Friday, 17 May 2013

Minke Magic in the twilight!

Stevo Lucas,  Andrew Nelmes, walrus, Chris Benbow (pic by Hannah Harries)  
Another interesting "Stena Europe" ferry Survey. The weather is as unpredictable as ever and so we jumped aboard at half a days notice. The outward trip was extremely calm and  it was nice to see plenty of sea birds such as Shearwaters and puffins as well as one difficult to identify small skua . It looked dark all over and was probably a dark phase Arctic Skua but as it was mainly flying away from us hard to be positive. New boy Andrew Nelmes was pretty sharp and picked out a couple of porpooise to begin with and we saw several  more as we passed Strumble and out parallel with the Bishops and Clerks, Somehow only Hannah managed to see a Minke Whale, but some passengers also spotted it as it came up and went down never to be seen again!
Of our five most often encounterd species, Minke is the largest but also the hardest to spot due to the fact it usually surfaces so inobtrusively and without a blow. Blink and you will miss it. As often is  the case, Hannah spotted the footprint first, a disurbed patch of water caused by the animal surfacing and diving. with  the calm sea  and great viewing conditions our anticipation grew as we approached the Tusker Rock but apart from a porpoise we saw nothing more although apart from lots of terns and other sea birds.   

Common Dolphins from Stena Europe (Steve Rosser)
 Luckily at this time of the year with lighter nights we get a chance to go back up on the bridge as the ferry leaves Rosslare and heads back towards Fishguard at 9 pm.  It was difficult to believe the few miles oubound from Rosslare were the same as we had covered inbound only three hours earlier. A group og six porpoises were our first sighting and then a couple more similar sized groups. There was hardly a ripple disturbing the seas surface unless it was caused by either a sea bird or cetacean, A small pod of common Dolphins raced in  and then a Minke Whale surfaced just in front of us followed by a second smaller animal which both passed by our port bow giving wonderful views in the twilight.

Minke from Stena Europe (Sarah Allen)

I have to say we  reluctantly left the bridge in the last of the fading light,  but all of us absolutely elated and wondering what tomorrow would bring... It brought wind!
And so today was something of an anticlimax but none the less two Minke sightings, and interestingly, what appeared to be a mother and calf/subadult. Four altogether this year following the other one a couple of weeks ago. Sadly it was too dark to film but its looking promising... lets hope we can get some more really calm weather which seems essential for seeing Minke's.

Stevo's post script:
                            A good report on the Stena Europe on the Wales in Whales blog.
These are the results of the sightings on our crossings;

31 Harbour Porpoises

5 Common Dolphins

3 Minke Whales plus( 1 calf).

Cetaceans  recordedaltogether from the survey were 39