Out on the Open Waves
Weather: Sky no cloud, wind NE F1 to start, later 0, temp. 12- 18ºC. 09:00 – 17:00.
To the Spanish, ‘Martes 13’ (Tuesday 13th) has the same significance as ‘Friday the 13th’ to the English, and to the superstitious is not the day to be trying something new, so it was not without some trepidation that I boarded the 20 metre sloop in the fishing port in Mazarron, just south of Cartagena.
A couple of weeks previously, some people had asked if I would be interested in a bird-watching boat trip on the Med. Silly question!! It was only when we got nearer the event that I realized the significance of the date. Anyway, so here we were, 12 birders and 3 crew on this boat and heading first parallel to the coast, then directly out until we were off the port of Escombreras, and then just generally poodling around (and trying ‘chumming’) until we could follow the trawlers back into the port, with the hope that these would have some decent birds behind them.
What actually happened was that during the day, the wind which was never particularly strong to start with, gradually dropped, leaving the sea almost calm. Obviously not the best conditions for birds, it was perfect however for cetaceans, of which we saw 3 species (Bottle-nosed Dolphin, Striped Dolphin and Risso’s Dolphin. We also saw a couple of groups of Tuna, had a Swordfish break the surface, got very close to a very strange fish, the Ocean Sunfish and a sea turtle was seen (although not by me).
The birds that we did see included a Great Skua being chased first by a Yellow-legged Gull and then an Audouin’s Gull, 2 lots of 2 Razorbills, a couple of immature Mediterranean Gulls, my first (and probably only) Kittiwake of the year, 3 Cory’s Shearwater (also the first I have seen this year), a single Storm Petrel which wouldn’t let us get close, and some Balearic Shearwaters, again distant. And on the cliffs, a few Cormorants in breeding plumage, and a pair of Peregrines.
This Great Skua thought it’d check on what the gulls were up to
But the Audouin’s Gull wasn’t into this idea
So off to try somewhere else
One of only 3 Cory’s Shearwaters seen all day
Parked on the water
…and doing what they’re famous for!
We tried chumming, but this only brought us gulls
…and might have aroused the interest of this pod of Bottle-nosed Dolphins
At first the Striped Dolphins were a bit shy and kept their distance, but we won them over!
…and they brought out their acrobatics team to give us a display
They created quite a splash!
And the Risso’s Dolphins didn’t want to be left out
Even though they didn’t actually show their face
In the distance, a Storm Petrel takes flight
Back to the coastal islets, some ‘punky’ Cormorants are on watch
And a Peregrine patrols the skies
But what’s this in the sea, flapping around
The size of a large dustbin-lid, it must be one of the strangest fish there are, an Ocean Sunfish
Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo)
Yellow-legged Gull (Larus michahellis)
Mediterranean Gull (Larus melanocephalus)
Lesser Black-backed Gull (Larus fuscus)
Kittiwake (Rissa tridactyla)
Gannet (Morus bassanus)
Cory’s Shearwater (Calonectris diomedea)
Storm Petrel (Hydrobates pelagicus)
Balearic Shearwater (Puffinus mauretanicus)
Razorbill (Alca torda)
Great Skua (Catharacta skua)
Sandwich Tern (Sterna sandvicensis)
Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus)
Bottle-nosed Dolphin (Tursiops truncates)
Striped Dolphin (Stenella coeruleoalba)
Risso’s Dolphin (Grampus griseus)
Ocean Sunfish (Mola mola)