Portsmouth-Caen

2019-09-27 - Portsmouth-Caen

Survey details

Survey route: Portsmouth-Caen

Company: Brittany Ferries

Sea region: English Channel

Survey start date: 2019-09-27

Number of nights: 1

We boarded the Mont St Michel eager to survey, however on greeting the reception we were informed that we could not go to the bridge as they had a major inspection. We therefore went and found an area on deck 8 that faced the bow, watching as per the protocol to enable the team to become accustomed to the logger.


As we started there was a large splash and a couple of incidental dolphins were sighted close to the Isle of Wight but the conditions and distance did not allow identification, but there were recorded as if they were on an actual survey thus helping the instruction.


This was a good way to learn the logger as the changes in weather and effort could be discussed as could distances without worrying about talking on the bridge and we could all learn together and discuss reasons for making the decisions that were recorded. It also gave me time to give some hints on spotting and identifying anything that might be spotted.


On returning to reception to ask if we could leave the equipment whilst we departed in Ouistreham we were informed that we would be able to access the bridge 30 minutes after sailing on the return trip.


On arriving on the bridge the Captain apologised for not being able to allow us access earlier, and as everyone now knew what to do we started the survey.


Unfortunately the sea conditions continued to deteriorate so with a heavy swell and a sea state eventually reaching 7 we abandoned the survey, unfortunately without any sightings. On thanking the bridge crew the first officer again apologised for the morning inspection.


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


Grateful thanks also to Brittany Ferries for this opportunity, and to Captain Grimault and  his crew, especially the wonderful reception staff, for their help.


Sightings:-


2 incidental unidentified dolphins


Birds seen:- 


Gannet, Greater Black backed gull, Herring Gull, Black headed gull, Auks (sp), Cormorant, Manx shearwater, Shearwater (sp), Fulmar, Great skua, Skua (possible Arctic), possible Kittiwake, Oystercatcher, Mute Swan, Woodpigeon, Feral Pigeon, Magpie, Carrion Crow, Starling, House Sparrow, Swallow, Martin (probable sand)

Survey team members

Mary Hill, Mary Ferry, Lynne Collinson, Christian Collison

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2019-07-26 - Portsmouth-Caen

Survey details

Survey route: Portsmouth-Caen

Company: Brittany Ferries

Sea region: English Channel

Survey start date: 2019-07-26

Number of nights: 1

The Marine Mammal Surveyors met at Portsmouth Ferry Terminal early in the morning of Friday 26th July, enthusiastic to commence the return day-survey from Portsmouth to Caen. For one surveyor, it was their first ever survey, which was especially exciting! We boarded the Mont St Michel and spent some time discussing survey protocol and techniques and getting to grips with Logger.


Shortly after departing from Portsmouth we were invited up to the bridge to begin our first transect survey. The weather was variable throughout the day, with periods of great visibility and calm seas in equal abundance to areas of fog and choppy waves; this gave everyone a great opportunity to practice identifying and recording the weather changes in the effort data. We spotted a range of seabird species, including gannets (adults and juveniles), scoters, greater black backed and herring gulls, kittiwakes and cormorants. The diving gannets were especially fun to see.


On the approach to Caen, the sea conditions were amazingly calm, and we spotted cetaceans! Over only a few 30 minute survey rotations, we observed and recorded 12 harbour porpoise and 1 unidentified dolphin. The cetaceans were seen near to the boat and in the distance, swimming alone or in small pods of two or three. The sightings happened in quick succession, ensuring the recorders were kept busy; everyone rose to the challenge and efficiently collected all the data using Logger, whilst also enjoying the sight of the little harbour porpoise swimming through the water.


All too soon we had reached Caen; we disembarked and enjoyed lunch in the café in the ferry terminal. We then boarded the Mont St Michel once again to commence our second transect. During our lunch break, the sea conditions had worsened slightly, and our journey back to Portsmouth was quieter than the morning, with no cetacean sightings. We did continue to see interesting birdlife and practice our Logger skills with all of the small weather changes. As we neared the Isle of Wight, the light was fading fast, so we decided to conclude our survey. We thanked and said goodbye to the friendly and accommodating bridge crew and descended into the passenger area of the ship, tired but enthused by our day.


We conducted a really positive and efficient survey, and made good use of the opportunities to develop and hone our data recording and cetacean observation skills. It was fabulous for everyone to see the harbour porpoise! Thank you very much team for all your hard-work and for a great day!


Thank you very much to the Captain and crew of the Mont St Michel for your hospitality and interest in our work, and to Brittany Ferries for making this survey possible – it is greatly appreciated.


Total Cetacean Sightings:


12 Harbour Porpoises


1 Unidentified Dolphin

Survey team members

Becci Owen, Jenny Cripps, Alison Steel, Tanya Ferry

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2019-08-02 - Portsmouth-Caen

Survey details

Survey route: Portsmouth-Caen

Company: Brittany Ferries

Sea region: English Channel

Survey start date: 2019-08-02

Number of nights: 1

The weather forecast for our survey across the English Channel on the Mont St Michel to the Port of Caen was looking to be favourable, so we decided to meet at the Portsmouth International Ferry Terminal in plenty of time to collect our tickets and board the ship.


Once onboard, we were given a very warm welcome by the Guest Information team who advised that they would contact the bridge to organise access for us. They are always so friendly and helpful and whilst we waited we enjoyed a delicious breakfast in Le Café du Festival and discussed the protocol and the use of logger.
 


With a blast of the horn, the Mont St Michel left her berth and began making her way to the harbour mouth, passing the massive HMS Queen Elizabeth Aircraft Carrier that was moored next to the historic dockyard. The ship continued her journey and made her way out into the Solent and it was at this point that we were invited to go to the bridge. We were escorted by one of the crew and as we walked she talked excitedly about how she had just seen her first whale in the Bay of Biscay and how she had found it an amazing experience!
 


The bridge crew were very welcoming, and we quickly began our survey in a sea state 3, scattered clouds, sunshine and excellent visibility. As we moved further into the channel, we observed gannet, kittiwake, mixed groups of rafting gulls and the occasional fulmar skimming the surface. We settled into our survey and chatted about how perfect the conditions were for spotting cetaceans as the weather was amazing and we waited in anticipation for our first sighting. This came as we approached the French coastline near Caen, two bottlenose dolphins surfacing a few times on the portside and then disappearing down the side of the ship.  Even though it was a brief encounter it was wonderful to see.
 


We disembarked and headed to the terminal café to indulge in a delicious lunch and then headed back to the ship for our return journey to Portsmouth with high hopes of further sightings. Little did we know that we would be in for an absolute treat during our second watch! As the ship departed Caen and headed back into the channel, we restarted our survey in near perfect conditions and as we travelled further away from the French coastline the sea stated decreased from 3 to 1. It truly was a beautiful evening with the sun glistening on a sea state 1 whilst the Brittany Ferries vessel Normandie passed by on the port side creating a picture-perfect scene.
 


The second sighting of the day was of an unidentified dolphin that surfaced ahead of the ship on the port side which could be seen briefly below the surface as it swam towards the bow and then disappeared with a small splash. The third sighting was of an adult and juvenile harbour porpoise rolling at the surface ahead of the ship with their tiny triangular fin clearly visible. They rolled a few times and slipped beneath the surface as the ship passed by. Just as we thought the evening couldn’t get any better, the next sighting will stay with the team for a very long time!
 


With perfect conditions, excellent visibility and a continuing sea state 1 we spotted a splash near the horizon, then another, and then another until we could see a large group of common dolphin leaping and heading straight towards the ship! The dolphins were quite spread out with some heading straight for the bow, clearly visible underneath the calm sea. After a quick bow ride, the dolphins regrouped and headed down the side of the ship towards the wake, calves clearly visible nestled against their mother’s side as they leapt across the waves. We watched them for several minutes as they enjoyed playing in the wake, the sun glistening off their bodies until they disappeared out of view. Just the most breath-taking sight with the team left a little speechless!
 


The final sighting of the day was a solitary bottlenose dolphin on the starboard side as we neared the Isle of Wight coastline, splashing and travelling at speed ahead of a large cruise ship that was making its way out to sea. With Portsmouth visible in the distance and fading light, we decided to end the survey on what had been a truly wonderful and memorable crossing. We thanked Captain Grimault and his bridge crew for their hospitality and left feeling elated from an amazing day at sea.
 


We would like to say a massive thank you to Captain Grimault and the crew of the Mont St Michel for making us feel so welcome and for their hospitality, and to Brittany Ferries for their continued support of ORCA.


Marine Mammals Seen:


Bottlenose Dolphin x 3


Common Dolphin x 50


Harbour Porpoise x 2


Unidentified Dolphin x 1


Seabirds Seen:


Cormorants, fulmar, gannet, great skua, gull sp and kittiwake.

Survey team members

Emma Howe-Andrews (Team Leader), Sarah Barr, Karen Barr

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