Saturday, 26 January 2013

COTF4 Day 5: Coming Inshore

With a particularly nasty weather system making its way east across the Atlantic, a wise decision was made to shelter inshore for a few days until the worst of it passes and Galway was the port of choice for our 'mid-cruise' break. We still managed 5 hours of good survey time this morning however and added a few new species to the trip list.

Although still 40 miles west of Loop Head at 9am, it was instantly apparent that we were nearing land by simply observing the change in cetacean & seabird species composition around us. A group of 3 harbour porpoise was a great find by Conor. A typically inshore species frequently seen along the Clare coast but certainly notable this far out. A couple of common dolphins began bow riding not long after which were a sight for sore eyes after their absence offshore in recent days.

Gannetskittiwakes and fulmars were present as per usual but the sudden appearance of guillemotsrazorbills (new for the trip), herring gulls and great black-backed gulls in numbers were a sure sign we were over shallower water. Once we entered the mouth of Galway Bay itself, wedged between Inis Oírr & Black Head, sightings of shag and cormorant completed the expected species list for the day. Whilst moored in the bay south of Silver Strand waiting for the pilot boat, a 1st-winter iceland gull made an appearance, nicely complementing its similar looking but larger relative, the glaucous gull, which we had encountered yesterday. Then to finish off, a couple of great northern divers near Mutton Island welcomed us into Galway docks.

With any luck things will calm down out over the shelf sooner than expected so we can get back to business but until then we'll get down to the task of collating and preparing our data collected so far.

Galway pilot alongside the R.V. Celtic Explorer (c) Conor Ryan

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