Saturday, 5 May 2012

Ferry survey

The volatile weather conditions and rapidly changeing forcasts have made organising boat stuff a nightmare, including last weeks trip on theCeltic Wildcat, which had to be cancelled. None the less it looked like we might be able to string a couple of days together this week and I watched the forecasts anxiously in the hope we could get out on the Stena E urope.
At the last minute I decided Thursday /Friday migh be ok. Malcolms Van Halle students,  AndrĂ© and Ben were keen to come along and had a couple visiting friends from Van Halle so as they were available at short notice I got them tickets to join our new Spanish student Cristina and myself on her first Ferry Survey. As such it was a multi national Sea Trust gang of volunteers that boarded the Stena Europe on a wet Thursday afternoon. Coincidentally some of South Pembrokeshires best  birders including Anna Sutcliffe  and Sash Tusa were also aboard and joined us on the outward leg. 

It was a damp but calm start and we soon started picking up porpoises, in fact in the first hour we had ten seperate sightings of  singles and small groups including mothers and calves. With eight pairs of keen eyes scanning a calm sea, nothing was likely to be missed and we were having a great time! And then the weather gods put the mockers on it and the sea state rose from 2 to 4 and we saw nothing more except a nice selection of sea birds  for the rest of the outward  trip.
Sadly Friday morning saw us leaving Rosslare Harbour in similar conditions and even the birds were few and far between. We kept a blank score sheet untill threequarters way across, when the sea died down to a reasonable 2-3 and then we found a few more porps's to finish the trip off.

All in all it was an interesting trip, inasmuch we had really good observers all working hard and yet we saw nothing when the conditions worsened. and as soon as they improved we started seeing stuff again, but in the same area! On occasions when we have been out in higher sea states we have had sightings and on one or two occasions we have been out in perfect conditions and seen nothing. I think sea state is very important in terms of seeing things at any kind of distance ,although close stuff might be seen whatever the sea state. The lack of many feeding birds on the Irish side  probably  told a story and gannets were particularly scarce.