Went on the "Ultimate Pelagic" from Falmouth out to the abyssal deeps off the continental shelf of the eastern Atlantic earlier this week....
The boat, the Van Gogh, was heavily stocked with beer and food, so combined with blazing sun, it wasn't too much of a hardship cruising the seas and heading back up the Bay of Biscay - loads of cetaceans, but not too many birds.
Settled on the starfish side of the boat, while others watched from the pork side, we seawatched from 5am to 8pm Monday and Tuesday - hard work but worth it.
Bazzo looked devastated when he learnt the bar didn't open 'til 9.30am.....
Jellyhead, ever the happy traveller, simply dossed down under the boat's open air barbecue until the birds turned up....
Tropical, his stomach honed to detect the slightest bit of cooking going on in the galley kept an eye on the rations (as the white faced petrel slipped by unnoticed behind him no doubt)
And me, well I decided to dress in black in sympathy with petrels, turning my baseball cap the wrong way round to keep the sun off my neck - and get down with the squids...
Note the crazed eyes after staring at the waves for an eleven hour stretch and only a few stormies to show for it...
WHERE'S MY WILSON'S!!!!!?????"!!!!
All hands interspersed long periods of 'scoping empty seas with good views of cetaceans, especially Fin Whale and various dolphins, and plenty of shut eye.
The ships "bing bong" intercom would alert you if anything went by, so there wasn't much danger of missing anything.
This was fortunate as most of Marshside's finest had managed to drink more Oranjeboom lager than a thirsty Dutchman long before the sun was over the yard arm each day.
A few passerines landed on the boat, including Willow Warbler, Tree Pipit, Reed Warbler and this Melodious Warbler (plus a decidedly daft Turnstone).
Moths and butterflies alighting on the ship included Hummingbitrd Hawkmoth, Cosmopolitan and Painted Lady.
Here's a copy of the boat's route.....
For the record, there was no upchucking (even when chum was being poured into a long trailing slick off the blunt end of the boat) or scurvy and here's what I saw:
Fin Whale 8+
Sperm Whale 1
Common Dolphin 300+
Striped Dolphin 5
Pilot Whale 5 long finned
Bottlenosed Dolphin 3
Common Tern 30
Sandwich Tern 2
Arctic Skua 3
Sabine's Gull 1
Cory's Shearwater 2
Great Shearwater 1
Manx Shearwater 2
Sooty Shearwater 1
Little Shearwater 1
Storm Petrel 40+
Black Tern 7
Obviously best bird here was Little Shearwater, which went past off the starfish side of the ship on fluttering, rounded brown wings. It looked long necked and headed, odd for a shearwater - a better view would have been good.
Cuvier's Beaked Whale 5
Common Dolphin 200+
Striped Dolphin 50+
Sei Whale 1
Fin Whale 5+
Basking Shark 1
Risso's Dolphin 5
Pilot Whale 3 long finned (+1 short finned????)
Bottlenosed Dolphin 3
Sooty Shearwater 3
Storm Petrel 10+
Melodious Warbler 1
Willow Warbler 2
Sabine's Gull 3
Arctic Skua 3
Common Tern 100+
Black Tern 2
Reed Warbler 1
As you can see, the bird numbers were frankly very low, but if you like looking at big mammaly fish jumping about and blowing spouts of water into the air it was a great way to spend a few days.
The Sabs were superb today, feeding around a group of jumping Tuna, and one of the gulls was a full summer bird - lovely.
Either day would have made for a memorable seawatch from land in terms of species seen, but as we went about 3- 400 miles south of Falmouth and up to 200 miles out off of Europe, a few more seabirds were expected.
Apparently the Bay of Biscay has been lousy for them over the last year or so - they tell us that now!!!
All in all though, I'd recommend the Ultimate Pelagics gig - especially for whalewatchers and socialites.
Next year they're going off Ireland, but I believe the boat is nearly booked up already.....
Eyes to the skies everyone, eyes to the skies.....