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Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Portuguese Pelagic

During our holiday based in Ferragudo, Portugal earlier this month, Catherine and I through sheer luck came across an opportunity to take a pelagic seabird trip out of the town of Sagres, located at the south-western tip of Portugal. We did not know this, but there are two companies which run both dolphin watching and pelagic seabird trips out of the port of Sagres. These are Marilimitado ( web =  ) and CapeCruiser ( web = ). Both use similar Ribs, and appear to run similar 3-4 hour trips for seabirds and shorter trips for dolphins. We went with Marilimitado purely because they had a trip running when we are in Sagres.
The Ribs motor c 14 nautical miles off the south-western tip of Portugal, to where the waters suddenly become much deeper, and there are nutrient upwellings attracting plankton, fish and seabirds! The ride out takes about 40 minutes, but there are always birds to look at on the way! We fund a trawler and came close before chumming to attract some of the seabirds.
Suffice to say it was one stunning pelagic! I had never imagined anything like this being possible in Portugal...but amongst the birds all around the boat were scores of Great and Cory's Shearwaters, a couple of Sooty Shearwaters, several European Storm-Petrels, lots of Northern Gannets (including many juvenile birds freshly arrived from their northern European breeding colonies), Lesser Black-backed Gulls and Great Skuas. It rapidly became a truly memorable pelagic!
After more than an  hour and a half with the birds we turned to motor back to port...but there was one more treat in store. WE came across a huge pod of c 200 Common Dolphins, and naturally many of them came to play bow-riding (including upside down) in front of the rib, and frequently leaping from the water. What an incredible end to a superb pelagic. I highly recommend it!!!
Fortunately Michael Davis was also on the trip, and he took some absolutely stunning photographs of the seabirds and dolphins. He has very kindly agreed to let me include them in this write-up. All photographs are copyright Michael Davis.

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