MARINElife Survey Report: Neptune Line ‘Neptune Dynamis’ Southampton-Santander-Le Havre 13 - 17 October 2019

Stephen Boswell and Margaret Boswell; Research Surveyors for MARINElife
Day 1 Westerly force 5; Day 2 South easterly force 6; Day 3 Westerly force 7; Day 4 South Westerly force 3 dropping to 2 but with large swell; Day 5 South westerly force 6

Marine Mammals
Common Dolphin (Short-beaked) Delphinus delphis 344
Fin Whale Balaenoptera physalus 3
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 8
Long-finned Pilot Whale Globicephala melas 3

Seabirds
Arctic Skua Stercorarius parasiticus 2
Auk sp. Alcidae 6
Balearic Shearwater Puffinus mauretanicus 1
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 16
Brent Goose Branta bernicla 25
Common Gull Larus canus 1
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 2
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 27
Gannet Morus bassanus 864
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 26
Great Shearwater Puffinus gravis 44
Great Skua Stercorarius skua 40
Guillemot Uria aalge 112
Gull sp. Laridae 1
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 27
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 174
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 12
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 9
Pomarine Skua Stercorarius pomarinus 1
Puffin Fratercula arctica 27
Razorbill Alca torda 38
Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis 11
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 1
Shearwater sp. Shearwater 1
Sooty Shearwater Puffinus griseus 2
Storm Petrel Hydrobates pelagicus 26
Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis 18

Terrestrial Birds
Snow Bunting Gallinago gallinago 1
Rock Pipit Anthus petrosus 1
Yellow Wagtail Motacilla flava 1
Carrion Crow Corvus corone 4
Little Egret Egretta garzetta 1
Passerine sp. Passeriformes 2
Pied Wagtail Motacilla alba yarrellii 1

We boarded just before lunch for our early afternoon departure. After being shown to our cabins were given a hearty lunch. We departed on time to sail between the Needles and Hurst Castle as darkness began to fall.

Needles Steve Boswell

Needles (Steve Boswell)

Morning found us four hours out from Rosslare. 17 separate groups of Common Dolphin were seen and incredibly in a sea state 4 with a 3 metre swell we saw 3 groups of Harbour Porpoise! A quick turnaround allowed us to survey for two hours on the start of our 550 nautical mile section to Santander.

Common Dolphin Steve Boswell 03

Common Dolphin (Steve Boswell)

Overnight the weather worsened with 6 metre swell and force 8 winds. Sitting down to eat breakfast was a challenge! We started the days survey as normal however as things started to improve slightly but still with difficult viewing conditions.
The highlights of the day were a couple of Fin Whale, 3 Pilot Whale and small groups of Common Dolphin just over the Northern shelf edge. The wind increased to 40 knots during squally showers. Great Shearwater, Sooty Shearwater and Storm Petrel were the pick of the birds in this area.

Great Shearwater Steve Boswell 01

Great Shearwater (Steve Boswell)

Next morning, we were docked in Santander in bright but still windy conditions. A fresh walk into town for a coffee and then we returned for the scheduled 2 o'clock sailing to Le Havre. Exiting the harbour, which contained some wintering Sandwich Tern we were hit by a very big swell which continued for the rest of the day and night. A large blow was seen with a Fin Whale disappearing behind the swell was the only cetacean seen. A lovely fully spooned Pomarine Skua did a close fly past.

Neptune Dynamis Steve Boswell

Sunrise in Santander (Steve Boswell)

We had moved over the Northern shelf by daybreak and were 2 hours from turning into the Channel near Brest. The weather was still difficult. It was a surprise to see a Snow Bunting hopping around the deck, it remained for 2 hours during which time it was joined by a Rock Pipit. A few Common Dolphin were observed leaping out of the many white caps.

Snow Bunting Steve Boswell

Snow Bunting (Steve Boswell)

After steady bird sightings all day including regular glimpses of wintering Puffin, the last couple of hours were quiet. We finished our survey as the Casquets lighthouse came into view just as a menacing group of 5 Great Skua sitting on the water drifted down the starboard side.

In Le Havre the following morning we disembarked as the ship was heading to Zeebrugge for a few days before returning to Southampton. We thanked Captain Zhesterov and his very helpful crew and then we spent the day in Le Havre before catching the overnight ferry home.

Stephen and Margaret Boswell, Research Surveyors for MARINElife