20/07 : Wilson's Stormies, Sperm Whales and dolphins galore!

A new postee (I suppose one must call a new contributor that) in the form of Alexandra Farrell (welcome aboard) and a report on a trip out of Tarifa on 20/07 along with a group of birders. The photos are Alexandra's, so here goes!

With the boat full of intrepid birders we set off from Tarifa on what was an incredibly beautiful morning in the Strait. The first bird sighted was not a marine species at all but rather a single Eurasian Sparrowhawk winging its way towards the suburbs of the town.
Soon we started to spot shearwaters coming at us from all angles, mostly the Cory´s Shearwater in good numbers, with an occasional Balearic from time to time. Before too long the cetaceans also decided to put in an appearance and we came upon a large group of Common Bottlenose Dolphins (left), rather far from their usual territory. These playful individuals happily came in to crest along on the bow wave of the boat and show off their acrobatic skills, much to everyone´s delight. The downside of this was that we were therefore unlikely to see any orcas since the two species are not normally found together in the same area of water and we had already reached the prime orca zone.
This indeed turned out to be the case and the Moroccan fishermen were successfully landing tuna without any prospective “robbers” in the vicinity. It was curious to see the marked difference between the the tiny Moroccan craft and the comparatively luxurious Spanish fishing boats. 
It is actually quite a feat for the former to catch as strong and vigorous a fish as the tuna, which can weigh several hundred kilos, armed only with a long, hooked line, some bait, a lump of porous concrete to carry all this to the bottom and some rudimentary hand protection fabricated from old tyres. Actually landing the fish, for the Moroccans at least, involves up to 45 minutes of hauling, powered by muscle only. On reaching the surface the hapless fish is bound tightly to the side of the boat and finally despatched by several thumps on the head with a blunt instrument.
Despite the lack of orcas our luck was in with regards to the stormies and shortly after I had chucked out some chum we were rewarded with three Wilson´s Storm-petrels. They weren´t up for any close photography on this voyage! We saw 4 Wilson´s in total, plus several more stormies en route but they were too far away to identify with any degree of certainty, though judging by the size and flight pattern they were more likely to have been European stormies.
There was little more to report bird-wise, perhaps because of the heat and exceedingly calm seas, though we did see some second year Gannets and many adult and immature Yellow-legged Gulls from the huge breeding colony of these gulls on Tarifa island. Also quite literally on-board with us at one point, was a single Common Kestrel which decided to perch briefly on top of the mast, just off the Moroccan coast.
Things certainly weren´t quiet on the cetacean front though and we had an excellent trip in terms of dolphins, sighting all of the species which are found in the Strait: Common, Striped and Bottlenose, in large numbers. Particularly impressive was a pod of over 120, mostly Striped Dolphins (right) heading northwards in close formation. The group was so large that the sea seemed to be boiling in their wake. Despite maintaining their trajectory the dolphins did make the odd leap, which added to the excitement, and the group included a very small and lively individual who jumped right out of the water several times close by the boat. 
Although everyone was content with the amazing dolphin sightings, our luck held still further and the day was rounded off by some great views of a huge adult Sperm Whale which raised its tail beautifully before diving deep in search of its next meal. Since these enormous creatures stay underwater for, on average, roughly half an hour, we then headed back to port under sail, sighting a lone dark morph Booted Eagle near the shore. 

And if you don't care for the shot of the tuna having its brains beaten in, just imagine your least favourite politician in its place - I have a huge list, starting with a large, blubbery, former deputy prime minister who supposedly represented the unfortunates from my home town (after my time) but did far more promoting himself and his ignorance about all and sundry! It's a replacement therapy and works a treat!

3 comentarios:

Kev dijo...

Surely not John Prescott!! Great report!!

Mike Clarke dijo...

Surely you can't mean th e great Rt Hon The Lord Prescott of Kingston Upon Hull? Oh, yes you can! Gods rot the bast*rd!!!

Mike Clarke dijo...

Why not just say 'New Contributor'? Nothing wrong with that!