A glorious sunrise (photo 1) greeted us and with a sea state three and the sun behind us as we headed offshore, today looked very promising – would the wildlife be so obliging? The early answer to that appeared to be a resounding yes when a beautiful juvenile Sabine’s Gull landed about 300m ahead of us and drifted down the port side before taking flight and heading off (photos 2 & 3). This is by far the best view I’ve had of one on the Peltic (perhaps not surprising as I’ve only seen three). Breeding in the high Arctic this bird may have fledged in Arctic Canada and was now on its way down towards the South Atlantic. What a start!
A supporting cast of over 40 Great Shearwater, 18 Sooties and 7 Great Skuas made for an entertaining transect. The other surprising aspect to this transect was the sudden appearance of tuna, there were loads of them! It’s amazing the difference 12 nautical miles makes, none yesterday, all over the place today. They are majestic fish, full-grown over two metres long (photos 4 & 5) but still feed on tiny little fish, if you look very closely in photo 4 you can just make out a small fish about to be engulfed. We ended the transect with 18 encounters involving a minimum of 180 fish – unlike dolphins it’s not very easy to get an accurate count of tuna.
On the transit to the next transect there were more Cory’s and Great Shearwaters to be seen, including a flock of about 130, made up of 80 Great and 50 Cory’s (photo 6). The Cory’s seemed to have adopted the strategy of just following dolphins and whenever one surfaced they dived towards it on the off chance it might have food (photo 7). There were certainly enough dolphins for them to chase, there were small groups of dolphins every few minutes, many coming in to bow ride (photos 8 & 9).
Where tuna had been the staple non-bird on the previous transect on this one it was Common Dolphin. In the space of one and a half hours we had 29 encounters with 163 Common Dolphin, often very close together. Birds carried on from the transit with a rash of Cory’s and Great Shearwater, including a flock flushed ahead of us that caused a headache for counting for some time as they carried on in our direction of travel. Bird of the transect was, however, Leach’s Petrel which crossed close in across the bow (photos 10 & 11). Only the third I’ve seen on the Peltic surveys.
Another fantastic day book-ended with another fine sunset (photo 12).