9 May 2018

9 May 18 - West African Pelagic - Day Nine: Feeding Frenzy In Biscay

After my lazy day the previous day, I was on deck at first light & enjoying the sunrise in the Southern part of the Bay of Biscay. It was flat calm & still conditions: perfect for Cetaceans. I was scanning hard in the outside hope of a Pygmy Sperm Whale or another Dwarf Sperm Whale, given the perfect conditions: but it was too long a shot. Still it was a great few hours on deck enjoying the unusually flat in the Bay of Biscay.
Sunrise over Spanish Biscay
It's fairly rare to see the Bay of Biscay like this
The plan for the day was we would sail North East from the South Western corner of the Bay of Biscay, before turning North. I do not have a copy of the route, but I suspect we were still to the West of the route that the Santander ferries take from the UK. Although the forecast at first light was for still conditions, we knew the seas would be getting significantly choppier during the day, as there was a front forecast for later in the day. Before breakfast, we encountered a Fin Whale & our first pod of Short-beaked Common Dolphins.
Fin Whale: Initially, all we saw was a large back
Fin Whale: When it resurfaced, it was possible to see the dorsal fin shape to confirm the identification
Short-beaked Common Dolphin: A small pod put on a close display. It is a pity the early morning light was really harsh
Short-beaked Common Dolphins
By late morning or early afternoon, we had left Spanish waters & entered French waters: another country visited, even if we didn't set foot on land. By this time, the seas were choppier, but it wasn't too bad on deck. We spotted a couple of feeding parties of Short-beaked Common Dolphins during the afternoon & changed course a bit to get closer before stopping. As often happens at Dolphin feeding frenzies in the Bay of Biscay, we first picked the feeding party up by spotting diving Gannets and as we got closer, we found good numbers of Manx Shearwaters, as well as, ones or twos of Sooty Shearwaters, Fulmars, Storm-petrels, Puffins, Arctic Skuas, Lesser Black-backed Terns, Kittiwakes & Arctic Terns.
A Gannet & 2 Manx Shearwaters look on as a Short-beaked Common Dolphin dives underwater
Gannet, Manx Shearwater & Short-beaked Common Dolphin
Short-beaked Common Dolphin
Short-beaked Common Dolphin
Short-beaked Common Dolphin
There were a good selection of Seabirds in the feeding frenzy.
Manx Shearwater
Manx Shearwater
Gannet: Adult. There were at least eighty in the feeding frenzy
Puffin: Immature. This distant immature Puffin was one of two I saw in the Dolphin & Seabird frenzy
Lesser Black-backed Gull: There was a lone in the frenzy
Kittiwake: Adult. My first Kittiwake from the Plancius
Arctic Tern: We had seen them regularly on the Plancius from St Helena onwards. However, this was the first individual I had seen close enough to photograph