Survey Reports

2019-10-13 - Plymouth-Roscoff

Survey details

Survey route: Plymouth-Roscoff

Company: Brittany Ferries

Sea region: English Channel

Survey start date: 2019-10-13

Number of nights: 1

Survey conditions

Highest Sea State: 3-Large Wavelets

Lowest Sea State: 2-Small Wavelets

Best Weather Conditions: 1-No precipitation

Best Weather Conditions: 4-Fog/Mist

Best Sea Swell State: 2-Light (<0-1m)

Worst Sea Swell State: 2-Light (<0-1m)

Glare present during the survey?: 1-None

Survey sightings

Cetacean sightings: Common dolphins 8 sightings 45 animals

Bird sightings: N/A

Other animals: N/A

13 October 2019 - English Channel 

The ORCA survey team met at the Brittany Ferries Terminal. Our departure was scheduled for 22:00 hrs so we left Plymouth in the darkness of the night. Our evening crossing was calm and we awoke the next morning ready to explore Roscoff.

14 October 2019 - Roscoff 

After disembarkation we walked into town, the light to heavy rain looked as though it was set for the day. After a leisurely breakfast, we strolled around the beautiful town, we visited Church of Notre Dame de Croaz-Batz. This 16th century church has a decorative renaissance style bell tower which dominates the skyline and unique carvings of ships and a large sundial embellish the outside.  We walked along the coast and Île de Batz (a bridge which extends into the sea enabling the Batz ferry to take passengers to the Island regardless of the tide).  We made our way back to the ferry terminal rather soggy and our early embarkation gave the team an opportunity to change out of our wet clothes before starting our survey.   

14 October 2019: English Channel Sea State 2 - 3 with variable visibility

As we set sail, we hoped the overcast weather and rain would not impact on our visibility too much. We commenced with good visibility and within an hour we had our first sightings of common dolphins. Our sea state throughout our crossing mainly remained at 2 with the occasional increase to 3. At times our visibility was clear to starboard with mist to port. Despite the varying visibility we had sighting after sighting of common dolphins – what a lovely finish to the 2019 survey season for this route.

Although our visibility was variable, the ORCA team had 8 sightings (45 animals) of common dolphins. As always, a massive thanks to Brittany Ferries, the captain and crew of the Armorique.

Survey team members

Jayne Dobner, Jock Gardner, Annett Price and Michael Culverhouse

Team Leader: Jayne Dobner

Surveyor 1: Jock Gardner

Surveyor 2: Annette Price

Surveyor 3: Michael Culverhouse

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2019-10-06 - Plymouth-Roscoff

Survey details

Survey route: Plymouth-Roscoff

Company: Brittany Ferries

Sea region: English Channel

Survey start date: 2019-10-06

Number of nights: 1

Survey sightings

Cetacean sightings: 3 x Common Dolphins (13 animals), 1 x unidentified something!

Bird sightings: Gannet, oyster catcher, little egret, great black backed gull, herring gull and cormorant.

Other animals: N/A

The team met inside the port building at Plymouth keen to set off on our last survey of the season. It was dark when we boarded so we settled ourselves into our cabins and enjoyed a night of being rocked like babies in the cradle by the considerable swell in the Western English Channel!  Again, it was too dark to do an early watch, but the ship’s alarm gently woke us at 6.00 am ready for an early arrival in Roscoff.

We disembarked and sploshed into town on foot in the pouring rain and were fairly soaked through by the time we arrived at a café for petit dejeuner. Much time was spend here this morning, keeping out of the wet, but it did ease enough for us to explore on foot around the town and out along the walkway over the water where we spotted a few oyster catchers, herring gulls, great black backed gulls, cormorant and a little egret.

We re-boarded Armorique and after clearing the port were allowed onto the Bridge. The weather was not ideal, varying between mist and fog with a sea state that was quite hard to determine with very wavy conditions obscuring the swell but was mostly around a State 4.

The first couple of hours passed uneventfully but gained us all practice with recording our Effort Sheets. There were occasional single gannets and a single bumble bee was spotted! Then the fog closed in so that the visibility was non-existent so we came off effort and took a break whilst the foghorn blasted regularly!

Then, after a further half an hour the fog lifted enough for us to take up our positions again and the Sea State, now a 3, had improved quite a lot. The choppy waves that we had been experiencing had reduced so that the swell was more evident, coming at us at right angles from Port side so that we were rolling from side to side but hardly pitching front to back at all.  A few birds were spotted gathering on the Port side, rather distant, but this gave us some hope and, sure enough, within minutes we had our first sighting, a small group of common dolphins, including two calves, swimming fast towards us before diving under the bow in the direction that the birds had been spotted. This was followed by another two similar sightings. By now we were beginning to lose the light, the misty and cloudy weather with intermittent rain not helping, however, on the plus side, we were not bothered by any glare on this trip!  Just before coming off effort, there were two quite large splashes, close to the ship, on the starboard side. No body was seen so no identification was possible, but we thought this was probably a large fish but will never know for certain!

We would like to thank the Captain and Crew of Armorique for allowing us onto their Bridge and for making us so welcome, and also the Team who worked well together and supported one another, not just with our surveying skills, but in a way that was sensitive to the needs of one another, making the trip a happy one.

Survey team members

Team Leader: Jackie Shaw

Surveyor 1: Charlie Moffat

Surveyor 2: Hayley McLennan

Surveyor 3: Hannah Parkinson

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2019-08-05 - Plymouth-Roscoff

Survey details

Survey route: Plymouth-Roscoff

Company: Brittany Ferries

Sea region: English Channel

Survey start date: 2019-08-05

Number of nights: 1

Survey sightings

Cetacean sightings: 2 Unidentified dolphins, 2 Harbour porpoise.

Bird sightings: Fulmar, manx shearwater, grey heron, little egret, gannet, cormorant, oystercatcher, turnstone, great black-backed gull, herring gull. lesser black-backed gull, great skua, rock dove, woodpigeon, collared dove, swift, magpie, jackdaw, carrion crow, swallow, house Martin, wren, starling, blackbird, robin, house sparrow, rock pipit and linnet.

Other animals: N/A

After meeting in Plymouth terminal we boarded the Armorique and introduced ourselves to the reception crew. 

Due to the arrival time in Roscoff, we were unable to survey in the morning, so we left the ship in the drizzle and found there was a tourist bus which does a circular tour of Roscoff in the summer holidays so we joined it and after about 20 minutes had enjoyed good views of the town.

Departing the bus in the town centre we then enjoyed a breakfast, before the sun came out and we were able to walk around the town before having lunch and a stroll back to the ship.

The captain allowed us up to the bridge about 20 minutes after sailing and after greeting the bridge crew we started our survey with a sea state of 3 but minimal swell.

After about 45 minutes diving gannets alerted us to a couple of feeding dolphins, (most likely bottlenose). Birds were infrequently seen on this survey and as the sea state increased to 4, splashes close to the ship heralded our final sighting of a couple of harbour porpoise

This route is normally good for common dolphins but on this occasion unfortunately, they were not encountered. 

However, everybody enjoyed the survey and all felt much more confident with the survey protocol so hopefully the team will be much luckier on future surveys. Many thanks to the team for their hard work and company.

Grateful thanks also to Brittany Ferries and to the captain and crew of the Armorique for this wonderful opportunity.

Survey team members

Team Leader: Mary Hill

Surveyor 1: Simon Griffiths

Surveyor 2: Steve Chastell

Surveyor 3: Sarah Kahlbaum

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