UK/Ireland - Bilbao

Sightings Archives: June 2016

MARINElife Survey Report: JR Shipping Dublin-Bilbao-Dublin 'MV Endeavor' 14th-19th June 2016

Posted 07 July 2016

Carol Farmer-Wright and Cheryl Leaning, Research Surveyors for MARINElife
Weather: Force 1 - 7

Marine Mammals
Bottlenose Dolphin  Tursiops truncates 17
Common Dolphin  Delphinus delphis 741
Cuvier's Beaked Whale  Ziphius cavirostris 11
Fin Whale  Balaenoptera physalus 1
Striped Dolphin  Stenella coeruleoalba 3
Unidentified Dolphin sp. 20
Unidentified Whale sp. 1

Seabirds
Fulmar  Fulmarus glacialis 115
Cory's Shearwater  Calonectris diomedea 3
Manx Shearwater  Puffinus puffinus 1816
Balearic Shearwater  Puffinus mauretanicus 1
Gannet  Morus bassanus 597
Cormorant  Phalacrocorax carbo 8
Herring Gull  Larus argentatus 6
Lesser Black-backed Gull  Larus fuscus 30
Great Black-backed Gull  Larus marinus 65
Kittiwake  Rissa tridactyla 158
Common Tern  Sterna hirundo 8
Puffin  Fratercula arctica 2
Guillemot  Uria aalge 39
Razorbill  Alca torda 1
Auk sp. 1
Shearwater sp. 2
Larus sp. 12

Terrestrial birds seen
Feral Pigeon Columba livia 1


Cheryl and I arrived in Dublin early on the Sunday morning. We then had an opportunity to visit some of the beautiful countryside south of the city before joining the ship that evening. We visited Glendalough Monastic Site, an early sixth century Christian settlement located in a valley in the Wicklow mountain range. The MV Endeavor docked around 7pm that evening and we completed formalities at the terminal and made arrangements to join the ship. We were invited on board, taken to our spacious cabins and then given a safety tour around the vessel. We were not due to leave dock until the ship's containers had been unloaded and the new cargo stowed the following evening.

Endeavor Carol Farmer Wright

Endeavor (Carol Farmer-Wright)

Tuesday 14th June Weather predominately dry, sea state force 5 decreasing to force 3.
Our survey began early on the Tuesday morning. By that time, we were 24 miles due west of Ramsey Island off the Pembrokeshire coast heading towards the Celtic Deep. Immediately we began recording Gannet and Manx Shearwater. These were to be the main birds seen on that day with over 1000 Manx Shearwater and almost 250 Gannet seen. Other birds recorded that day were Fulmar, Kittiwake, and both Lesser and Great Black-backed Gull. We worked until 9.30pm that evening but despite travelling 276 miles that day, we didn't record any cetaceans. This was soon to change.

Wednesday 15th June Weather occasional rain showers, sea state force 1 to 5 decreasing force 3.
We began the day on the northern continental shelf break due west of Les Sables-d'Olonne, the start and finishing point of  the Vendee Globe round the world yacht race. Immediately we began recording Common Dolphin with 20 separate sightings of over 100 animals recorded within the first two hours as we navigated over water depths between 1250 and 3700 metres. The majority of these animals came in to bow ride.The sightings stopped for an hour and then the first of three sightings of Cuviers Beaked Whale were seen within 100 metres of the ship. The female and juvenile Cuviers have chestnut brown bodies with cream faces with the males being lighter grey owing to scarring in their battles over the females. These animals were located over the abyssal plain, swimming in an area where the water is 4250 metres deep and several canyons nearby can provide food.More Common Dolphin were recorded until a further group of Cuviers appeared at noon. First a male was seen rising through the water column and surfaced like a cork in water just over 100 metres from the ship, it exhaled deeply and was soon joined by three other animals, their breathing could also be heard as we passed by.

Cuviers BW Carol Farmer Wright 02

Cuvier's Beaked Whale (Carol Farmer-Wright)

Sightings quietened down for several hours until 4pm when a distant whale-blow was seen. Fifteen minutes later the probable owner of the breath appeared 500 metres from the starboard side of the vessel. The light colouration of the right jaw line confirmed my suspicion that it was a Fin Whale. A few more sightings of Common Dolphin occurred before our last sighting of Cuviers Beaked Whale. Two animals rose to the surface in front of the vessel, only 21 miles from the Spanish coast, in water less than 1000 metres deep, the closest I've ever seen these animals to shore. Bird sightings had been relatively quiet all day with only 12 birds recorded the whole time. With the port in sight we stopped the survey and retired for the day.

We were not due to depart until Friday evening and so spent Thursday travelling to Bilbao and visiting the Guggenheim Museum. Friday was spent compiling our sightings for the southbound survey days.

Saturday 18th June. Weather: dry, variable cloud, sea state force 4-5 decreasing force 3.
We were on the bridge by 5.20 am and were immediately recording Common Dolphin.  These animals, together with a handful of Striped Dolphin were the only two species to be seen that day, 30 sightings totalling 500 animals. Again bird sightings were scarce with only 47 birds, 42 of them Gannet, being seen.

Striped Dolphin 01 Carol Farmer Wright

Striped Dolphin (Carol Farmer-Wright)

Sunday 19th June Weather Fog or Rain with full cloud cover, sea state Force 2-7 decreasing force 3.
Our last day of surveying started when we were due west of Newquay Airport in Cornwall, heading towards the Celtic Deep. Visibility was hampered by fog and rain that didn't stop until 12 hours into the survey.

Today we were to record both Bottlenose Dolphin and Common Dolphin. The Bottlenose Dolphin groups were recorded within the first three hours and included a pod of 12 animals feeding where the Bristol Channel flows out to the Celtic Deep. The birds recorded at this time amounted to almost 100 sightings of over 460 birds, predominately Gannet and Manx Shearwater, the majority of whom were travelling westward towards the Deep. We then moved northward past the Pembrokeshire coastline into the St Georges Channel. Here we recorded three small groups of Common Dolphin and two final sightings of dolphin we were unable to identify. In addition to Gannet and Manx Shearwater, Kittiwake, Fulmar, Great Black-backed Gull and Lesser Black-backed Gull were recorded, six of the Lesser Black-backed Gull hunkered down on a container near the front of the ship and hitch-hiked for four hours.  As the visibility improved we recorded Guillemot, a few Common Tern and Cormorant, Herring Gull and a couple of Puffin.

LBB Gull 01 Carol Farmer Wright

Lesser Black-backed & Herring Gull (Carol Farmer-Wright)

Nearing Dublin, we left the bridge having thanked Captain Vitaly Shutov for his hospitality and went to our cabins to complete the data entry.

We were on board the MV Endeavor for eight days. Our heartfelt thanks go to JR Shipping for allowing us to survey on their vessel. The support and help with cetacean sightings by Captain Shutov and his officers whilst on the bridge was fantastic. This was further enhanced by the chef providing a constant supply of tasty food.

Carol Farmer-Wright and Cheryl Leaning, Research Surveyors for MARINElife