 2
Unidentified Dolphin sp. 4
Unidentified Seal sp. 1
Unidentified Shark sp. 1

Seabirds
Arctic Skua Stercorarius parasiticus 1
Arctic Tern Sterna paradisaea 16
Auk sp. Alcidae 138
Black Guillemot Cepphus grylle 1
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 1
Collared Dove Streptopelia decaocto 1
Commic Tern Sterna hirundo/Sterna paradisaea 2
Common Tern Sterna hirundo 145
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 2
Diver sp. Gaviidae 2
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 73
Gannet Morus bassanus 983
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 56
Great Skua Stercorarius skua 24
Guillemot Uria aalge 578
Gull sp. Laridae 2
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 74
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 200
Larus sp. Larus sp. 4
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 147
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 3114
Pomarine Skua Stercorarius pomarinus 1
Puffin Fratercula arctica 61
Razorbill Alca torda 85
Ringed Plover  Charadrius hiaticula 3
Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis 5
Skua sp. Stercorariidae 2
Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis 15

Terrestrial Birds seen at sea
Hoopoe Upupa epops 1
Swallow Hirundo rustica 16
Swift Apus apus 4
Turtle Dove Streptopelia turtur 13
Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus 3
Willow Warbler Phylloscopus trochilus 3
Passerine sp. Passeriformes 2
Redstart Phoenicurus phoenicurus 1
Rock Dove / Feral Pigeon Columba livia 1
Sand Martin Riparia riparia 1
Linnet Carduelis cannabina 1
Blackcap Sylvia atricapilla 1
Bar-tailed Godwit Limosa lapponica 16

Carol and I arranged to meet at the Southampton dock berth. After boarding we were shown to our cabins and then given a safety briefing. Dinner followed before retiring early in readiness for a dawn start.

On the bridge at 06.00 we found ourselves just west of Portland eager to start recording. At 06.13 however fog engulfed the ship and we downed tools! Fortunately, the fog lifted quickly and recording began again. We were joined on the bridge by a Willow Warbler that decided to sit quite happily on the pen on our bird data sheet. As we approached Mounts Bay we had excellent views of four Risso's Dolphin which included two very white individuals. A large feeding flock of over 700 Manx Shearwater were sailed through during the afternoon, an incredible sight. The day ended with the return of thick fog engulfing the ship and therefore ending the day.

Rissos Dolphin Peter Howlett 03
Risso's Dolphin (Library photo: Peter Howlett)

We managed to survey for a brief time before our arrival in Rosslare, good views of Puffin sat on the water in pairs with a lovely close fly past of 9 birds. Black Guillemot, Hooded Crow and Rock Pipit were observed in the port area as we left for Portbury. During the afternoon period, we recorded 24 different marine mammal sightings consisting of 99 individuals. Grey Seal, Harbour Porpoise, Bottlenose Dolphin and Common Dolphin. One juvenile Common Dolphin was observed to be melanistic.

Common Dolphin Carol Farmer Wright 05a
Common Dolphin Inc Melanistic (Carol Farmer-Wright)

Leaving Portbury at 09.00 heading for Falmouth we watched 4 Roe Deer feeding close to the marsh shore. We encountered challenging glare for most of the day. A flock of migrating Bar-tailed Godwit and Whimbrel in addition to the usual seabird sightings. As evening approached we enjoyed good views of the Scilly Isles and the Sevenstones light vessel.

After bunkering overnight outside Falmouth we headed towards the Bay of Biscay and Carol managed to catch up on data input. We recordered 3 Skua species with a close Pomarine Skua fly past. Frustratingly darkness fell as we approached the Northern shelf break with a Swallow looking for a place to roost on board.

Pomarine Skua Mike Bailey 01
Pomarine Skua (Library photo: Mike Bailey)

First light saw us looking out to heavy low cloud over a dark sea. We saw the large fin of a shark species very close to ship. We were three hours from Santander when migrant birds began to appear with the highlights being a flock of 13 Turtle Dove and incredibly a Hoopoe!

Hoopoe Carol Farmer Wright 01a
Hoopoe (Carol Farmer-Wright)

On the approach to the port we encountered a slow-moving group of Bottlenose Dolphin. A quick walk ashore produced a Peregrine catching a Pigeon and a number of singing Black Redstart. After departure we managed a few hours surveying but darkness fell as we approached the edge of the Santander Canyon.

Morning saw us north of the Northern shelf break. We had good views of a flock of Arctic Tern and over 100 Common Tern on their journey north. About 30 miles from the Channel Islands many Gannet were feeding and small groups of Great Skua were in attendance.

Common Tern Graham Ekins 01

Common Tern (Library photo: Graham Ekins)

The following day was spent in Le Havre with a fine drake Eider in the harbour. A Great Black-backed Gull was sat on eggs on top of one of our docking pillars. Having eaten our last dinner, we thanked Oleksandr, the cook, for some enjoyable meals.

Carol Farmer -Wright and Steve Boswell, Research Surveyors for MARINElife