Friday 27 August 2010

Whale of a time

Embarked on the Pride of Bilbao on Monday evening in Portsmouth and set sail for Bilbao at 9.30pm hoping to see whales, dolphins and sea birds. We weren't disappointed!

The first morning we woke going around Brittany. The sea watching was fairly quiet with Great and Arctic Skuas sighted along with Manx and Sooty Shearwaters and Gannets. The action was expected to increase as we reached the continental shelf where the depth drops from 150 metres to a whooping 4000 metres!

In the afternoon we spotted our first Whale, just before the deeper water - a 70 tonne Fin Whale.

Fin Whale - the second largest animal on Earth after the Blue Whale.
 Note the two Common Dolphins accompanying this individual.

On our voyage south we fortunately avoided some interesting looking weather. 
We counted five of these vortexes, none of which turned into full blown waterspouts. 
You wouldn't want to be under one that's for sure.

Common Dolphin - once we reached deeper water we saw hundreds
 of these and a few Bottlenose Dolphins........

...........and Tuna...................

...............and Lesser Black-backed Gull.......

....and Manx Shearwater..........

...........and Dutch teenagers.

The first day ended with a beautiful view of the Moon.

On Wednesday we arrived in Bilbao at 7am UK time. The sky was blue and the sunshine warm so it was no easy walk to the local hillside for a spot of birding. But it was worth the effort.

Red-backed Shrike (juvenile)


Clouded Yellow

Jersey Tiger

The hill above the port with good scrub for migrants

The port as seen from the hilltop

Other species seen incuded Griffon Vulture (we counted around 70 from the deck of the ship as we waited to sail), Nightingale, Spotted and Pied Flycatcher, Black Redstart, a dead Quail, Melodious Warbler, Cirl Bunting, Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Serin, Whitethroat, Magpie, Buzzard, Raven, Yellow-legged Gull, Stonechat and Cetti's Warbler.

Back on board for midday we sailed at 12.15 am UK time. After an hour we started to cross a deep water canyon called the Capbreton Canyon. The first Whales we saw were Curvier's Beaked Whales. After some early sightings things went very quiet until around 6.30pm when we saw Sperm Whale and a large Whale that was possibly a Bryde's Whale, never recorded in the Bay of Biscay before - the sighting was inconclusive.

On the way back we saw migration in action....................
Willow Warbler on deck - can you spot it?

Willow Warbler (a first year bird)

2 Turtle Doves flew over

Turtle Dove

Sabine's Gull

Comic Tern (Arctic or Common - you decide)

Dunlin landed on deck on the Thursday morning in the English Channel

The Portsmouth to Bilbao route is ending this month but will hopefully resume under a different operator with a suitable vessel (not too fast and with good viewing decks). As and when there is an anouncement on this, it will appear here - Marine Life

And finally, here's something for Tony who I met on the trip ..............

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