07/07 : In search of of seabirds, cetaceans and Turmares

Yesterday, 7 July, eight of us sailed off on the ocean blue from Tarifa in search of seabirds and cetaceans (big, big ones) on a trip organised by Alexandra Farrell on a yacht whose name I never discovered but is run and skippered by Pepe of www.kolibricharters.com It was a great day and I thoroughly enjoyed myself but I shall not go on any small vessels with restricted space until the docs. sort out my knees (as soon as possible, but I may be uttering forlorn hopes). Basically this lack of mobility is a danger to others and to myself, a Paterson in the drink could really ruin my day and that of others.
My thanks to Stephen Daly of Andalucian Guides,  who can stand up in a small boat without falling over, and who has very kindly let me have some of his more interesting photos, mine being few and rubbish as I'm simply not supple enough to turn quickly.
Let us deal first with seabirds and we did really very well considering the season, with 2 Leach's Stormies, 2 of Wilson's and at least a dozen European Stormies. Many of these were distant and one of the Leach's and a Wilson's were identified only with security from greatly enlarged photos of Stephens although I had called the Leach's correctly. Interestingly, one a of the Wilson's was in a state of moult with the outer primaries still being the old ones (ie. last years), the inner ones new and the middle ones missing or in growth.
There were lots of Cory's Shearwaters, most of the Mediterranean race diomedea (photos by Stephen) and which some insist on calling Scopoli's Shearwater which is not a species but a race, plus at least two which were between this and the Atlantic race borealis in plumage characteristics and not assignable even from good views. Basically, it all revolves around the amount of white on the primaries, the Atlantic birds have much less.
It wasn't until the afternoon that we ran into numbers of Balearic Shearwaters which are currenlty making their way out to the coasts of western France to moult. These are much smaller and faster, hugging the surface with a very flappy flight. The top two shots show adults, somewhat worn and of the paler variety-Two of the adults we saw had obviously started their moult early and I have never seen such tatty looking examples (one in the bottom photo), and as they lose their flight feathers and can't fly it is difficult to imagine those birds making it to France. (Photos below again by Stephen).

We saw several Gannets making their way out to the Atlantic. Not surprisingly these were all still in full juvenile plumage from last year and one or two had moulted in to plumage type 2. Gannets moult at very different times, so it is still possible to have birds in last years juvenile or plumage 1 until September following their fledging and mixed with youngsters from this year. The bird shown on the right here is just starting to moult to plumage type 2 while the one on the left is well advanced towards plumage 2 with odd markings on the head and neck, the body now white, and with white on the forewing which you can't see, so you'll just have to believe me!
We saw lots of sunfish (actually called pez luna or moon fish in Spanish) and occasional swirls caused by the tuna, the search fxor which had brought out well over 40 small artisanal fishing boasts of a size in which I wouldn't like to cross the village pond, never mind dodging whacking great container ships and bulk carriers. Each little boat is crewed by 3-5 Moroccan fishermen and they haul in hundreds of metres of line on which, hopefully, they have a tuna which hiopefully an Orca won't take. We circled one such small boat with a crew of three Moroccans who hauled for ages before finally landing a big tuna which I reckoned was at least 2m long! It was the tuna which we hoped would attract the Killer Whales, the Orcas, but there was no such luck. 
On the cetacean side we did have some luck as we came across a group of 3 Fin Whales, 2 adults and a youngster. The 'blow' goes backwards whereas in Sperm Whales it goes forwards. These are baleeen whales closely related to the Blue and these are the second largest mammal on this planet and they are IMPRESSIVE.
Sperm Whales are toothed whales, of which we saw 4, but none of them really showed a good tail fluke as they deep-dived after super-oxygenating several times.  

At this point I want to point out that there is an outfit in Tarifa called Turmares who run trips to see the cetaceans and, if you believe their propaganda, are highly respectful of their attitude to the big cetaceans as well as carrying out research. They have a rapid spotter launch which finds the whales and radios in the bigger vessels which are filled with hopeful watchers.
Yesterday, around midday, they too arrived. The 'respect' of the cowboy piloting the launch was inexistent as he took the boat to within 12m of these 3 Fins, with a young one remember, and whoever he was it would have given me great pleasure to solve his respect problem. It quite simply is not acceptable behaviour to go so close to the big whales at any time, 50m is more than sufficient. Our estimates ranged from 10m to as far away as 15m for this cretinous piece of humanity. Regrettably, we couldn't get a shot to show the far too close proximity but if I had one, it would be here for all to see.

And if Turmares wish to complain to me if they read this in either this English version or in the Spanish blog, which I will have translated by Tuesday, they should remember that I have witnesses and I would be quite happy to denounce them to Seprona and Medio Ambiente. I should point out that dolphins are different, they are nosey, they are playful, they ride the bow wave given half a chance and will even come across to give you the once over, as these Bottle-nosed did, including this female with a young one (look towards her stern for its face and 'beak') which is part of their attractiveness. That business of the Turmares cretin apart, a very good day out and I was very pleased.

2 comentarios:

Anónimo dijo...

Wonderful post, Andy, and fantastic pics. We really had a blast that day. I couldn´t agree with you more about the Turmares´s regrettable behavior.
The Spanish law that regulates "whale watching" is quite restricted. Here it is in case you don´t know and you are interested: Real Decreto 1727/2007, de 21 de diciembre, de protección de cetáceos.

Bob Wright - The Axarquia Birder dijo...

Go Gilbertian, consult the Mikado and make the punishment fit the crime. How about the silly boat capsizes and those friendly animals with big, metre high triangular fins with lovely white blotches on their bodies turn up and circle round the culprits for an hour or so. No worry about the brown trouser situation as the receding tide will take it either out in to the Atlantic or perhaps deeper into the Mediterranean where the "resting" Great Whites may get a sniff of the action.

"That's the way to do it!" as Punch would joyfully pronounce.

Axarquia Birder