Sunday, 25 April 2010

The result of the 'seafari'

The Safari took to the high seas over the weekend on a mission to count cetaceans as a volunteer for the research charity Marinelife.
We parked the Land Rover at the dock where our ship was taking on its cargo of trucks.

Our watch position was second window from the right on the bridge, as you are looking at the above pic. The far right one is actually outside.
We had a little table for our paperwork.The view from the bridge before sailing - its about 50 feet (17m) above the water.

Not far out of port yours truly spotted the first cetacean of the voyage, a Harbour Porpoise. The ship sailed after the tide and we learned later that earlier, over the tide, land based birders had been watching two together closer to shore...
We passed the local windfarm which was lost in a haze. Another is being built to the port side of the ship. As you can see conditions at sea were pretty good, not sure what it would be like in one of our raging westerlies.
We soon had a Grey Seal and were knocking off the more common gulls and other seabirds - Razorbill, Guillimot and Sandwich Tern all fell quickly. A string of terns were almost definitely Arctics but in the haze not quite clinchable.
Further out we got to the Kittiwake zone where we found one being harrassed half-heartedly by a Great Skua (151).
Most obivious was the amount of passerine passage we were seeing, Pied Wagtail nearly landed on the boat. Swallows featured strongly and we had a Sand Martin with a House Martin (152) travelling together.
Gannets passed the bow regularly but you don't really relise how fast the the boat and birds are moving, by the time the camera has been grabbed and switched on most of the birds had long gone.
And large birds like Gannets are still along way down.This is 'pic' of the bunch.
There seemed to be zones in which certain species were found. After passing the Isle of Man my Team Leader said he had a Harbour Porpoise around here and lo and behold it was still there three months later!
Fulmars (153) then started to feature, we struggled to get on the first two or three but then we couldn't really miss them.
Manx Shearwaters were numerous - the Safari really likes these fragile but tough as old boots ocean wanderers - they look so small close up.
We saw a blob in the far distance, well over a mile away, dead ahead. As we closed on it it was seen to be another Grey Seal, which didn't get out of the way and almost got run over. Hard as nails these seals, taking on thousands of tons of steel.
Getting in to the Irish coast we saw two Feral Pigeons - a race? - and nearer the shore but still well out to sea the weirdest sighting, a Stock Dove. Approaching the harbour we had the first of several Shags (154), in the mouth of the harbour Black Guillimots (155) dodged the manoevering ship. A quick scan round the harbour gave us two Common Terns (156).
So we didn't break the bank but we did get two cetacean sightings. A friend and work colleague is on the May survey and might well do better if the conditions are good...Basking Sharks could be on the menu by then.
Our return journey was over night and the survey didn't start until 5.00am. When we got on the bridge it was pouring down with rain and still dark. With only one hour to go before docking all we got were gulls coming out of their roost sites. On the sandbanks approaching the dock there were alot of Oystercatchers and a few Eiders.
Home sweet home...still in the damp dark...
Leaving the port we should have headed in to Fleetwood were Whinchat, Ring Ouzels, Redstart, Cuckoo and Yellow Wagtails were all seen within an hour or so of first light. Insttead we went home for a good kip...shattered...
In the afternoon we hit the nature reserve and finally caught up with Grasshopper Warblers (157) - we can hear them still, three of them we heard, but others had heard and seen five. Not far from one of the Groppers a Lesser Whitethroat (158) sang a couple of times.
From one of the hides we spotted this snall Pike.Easier to see in this pic...
The Cetti's Warblers gave us the run aroundbut we did get a brief view of a male and perhaps a hint that there might well be females about too. We heard at least two others. How many Blackcaps, Willow Warblers and Chiffchaffs are on site? The song from them all was really uplifting this afternoon. More Whitethroats and a few Sedge Warblers were fresh in. A light shower dropped some hirundines including five House Martins and a small number of Swifts.
The 1cy Mediterranean Gull was still present, we've changed the nomenclature on this opne as it can't still be winter its now far too late in the season but he bird hasn't really moulted in to any summer plumage yet.
So some good stuff over the weekend and eight year ticks to progress our 'race' with Monika . Most of the easy ones are now bagged although there are still a few to go, then we're in to the more specific 'have to travel deliberately to see' or the odd fluked ones to bring the total towards 200 by the end of the year.
Where to next? Arctic Terns on Patch 2 please, and a Ring Ouzel on the garden at work if I may be so bold.


Stu said...

You saw a lot more birds on the sea than I did!!!!

Our boat was only slightly smaller than this I think.......

Monika said...

Wow, I didn't realize the ship would be so huge! How far did you travel during the survey? Were they only single harbor porpoise you saw? I didn't think about you racking up all those bird species while looking for cetaceans...dang it.

Your lead is looking like it will hold for some time, but I've got a trip late next month that should help me rack up the birds to catch up...or pass...

Monika (still 148)