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.
3 x Common Dolphins (13 animals)
1 x unidentified something!
Birds seen at sea and ashore: Gannet, oyster catcher, little egret, great black backed gull, herring gull and cormorant.
Survey team members
Jackie Shaw (TL) Charlie Moffat, Hayley McLennan, Hannah Parkinson