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
Becci Owen, Jenny Cripps, Alison Steel, Tanya Ferry