A team of four ORCA Marine Mammal Surveyors met at Portsmouth International Ferry Terminal for an early start on the 22nd of June 2018. The sun was shining and the weather forecast for the day ahead was looking promising as we boarded the Mont St Michel. This was great news for all surveyors, especially as this was the first ever survey for one team member.
As the Mont St Michel departed Portsmouth harbour we noticed that the SAGA Sapphire was docked nearby and making preparations for its next voyage where another ORCA team would be surveying cetaceans and providing guests with the opportunity to see these incredible animals.
After a short time we were invited up to the bridge to begin our first transect of the day and were warmly welcomed by the bridge crew. As hoped, the sea and weather conditions were perfect with a sea state varying between one and two on the Beaufort scale. Shortly after leaving port there was a flurry of bird activity with a group of gannets diving, with herring gulls, black-headed gulls and black-backed gulls feeding in the area. Although fantastic to see, no cetaceans were sighted during this time.
Calm sea and weather conditions continued for the duration of our first transect, approximately one hour outside of Caen our first marine mammal was sighted – a harbour porpoise on the starboard side of the ship. As common with this species the sighting was brief with the animal surfacing three times before the ship passed by. During this time the occasional fulmar was also spotted.
As we made our way into port, large groups of cormorants could be seen resting and drying their feathers on the marker buoys, a great end to the first transect.
We disembarked in Caen and enjoyed lunch in the terminal café, sitting outside to enjoy the sunshine; the café staff were fantastic and were also happy to refill our water bottles (no single-use plastic bottles required!). During this time sparrows, pied wagtails, crows, starlings and a cabbage white butterfly were also seen.
We boarded the Mont St Michel once again for the return leg of our survey. We were once again quickly invited back to the bridge. The bridge crew informed us that leaving Caen port is a great area, with dolphins regularly seen close to shore; unfortunately no dolphins were sighted this time, but it was great that the crew were excited to share their experience and knowledge with us.
With the longer summer days here, we were able to survey until 30 minutes outside of Portsmouth harbour. Although no further cetaceans were seen on this trip, it was an excellent opportunity and survey experience for the team, and to become more familiar with logger.
A special thank you to Captain Cuvillier and the crew of the Mont St Michel for making the ORCA team feel very welcome, and Brittany Ferries for their continued support in making these surveys possible.