MARINElife Survey Report: Neptune Line ‘Neptune Aegli’ Southampton-Santander 22 February -1 March 2019

Steve and Margaret Boswell, Research Surveyors for MARINElife
Weather: Swell days 2-6 reducing from 5 metre to 1 metre by day 6
Wind averaging 15 knots from SSE to S until last day when moved to SW.
Fog leaving Southampton and arriving in Santander otherwise excellent visibility without rain.

Marine Mammals
Bottlenose Dolphin Tursiops truncatus 2
Common Dolphin (Short-beaked) Delphinus delphis 272
Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus 1
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 3
Long-finned Pilot Whale Globicephala melas 18
Unidentified Dolphin sp. 3

Auk sp. Alcidae 18          
Black Guillemot Cepphus grylle 1             
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 28             
Common Gull Larus canus 9        
Common Scoter Melanitta nigra 7           
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 8            
Fulmar  Fulmarus glacialis 14      
Gannet Morus bassanus 1494    
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 19             
Great Skua Stercorarius skua 37
Guillemot Uria aalge 202              
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 53              
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 324     
Larus sp. Larus sp 13      
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 86               
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 2     
Mediterranean Gull Larus melanocephalus 2                       
Razorbill Alca torda 6     
Red-throated Diver Gavia stellate 1         
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 1

Terrestrial Birds
Meadow Pipit Anthus pratensis 1
Pied Wagtail Motacilla alba yarrellii 1

Day 1 Southampton

We arrived at Southampton port in good time to walk from the car park to board the Neptune Aegli. After being escorted to our cabins we were informed that lunch was being served!  Shortly afterwards it was time for departure, so we made our way to the bridge and introduced ourselves to Captain Pavlov Pasenchenko.  Herring Gull were already in pairs on the cruise terminal roof.

Within minutes of departure a heavy fog descended and continued for the rest of the afternoon, no surveying possible today!

Fog_Steve Boswell

Fog (steve Boswell)

Day 2 Rosslare

The following morning, we found ourselves four hours out from Rosslare. Visibility was good but a heavy swell was running. We were kept busy with continuous bird sightings with a couple of Manx Shearwater being of note for this time of year. Our first cetacean sightings were a group of Common Dolphin coming in to bow ride just over an hour away from port. We managed a quick walk on the beach in Rosslare before returning to the ship, Stonechat were singing on the gorse bushes. We departed at 17.00 which gave us enough daylight to survey for just over an hour. We observed two Bottlenose Dolphin and a Grey Seal in that time. A Black Guillemot in full breeding plumage was the bird highlight.

BND Mike Bailey 02

Bottlenose Dolphin (Mike Bailey)

Day 3 Portbury

We arrived in Portbury just as the sun was rising. After breakfast we walked the thirty-five minutes along the wildlife corridor the port authority had created to Portbury village and enjoyed a coffee in warm sunshine! Walking back to the ship we saw a Small Tortoiseshell butterfly.

Day 4 Channel- Northern Bay of Biscay

Surveying at 07.00, our first full day ahead. Clouds cleared to produce a strong forward glare. We experienced light winds but an annoying swell over 5 metre which continued for most of the day and only reducing to 3 metre mid-afternoon. Common Dolphin were seen and good numbers of birds mainly Kittiwake and Gannet. We crossed the shelf edge at 16.30 when bird numbers reduced, and darkness fell as we entered deep water.

Common Dolphin 01_Steve Boswell

Common Dolphin (Steve Boswell)

Day 5 Santander

We should have been in Santander Harbour before dawn but instead we were held outside the harbour entrance due to more thick fog. We were allowed to proceed at mid-day which meant our departure was delayed until after dark.

The fog cleared to produce a warm sunny day with temperatures of 20 degrees which we spent drinking coffee in Santander.

Day 6 Northern Bay of Biscay-Channel

Daybreak we found ourselves going over the Northern shelf break. Pilot Whale were seen with their blows being clearly visible against the sun. One individual was seen tail slapping. Large numbers of Gannet were on the move north with Great Skua in attendance, especially around the French and Spanish fishing boats.

Pilot Whale Adrian Shephard 02

Pilot Whale (Adrian Shephard)

Common Dolphin were seen every hour from dawn until dusk. An unfortunate sight of two dead Common Dolphin entangled in fishing nets reminded us of the hazards these animals are still facing.

Dead CD Netting_Steve Boswell

Entangled in netting dead Common Doilphin (Steve Boswell)

Again, we had a rain free day!

Day 7 Le Havre

We managed to survey for just over 4 hours on our approach to Le Havre. A massive feeding frenzy of mainly Gannet were seen, a spectacular sight!  3 Harbour Porpoise gave good close views.

Le Havre_Steve Boswell

Le Havre (Steve Boswell)

Day 8 Southampton

Arrival in Southampton coincided with the arrival of the new massive MSC Bellissima cruise ship ready for its inaugural sailing the following day. At first, we thought the water cannon display was for us!

After breakfast we thanked the Captain, his officers and crew for their kind hospitality before walking the short distance to the car park and home.

Steve and Margaret Boswell, Research Surveyors for MARINElife