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Sunday, 25 August 2019

Bay of Biscay – Day 3 – Thursday 22nd August

We were up on deck around 7am again, and the sea state was almost mill pond like. Looking at the GPS on the phone, we were in the Northern Bay, just south of Brittany and the Brest Peninsula. For the first few hours, we had good numbers of Common Dolphins logging and playing around on the surface. The good news was that seabird numbers were on the up today. With plenty of Gannets knocking around, we soon picked up a single and then a group of Sabine’s Gulls. As the Ferry heads through the channel between Ile-de-Sein, Ouessant and the mainland, it’s often a great area for flocks of Shearwaters. This trip was no different and we encountered several large flocks of Manx Shearwater, and good numbers of Balearic Shearwaters. One such flock also contained a group of 7 Sooty Shearwaters and we had some fabulous views of both Balearic and Sooty alongside the boat.

We had a slight stringy moment when Ile-de-Sein got called as Ouessant but our GPS Map soon sorted that one out. We picked up a few Arctic and Great Skuas and as we moved up into the English Channel, we started to encounter Storm Petrels with several groups of 20-30 birds sat on the water. The sea state was ideal for spotting the rather unobtrusive Harbour Porpoise and we had regular small pods as we headed away from the Brittany Coast along with a few Ocean Sunfish. Final action of the trip as we came into Plymouth Sound were a few small groups of Manx Shearwaters and a final Sooty Shearwater. We arrived back into Plymouth at around 5pm and after a refreshment stop on the M5, we were back in Cardiff by mid evening.

Overall, not a bad 2 days, considering that the 4 berth cabin only cost £89 each for the mini-cruise. Prices on board the Pont Aven for meals and beers were reasonable enough, with the option to pay in either Pounds or Euros. The numbers of large Shearwaters don’t seem to be out there in the Western Approaches at the moment, so although disappointed not to see Cory’s, it was good to catch up with both Great and Sooty Shearwater, along with some nice views of Sabine’s Gulls. On the Cetacean front, it would have been great to see Cuvier’s Beaked Whale, but it was not to be on this particular trip but we had some fabulous views of Fin Whale and Common Dolphin.
Species - Arctic Skua 3, Great Skua 7, Storm Petrel c100, Manx Shearwater, Sooty Shearwater 15,  Balearic Shearwater 50+, Cormorant, Shag, Common Tern, Fulmar, Gannet, GBB Gull, Herring Gull, LBB Gull, Sabine’s Gull 9, Med Gull, Common Dolphin 200+, Harbour Porpoise 60+, Ocean Sunfish.

Assuming, the same route is available next year, Plymouth – Santander – Plymouth, then plans are already afoot to firm up a date for an August 2020 trip. Hopefully with a bit of notice and cabin availability we can get a few crews on the trip. Watch this space!

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