The Marine Mammal Surveyors met at Portsmouth Ferry Terminal early in the morning of Friday 30th March, enthusiastic to commence the return day-survey from Portsmouth to Caen. For one surveyor, it was their first ever survey, which was especially exciting! The weather forecast was for relatively choppy seas and rain, so we were prepared for some potentially tricky surveying conditions.
We boarded the Mont St Michel and were soon invited up to the bridge to begin our first transect survey of the day. We were greeted by the crew, set up our survey equipment and got started. Within the first 5 minutes, we had a sighting! It was very brief, and so it was recorded as an unidentified small cetacean, swimming across the bow.
The conditions for the remainder of the transect were unfavorable, with relatively rough sea states and heavy rain persisting at times. There were no more marine mammal sightings, but we did see a wide variety of sea bird species throughout the day. These included gannets (of course!), black headed gulls, fulmars, a small flock of unidentified pipits, kittiwakes (including juveniles), guillemots, sandwich terns, and several Great Skuas sat together on the sea surface. On the approach to Caen, we also saw cormorants, turnstones, oystercatchers and an eider pigeon close to the shore. The trip presented a great opportunity to practice bird identifying skills and learn about different species!
We disembarked in Caen and had a pleasant lunch in the terminal café during the quick turn-around. We had a lovely conversation with the gentleman at the check-in desk, who informed us that he sometimes sees dolphins close in to the beach, near to the ferry terminal. Shortly, we were back on-board and back on the bridge. As we arrived up there, we quickly noticed the sense of excitement amongst the crew. They informed us that they had just seen two dolphins near to the break-water. We were thrilled to hear this and it was great to chat to the crew about their sighting.
We started surveying along the second transect back to Portsmouth. The sea and weather conditions had not improved, and we did not have any marine mammal sightings on the return journey. However, we continued to see lots of interesting birdlife, and the varying conditions - both over time and on opposite sides of the ship – meant there were plenty of opportunities to practice and hone our data recording skills. This was especially useful as we were using the new data logger. This was the first time the logger had been used on this survey route and the first time a couple of surveyors had used it in the field – everything went really well!
After a few hours of surveying, fog began to creep in and the light started to diminish, so we decided to come off survey. We thanked the crew and said goodbye before descending back to main area of the ship. Despite the lack of marine mammal sightings, everyone remained happy and encouraged. The day provided great learning and development opportunities, which everyone found beneficial and enjoyable. Thank you, team, for all your hard-work and enthusiasm, it was a really fun and useful trip.
Thank you very much to the Captain and crew of the Mont St Michel for the hospitality and interest in our work, and to Brittany Ferries for making this survey possible – it is greatly appreciated.