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Peltic 2022 Reboot

Well, Peltic really hasn’t gone to plan this year. We left Swansea on 25 September and then were straight into dock in Falmouth the next day with a major engine issue. Everyone went back home/work for two weeks and, for a while, it was touch and go whether we would even get out. However, sterling work by the engineers meant we got the call to re-join the CEFAS Endeavour to depart Falmouth on Sunday 16 October (photo 1).

CEFAS Endeavour alongside in Falmouth

So here we are back out at sea on a very truncated Peltic survey, transects will be restricted to the south coast of England keeping largely to the north side of the Channel. We start just west of Portland and cover Lyme Bay and work our way west to the Lizard peninsula. (photo 2)

Monday 17 October – calibration

For the acoustic part of the survey to work the sonar on the ship needs to be calibrated using two spheres of different mass and density. The trouble is these have to be hung under the ship suspended on four fine lines – at sea – and placed in the beam from the sonar which is only a few metres across. Sometimes this goes well, today it took slightly longer, the whole day in fact. Still, as we were in Lyme Bay there could be worse places to be.

Things got off to an excellent start with 15 Great Shearwaters (photos 3-5) passing close by shortly after dawn. There have been thousands seen off the southwest of England this autumn and I thought we might have missed them with the late start to the survey. A good variety species provided interest for much of the day with Arctic Skua (photo 6) and Mediterranean Gull (photos 7 & 8) the pick of the bunch.

Although the breeding season is now over the impacts of the bird flu epidemic is still being felt with many dead birds still washing up along the west coast of the UK. Gannet and Guillemot appear to be most affected, and it was alarming to see the number of Gannet flying past which had dark (rather than the normal blue) eye (photos 9 & 10). It’s not known whether these birds will go on to die or may even have recovered. Despite the carnage in Gannet colonies over the summer there were obviously many young fledged as we saw several juveniles fly past during the day (photo 11). It was also very nice to see quite a few juvenile Kittiwake during the day too – they are such elegant birds (photos 12 & 13).

We were treated to a superb sunset behind Berryhead and some lovely post-sunset colours in the clouds (photos 14 & 15).

Tuesday 18 October – first transect!

The first transect of Peltic 2022 would take us from about 125km from just south of West Bay, Dorset to just west of Guernsey. A sea state four to start wasn’t too bad but this deteriorated quite quickly to a five/six. There was a steady trickle of birds past, mainly auks such as these Razorbills and Guillemot (photos 16 & 17), Gannet (photo 18) and Great Black-backed Gull (photo 19). A dead spell in the early afternoon, made worse by looking straight into the glare of the sun, was broken with the sighting of a few European Storm Petrels (photo 20). The few became many with one flock containing over 100 birds (photo 21).

We managed a single group of Common Dolphin just north of Guernsey, so at least the day wasn’t without a cetacean sighting and once again we were treated to some lovely light in the post-sunset clouds (photo 20)

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