MARINElife Survey Report: JR Shipping Dublin-Bilbao-Dublin 'MV Endeavor' 14th-20th November 2016

Carol Farmer-Wright and Robin Langdon; Research Surveyors for MARINElife

Marine Mammals
Common Dolphin  Delphinus delphis 167
Common or Harbour Seal  Phoca vitulina 1
Cuvier's Beaked Whale  Ziphius cavirostris 2
Unidentified Cetacean Sp. 1
Unidentified Dolphin sp  2
Tuna species  Thunnus sp. 2

Fulmar  Fulmarus glacialis 145
Manx Shearwater  Puffinus puffinus 4
Gannet  Morus bassanus 246
Shag  Phalacrocorax aristotelis 497
Great Skua  Stercorarius skua 16
Common Gull  Larus canus 2
Herring Gull  Larus argentatus 19
Lesser Black-backed Gull  Larus fuscus 34
Great Black-backed Gull  Larus marinus 49
Little Gull  Hydrocoloeus minutus 7
Kittiwake  Rissa tridactyla 58
Auk sp. 7
Puffin  Fratercula arctica 6
Guillemot  Uria aalge 55
Razorbill  Alca torda 3
Larus sp. 64

Terrestrial Birds
Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus 5
Turnstone Arenaria interpres 1
Finch sp. 1

Robin and I met up in Oxfordshire and proceeded to Liverpool to catch the overnight ferry to Dublin. We arrived early on Monday morning and joined JR Shipping's vessel MV Endeavor by 6am in the morning and settled in ready for our survey to begin the following day.

Day 1 Southbound continental shelf.  Cloudy Sea state 3-4 decreasing 2, swell up to 2 metresOur survey started due west of Bideford and we travelled 137 miles in the day south on the continental shelf. Gannet were the most evident bird of the day with occasional sightings of Fulmar, larger gull species and two Guillemot and a single Puffin recorded. We also observed 4 separate encounters of Common Dolphin that day coming in to bow ride.

Guillemot Martin Gillingham

Guillemot (Martin Gillingham)

Day 2 Southbound on abyssal plain Sea state 3-1, swell 1 metre or below.

Today would be our opportunity to see the whales that inhabit deeper waters. We started surveying at the foot of the Sables d'Olonne Canyon on the abyssal plain. The plain is around 4000 metres deep and specialists such as the Cuvier's Beaked Whale hunt among the canyons for squid. We didn't see any large whales but we were rewarded with 2 encounters of Cuvier's Beaked Whale, Common Dolphin, two distant cetacean species and recorded a couple of Tuna breaching. We spotted Puffin, Guillemot and Razorbill in small numbers and a small group of Little Gull still on migration.

Cuviers BW Adrian Shephard 01

Cuvier's Beaked Whale (Adrian Shephard)

Day 3 & 4 in port at Bilbao followed by severe weather.

Day 5 Northbound continental shelf.  Cloudy Sea state 3-4 decreasing 2, swell up to 1 metre.Today was a day for recording pelagic specialists. Fulmar and Gannet were recorded in reasonable numbers. Puffin, Guillemot, Kittiwake and the larger gull species were seen. The big surprise was to record 4 Manx Shearwater that hadn't migrated as yet. Cetacean sightings were regular with 30 different encounters totalling 145 animals, all Common Dolphin.

Common Dolphin Endeavor

Common Dolphin (Carol Farmer-Wright)

Day 6 Liverpool Bay. Cloudy, Sea state 4 decreasing 2, no swell.We awoke expecting to be in Liverpool Dock, however, issues with the lock mechanism at Gladstone Lock had resulted in delay and we were moored north of Prestatyn awaiting the pilot to take us in to port. Work was being done to one of the wind farms and we watched a sweep being attached to a turbine.

Wind Farm Robin Langdon

Wind Farm Construction (Robin Langdon)

We surveyed for another hour and a half before manoeuvring into the Mersey.  At this time of year Liverpool Bay could be renamed European Shag Bay for almost 500 birds were recorded in that short time. Our last mammal sighting was a single Harbour Seal hauled up on a sandbank south of the Mersey. We left the ship at Liverpool having thanked Master Vitaly Shutov for his hospitality. Our thanks go to JR Shipping for enabling us to survey on board their vessel.

Carol Farmer-Wright and J. Robin Langdon, Research Surveyors for MARINElife