Thursday, 21 August 2008

Bay of Biscay trip 17-20th August 2008.


I spy the Spinnaker tower

Short-tailed Blue

Cetaceans sightings

Transporter bridge at Santurzi

Over the last few days I have been on my annual Bay of Biscay trip with the Company of Whales to look for Seabirds,Cetaceans (Whales and Dolphins) and hopefully the odd Shark.
The weather wasn't the best I've ever had crossing the bay, in fact it was probably the worst I've experienced on the southern crossing for over ten years!
Due to the bad weather on the southern crossing, we saw an excellent number of seabirds. Over the three days the group recorded six species of shearwater: 1 Little Shearwater, 6 Great Shearwaters, 114 Cory's Shearwaters, 10 Sooty Shearwaters, 2 Balearic Shearwaters and 6 Manx Shearwaters. Also other pelagic birds recorded included 9 Sabine's Gulls, 3 Grey Phalaropes, 14 Storm Petrels, 4 Arctic Skuas, 3 Great Skuas, 10 Sandwich Terns, 15 Arctic Terns, 1 Common Tern and 1 'commic' tern.
Due to the rough weather spotting Cetaceans was really hard work as we only saw a few Common Dolphins on the way down to Bilbao.
Arriving at Bilbao early the next day, it only took the group twenty minutes to walk into the foothills above the port to look for an assortment of wildlife after disembarking the ship.
Although it was raining when we started the walk by the time we had reach the picnic area at Camino Serantes it had stopped raining and the visibility had improved.
Bird Sightings we saw over the next couple of hours included a superb "dark morph" Montagu's Harrier, 8 Griffon Vultures, 1 Booted Eagle, 5 Buzzards, 1 Sparrowhawk, 5 Kestrels, 1 Cuckoo, 3 Little Owls, 2 Hoopoes, 3 Tree Pipits, 2 Nightingales, 2 Black Redstarts, 4 Blackcaps, 2 Garden Warblers, 2 Sardinian Warblers, 2 Cetti's Warblers, 2 Pied Flycatchers, 2 Spotted Flycatchers, 3 Red-backed Shrikes and 2 Serins.
The Butterflies sightings were few and far between due to the weather conditions but the group did see a couple of Short tailed Blues (which was a butterfly tick for me!), Adonis Blues, a few Graylings and the odd Speckled Wood.

After the group's brief visit to Spain, we soon set sail back into the southern bay.
As the weather conditions had improved over night and the sea state had settled down, over the next few hours we saw good numbers of Fin Whales, a single Sperm Whale, an unidentified Beaked Whale( probably Northern Bottlenose Whale?), a couple of Pilot Whales and a small group of ten Striped Dolphins on the Cetacean front.
However the most interesting sighting of the day was an unusual looking large Shearwater, which resembled a Streaked Shearwater in appearance which was watched for a good ten minutes at least. The bird was basically the same size as a Cory's Shearwater, but showed features similar to a Great Shearwater in the upper wing pattern. The main distinctive features of the Shearwater was the clean white head and the underside of the bird was clean white in colour. Although most of the group got on to the bird, we just couldn't identify the bird.
Maybe it was a Streaked Shearwater?!, but I must admit I don't think I going to claim a first for European Waters, unless we had got photos of the bird!
On the Whole Biscay was great again with the number of different species seen and as usual I will going again next year.
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