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24 Apr 18 - Atlantic Odyssey - Day Twenty Six: Ascension Island Band-rumped Storm-petrels

3 hours 5 min ago
There was one final Seabird I wanted to see around Ascension Island: the Ascension Island population of Band-rumped Storm-petrels. I had seen a few Band-rumped Storm-petrels on the day before we reached Ascension Island. However, as we were around 150 nautical miles from the island, there is no certainty they were from the Ascension Island population. A few Birders had seen some around Boatswainbird Island on the first visit, but they they were brief sightings & none were seen from the bridge wing where I was standing. Therefore, as we were weighing anchor to leave Ascension Island, I headed back to the bridge wing with a fresh mug of coffee & with no intention of leaving my vantage position until I seen some Band-rumped Storm-petrels or it got dark. There were none around Boatswainbird Island, but fortunately, I picked up the first of at least eight as we were finally sailing away from Ascension Island.
Band-rumped Storm-petrel: Like the St Helena population, they show a slightly forked tail, a prominent clean-cut white rump & prominent pale wingbarBand-rumped Storm-petrel: The white rump extends well down the sides of the rumpBand-rumped Storm-petrel: Another view of the same individualBand-rumped Storm-petrel: Another view of the same individualBand-rumped Storm-petrel: A better view of the sides of the rumpBand-rumped Storm-petrel: An underwing shot of the same individualBand-rumped Storm-petrel: A final underwing shot of the same individual
Band-rumped Storm-petrel taxonomy is complex. A few years ago, Band-rumped Storm-petrels were understood to breed on islands in the Tropical Atlantic & Pacific Oceans, including the Portuguese Berlengas Islands, Madeira, Canaries, Azores, Cape Verde, Ascension Island, St Helena, as well as, the Galapagos, Hawaii & islands belonging to Japan. In the last decade, studies into the breeding times of year, DNA, vocalisation & morphology have identified that there are probably three additional species which breed on the Tropical North Atlantic islands. Studies of the Band-rumped Storm-petrels which breed on Ascension Island & St Helena are only just starting, but there must be a reasonable chance of additional splits of these populations once these studies have been completed. We had had good views of many Band-rumped Storm-petrels on St Helena & now we had seen & photographed individuals from the Ascension Island population.Band-rumped Storm-petrel: The second individual didn't come very closeBand-rumped Storm-petrel: Another photo of the second individual showing the extensive white sides to the rump
The third Band-rumped Storm-petrel was a heavily worn individual.
Band-rumped Storm-petrel: Note, the worn plumage & active wing moultBand-rumped Storm-petrel: This was a much tattier & worn individualBand-rumped Storm-petrelBand-rumped Storm-petrel: Note, the wing moultBand-rumped Storm-petrel: It didn't show the crisp clean markings of the first two individualsBand-rumped Storm-petrelBand-rumped Storm-petrelBand-rumped Storm-petrel: A final show of the third individual disappearingThere were also a few Leach's Storm-petrels. They were longer-winged & had a variable dark band through the centre of the white rump.
Leach's Storm-petrel: This individual has a very distinctive black band through the centre of the rumpLeach's Storm-petrel: The tail is deeper forked than the Band-tailed Storm-petrelsLeach's Storm-petrel: The feet also project beyond the tail in this one photoLeach's Storm-petrel: Another photo of the same individualLeach's Storm-petrel: The upper wing bar is also very obviousLeach's Storm-petrel: The white sides to the rump are not as obvious as on the Band-tailed Storm-petrelsLeach's Storm-petrel: A final view of this first individual showing that the wings are longer, the white on the sides of the rump are less extensive & the tail is deeper forked than the Band-rumped Storm-petrelsFinally, some photos of a second Leach's Storm-petrel.
Leach's Storm-petrel: Superficially this looks like a Band-rumped Storm-petrelLeach's Storm-petrel: However, it looks longer-winged & shows a dark bar across this centre of the white rumpLeach's Storm-petrel: Unusually, this individual doesn't appear to have a forked tailLeach's Storm-petrel: The white is less extensive on the sides of the rump
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24 Apr 18 - Atlantic Odyssey - Day Twenty Six: Bottlenose Dolphins At Ascension Island

Fri, 10/19/2018 - 19:00
While we were around Boatswainbird Island as we were leaving Ascension Island, we saw our first pod of Bottlenose Dolphins for the Atlantic Odyssey. Even better they were in a playful mode & were keen to get involved in some bow-wave action. Unfortunately, we were hardly moving as we were close to the island. But they hung around & as a result, we enjoyed some close views of this widespread Dolphin species.
Bottlenose Dolphin: The water was very clear allowing us to follow them underwater. Bottlenose Dolphins are one of the larger Dolphins with relatively a uniform grey appearance, a short, stout beak and a tall & sharply curved dorsal finBottlenose Dolphin: Two more coming in to the PlanciusBottlenose Dolphin: The first of the two breaks the surfaceBottlenose Dolphin: This is the dorsal fin of the second individual which has distinctive vertical scars on it
Bottlenose Dolphin: A close crop of the vertical scars Bottlenose Dolphin: A clearer view of the short, stout beak and tall & sharply curved dorsal finBottlenose Dolphin: A better view of the short, stout beak & the distinctive crease between the beak & the headBottlenose Dolphin: There is a minimal blow as this individual breaks the surfaceBottlenose DolphinBottlenose Dolphin: It quickly starts to dive againBottlenose Dolphin: Cetaceans can be separated from Sharks, Tuna & other Fish by their tail fins which are horizontal on Cetaceans & vertical on species of FishBottlenose Dolphin: This individual has a distinctive curved dorsal fin
As we were heading towards Boatswainbird Island, we had a brief encounter with an Atlantic White Marlin. This is one of the Billfish & can reach up to 2.8 metres long, so it is a similar size to a Dolphin, but it is much slimmer with a distinctive long bill.
Atlantic White Marlin: It leapt out of the water on a few occasions showing its distinctive billSmall Clearwing: I saw at least 500 Small Clearwings during the afternoon as we left Ascension Island. The collective name for Small Clearwings should be a Confusion of Small Clearwings
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24 Apr 18 - Atlantic Odyssey - Day Twenty Six: Boatswainbird Island Revised

Thu, 10/18/2018 - 19:00
There was a final treat for our prompt departure from Ascension Island & that was another stop at Boatswainbird Island. All the decks were crammed with people enjoying the spectacle around the island.
Boatswainbird Island: Named using the old sailors name for the breeding TropicbirdsVolcanic rock There are two species of breeding Boatswainbird or Bosunbird: White-tailed Tropicbird & Red-billed Tropicbird.
White-tailed Tropicbird: AdultWhite-tailed Tropicbird: AdultWhite-tailed Tropicbird: AdultWhite-tailed Tropicbird: AdultRed-billed Tropicbird: Adult. Note, the heavier, red bill, lack of a black secondary band, more extensive black leading edge to the primaries, scaly mantle & lesser wing coverts in separating it from White-tailed TropicbirdMasked Booby: Adult
Masked Booby: Subadult Brown Booby: Adult
Brown Booby: Juvenile Red-footed Booby: AdultRed-footed Booby: This juvenile briefly appeared right next to the Plancius
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24 Apr 18 - Atlantic Odyssey - Day Twenty Six: Passengers Behaving Badly

Mon, 10/15/2018 - 18:00
We had a great guided trip on 23 Apr on Ascension Island (see earlier Blog Posts). But the day wasn't over. After dinner, we were back into the zodiacs to go ashore to look for Green Turtles on Long Beach. The Conservation Dept team were back out again to guide people. After a presentation, while they were looking for egg-laying female Green Turtles, we were led in groups of around 15 along the road at the back of the beach. We were asked to wait on the road, until a female was found so that a group could be taken to see the egg-laying. Unfortunately, few Green Turtles were found that night & the group I was in stayed on the road. We did see a Green Turtle from the road, but not up close & personal. Apparently, once they start egg-laying, having a group of quiet people appear up close will not disturb them, providing there are no white lights & obviously no flash guns going off.
Green Turtle: While everybody else was misbehaving on the beach, I spotted this Green Turtle that had been overlooked in the darkness. I took a few photos & quickly left her, hoping others wouldn't see her. Unfortunately, a few others did see her & then insisted of standing around like prats talking & photographing her, including one well known UK Birder who should have known better. He is not one of the passengers whose mugshot appears on my BlogWe still had the following morning & I was up early enough to ensure I was on the first zodiac, with all zodiacs departing in the dark. However, that didn't help as once we were ashore, we were all kept on the quayside until everybody had made it. A second problem quickly became obvious that only three members of the Conservation Dept had arrived to guide everybody. Perhaps not surprising as they had all worked a very long day with the guided tour & then being out late on the evening guided tour. Like us, the few who appeared had only had a few hours sleep. There were few Green Turtles on the beach just before first light. As a result, the decision was made that just about everybody was going to be allowed to see one Green Turtle. Consequently, everybody stood no further than ten metres from this poor Green Turtle in three quarter circle. I had knelt down to present a lower profile, but the reality is nobody else thought to follow this action. Not surprisingly this large group of people spooked the Green Turtle which hadn't started egg laying & she tried moving back towards the sea. Next thing, one of the European non Birders decided that he had to stand in the middle of the open part of the circle and block the route for the Green Turtle to the sea. That was something we had been told explicitly not to do, but I guess if you are a prat, you are excluded from doing what you are told to do. A few people must have told him to move, but soon after he was replaced by another prat in the same place. I can't believe it not stressful for a Green Turtle to be surrounded by such a large group of people. She left & briefly attempted to try another nesting hollow, but was pursued by virtually everybody. I was disgusted by the uncontrolled behaviour of the group & returned to the back of the beach, to find just one other passenger had also walked away. With the posse following close to the Green Turtle, she ended up abandoning egg-laying & returned to the sea. By this time, it was light, so perhaps she was too late to have got ashore & successfully lay eggs, but I still don't think that gives the other passengers the right to act inconsiderately to the Green Turtles.
Just a small part of the posse who pursued the Green Turtle to the water: Albeit, as she got closer they finally lined up at right angles to the water, rather than in a broad line a few metres behind the Green TurtleWhat I think should have happened is while we were on the quayside, we were asked to split into two groups based on who had been successful in being led to a Green Turtle the previous night or not. Then formed up into a line to go the beach, with those who hadn't been successful at the front of the line. Once a Green Turtle had been found, then a group of 15 could have been led off to spent a few minutes up close with a Green Turtle, before being asked to return to the road, while the next group were led up. That would have given everybody a fairer chance at seeing a Green Turtle up close. Secondly, the Expedition staff should have been asked to help organise this, given few of the Conservation Dept had been able to return. The smaller groups would have been more manageable & if anybody didn't want to behave, then they should have been told by the Expedition staff to return to the quayside. I got the impression that we had a larger number of passengers than the Conservation Dept were used to dealing with & they were not used to having to deal with large groups. If any of the Conservation Dept are reading this, then perhaps this will help deal with large groups in the future. I'm not having a go at the Conservation Dept staff, as they still had to head off to do their normal day jobs that morning, but I'm trying to provide some suggestions for the future. While everybody else was behaving badly, I ended up staying at the back of the beach & photographed passing Ascension Island Frigatebirds. It was a very frustrating start to the morning.
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23 Apr 18 - Atlantic Odyssey - Day Twenty Five: Sooty Terns

Sun, 10/14/2018 - 13:00
In an earlier Post of the guided tour around Ascension Island, I skipped over the stop at the Sooty Tern colony. This was another of the highlights of the visit to Ascension Island. We were given a short talk about the Sooty Terns on Ascension Island & how their numbers have improved since feral Cats were removed. However, removal of the feral Cats has led to an increase in the introduced Rats. This is a problem the Conservation Dept are keen to tackle at some point in the future. But it is a case of arguing for the removal of these Rats against clearance of introduced Mice & Rats on other islands. Hopefully, it will be addressed at some point in the future. Once the talk was over we were allowed down to the edge of the colony to enjoy the spectacle & take a few photos. Enjoy.
It was difficult to figure how how to drive past the signSooty Tern paparazzi
The Sooty Terns were nesting on this old, jagged lava flow
Sooty Tern: Adult with a well grown juvenile behind
Sooty Tern: Adult
Sooty Tern: Adult & juvenile
Sooty Tern: Adult
Sooty Tern: Adult
Sooty Tern: Adult
Sooty Tern: Adult
Sooty Tern: Adult
Sooty Tern: One of the more advanced juveniles took to the air
Sooty Tern: Juvenile
Sooty Tern: JuvenileIt had been a good visit to the Sooty Tern colony, but I was keen to see the rest of the historical parts of Ascension Island including visits to Green Mountain & the historical fortifications. Overall, a great day on Ascension Island & some excellent guiding by the Conservation Dept.
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23 Apr 18 - Atlantic Odyssey - Day Twenty Five: An Afternoon Of History On Ascension Island

Sat, 10/13/2018 - 18:00
After a great morning on Ascension Island visiting Green Mountain, it was time to spent some of the lower slopes of the island & have a look around Georgetown. The first stop after lunch was the gun emplacements of Fort Bedford above Georgetown. There were guns from various eras in the island's history.
These two 7 inch guns were manufactured in 1866A close up of the 7 inch gunsIt is a good thing I didn't have any complaints about the service on the Plancius5.5 inch guns from HMS Hood: At the start of WWII, HMS Hood had her twelve 5.5 inch guns replaced with 4 inch guns for better protection against air attack. Two of the 5.5 inch guns were shipped to Georgetown to protect the colony. Sadly, HMS Hood was sunk, along with HMS Prince of Wales, in 1941 during the battle to try sinking the German battleship Bismarck & heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen. These guns were used in anger in 1941 when German U-boat U-124 approached close to Ascension Island: it quickly departed. These guns were given a lot of TLC to preserve them in the 1980sThe view over Georgetown
The view over Long Beach
Green Turtle tracks on Long Beach
One of the interesting things about Georgetown is it doesn't appear to have changed much in the last 100 years. Therefore, unlike virtually any other UK colonial base, it has retained much of it's original layout & character. I'm not sure if that makes it a more comfortable place to live, but it makes it a very interesting place to visit.
Georgetown church: Georgetown has retained much of its colonial layout
The final stop was the Georgetown museum. As we were back in the town, we were free to look around the museum, wander around within the town boundaries including the old fortifications & check out the excellent air conditioning in the main food store. The museum was interesting with plenty on the history & natural history of the island.This sign board next to the museum confirmed how isolated Ascension Island is: The surrounding vegetation is Mexican Thorn Bush which is an Acacia-like bush. Obviously, it is introduced & the Conservation Dept is trying to clear it from parts of the island as it helps provide cover for the introduced Rats which are a significant cause for concern for the Seabirds breeding on Ascension Island
More historical cannons: You are never too far from history in Georgetown
Another cannon by the museum
Sgt Davies's Jeep: This is the only surviving Jeep from WWII and was used by some of the American soldiers who were based on Ascension Island during the war & who build the runway
4.7 Inch Quick Fire Gun: This gun dates to 1895 & was of two originally mounted in Fort Hayes along with a six inch gun to protect Georgetown during WWI
Fort Hayes: The garrison in WWI was 38 men and so might have struggled to hold out had there been a serious attack on it
Fort Hayes: The fort is now part of the museum
Fort Hayes lies immediately to the SW of the centre of Georgetown
Looking immediately out of Fort Hayes is the the quayside and another Green Turtle beach
The coastal view from Fort Hayes
Looking back to Georgetown
Looking back on the museum from Fort Hayes: The museum is the nearest building
An old light in Fort Hayes
John demonstrating how one of the 4.7 Inch Guns would have defended Georgetown in the event of an attack
The Exiles Club in Georgetown: This was the original Marines barracks in Georgetown. A replacement barracks was built next to it, but had since been demolished. When the Navy left, the Exiles Club was renamed the Ascension Club
The replacement Marine barracks to the left of the Exiles Club
This Cannon protects the Exiles Club
Historic Anchor
The Pierhead Stores Building: Had this been in the UK, it is likely that this historic building would have been replaced with some modern concrete building with no character
The Moon: There was excellent light to photograph the Moon
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23 Apr 18 - Atlantic Odyssey - Day Twenty Five: Ascension Island Is Another Amazing Island

Fri, 10/12/2018 - 18:00
Ascension Island is the third & final part of the Tristan da Cunha British Overseas Territory. Once we were anchored in Georgetown Bay, the Ascension officials came aboard & checked the Plancius's papers & our passports. We were then cleared to go ashore for the day.
Black Triggerfish: There were large numbers around the gangway throughout our visitBlack Triggerfish: They occur in all the tropical oceans around the worldWe had non-visa access to Ascension Island which allowed us to go on a guided day trip of the island & walk around in Georgetown. Ascension Island has a joint RAF/US Air Force airfield on the island. However, the airport runway was closed to large commercial planes in 2017 due to problems with the runway. As a consequence, some of the limited tourist options that were possible in previous years have currently shutdown. Without a visa which would have allowed us to travel around the island & the ability to hire a car or taxi, then the only option was the guided tour. This guided tour included a visit to one of the Sooty Tern colonies. Some of the punters on the previous Odyssey trips had complained that this left insufficient time to spend at the Sooty Tern colony. The guided tour gave us around an hour at the Sooty Tern colony & this seemed to be sufficient for most of the Birders. We were offered the chance of another extended visit on the following morning, but no more than a handful of people expressed an interest in that trip. The reality is like the other British islands we had visited, there was so many other interesting things to see on the island, it would have been a pity to have spent much longer at the Sooty Tern colony.
Long Beach: This is next to the quayside
Long Beach: The Green Turtle tracks indicate how popular this beach is for Green TurtlesThe landing at the quayside steps was perhaps the trickiest we encountered. When a wave was high, the zodiac driver drove at the steps & Leon in the centre helped to pull the front up another step. By this time, the water level had dropped & the front of the zodiac was firmly wedged on the steps. We were then allowed to get up which involved a walk up the front of the zodiac which was angled at about 30 degrees. Surprisingly, the islanders hadn't found a better way to improve the landing on the steps over the years. The ropes continued to the left of the quayside so it looks like some boats also landed there, but that would have been awkward to get in & out of a zodiac.
The landing: Bob, Leon & Seba waiting to help us landLeon has just pulled the front of the next zodiac up out of the waterOnce ashore we had to wait for everybody to land before we could start on the guided tour. It was a long & hot wait for everybody to land.The approach to the docksThere was even a passenger terminal for visitors: Although that didn't include usThe Ascension Island logo is one of the best I've seen Finally, we were all loaded & headed off for the two minute drive to the first stop at Long Beach. At each stop, the members of the Conservation Dept gave us a short presentation talk. At this stop, it was to tell us about the history of Green Turtles on Ascension Island. In the early history of occupation of the island, the islanders collected Green Turtles & held them in this holding pen. They were then kept for months until a sailing ship came in & bought the Green Turtles. They would have been kept alive on the sailing ship, until being killed & cooked as food for the crew. Fortunately, this practice stopped in the 1950s & now the Green Turtles are fully protected. The population of Green Turtles nesting on the beaches is still increasing. A survey in 1977, suggested there were around 1,000 nests, which had increased to around 10,000 in 2012.
The Green Turtle holding penLong BeachLong Beach: The sea was quite rough along the beachWarning about one of the native species: They are a land crab that occur only on Ascension Island, as well as, Fernando de Noronha & Trindade Island
Parts of this island are incredibly arid When Ascension Island was first discovered it was a hot & arid island. When Joseph Hooker visited in 1843 as part of James Ross's Antarctica Expedition, he proposed that to help provide sufficient water for the population, the high peak should be planted with trees. The hope was these trees would then capture moisture from the sea air & this would then run down & be captured. Hooker suggested a variety of suitable trees from different parts of the world. One of the stops was to the Peak or Green Mountain as it is also known. Our guide told us that the trees planted on the lower slopes were selected as trees that could cope with hotter & drier habitats, whereas the trees on the higher slopes were trees that preferred cooler & more moist habitats. As an experiment to capture water, it was incredibly successful. But it has also left Ascension Island with a large number of introduced trees & plants & many of the native plants are extremely threatened by this mass introduction.Another member of the Conservation Dept gave us a talk on their work to save the endemic plantsA display box which gives an idea of how some of the native plants would have lookedTowards the top of the Green Mountain, there is the remains of an old army base that was built when Marines were stationed on Ascension Island in 1815, after Napoleon Bonaparte was exiled to St Helena. The Conservation Dept have set up their botanical centre to grow endemic plants there, so that they can be replanted in suitable areas on the island. There is also a good walk through the Trees to see how successful this scheme has been & which included walking past one of the old water catchment sites.The clock tower at the old Marines base
The start of the walk from the old Marines base
John Holmes with Jemi behind walking up from the old Marines base
One of the Conservation Dept staff (on the left) next to some old Marines buildings
Another view of the old Marines buildings
Part of the 19th Century water capture scheme
The old water tanks
The old water tanks
The runway in one of the typically arid lower parts of the island
The view from the top of Green Mountain: One of the reasons for the Marines base was to provide a lookout of any arriving ships
The settlement of Two Boats: Although the surrounding area looks green, most of this is actually arid Acacia-like bushes
This forest is not only around 160 years old: But it looks to be a lot older
The forest looked good
Shy White Tern: Not surprisingly there was a lack of Birds on the walk
Arjen from the Expedition staff
My mate Richard Lowe
Some excellent Lichen
I've no idea what this is or where it occurs naturally, but it looks good
US mailbox
Good to see a Rat poison trap along the walk: Rats are a major problem on Ascension Island
Finally, we all heading off to the Two Boats settlement for lunch.Filming for the Ascension Island remake of Last of the Summer Wine was going well: Tony, Mike & GlennThe second half of our guided tour of Ascension Island will be coming in the next Post.
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11 Oct 18 - The 500th Post

Thu, 10/11/2018 - 18:00
I started the Blog after I bought my first decent DSLR camera (Canon 7D Mark I & 400 mm lens) in Oct 13. My first trip with the camera was eventful. After a quiet morning getting used to it at Middlebere, a Pallid Swift was found at Stanpit. I didn't hang around as Pallid Swift was still a Dorset Tick, having missed the two on Portland in 1984. University work that weekend stopped me going on the first day & they disappeared when I was able to go the next day. Finally, I had seen a Pallid Swift in Dorset & written my first Blog Post. Over the last five years, the camera has generally been the first think I pick up as I leave the house to go Birding, after the bins. The camera has now changed to the Canon 7D Mark II and 100 - 400 mm Mark II lens which is a much better camera set up, albeit it is also a bit heavier. But it isn't too heavy to be able to carry it, even if I am out for the whole day. I have enjoyed the blogging as it has forced me to sort through the photos of Birds, Butterflies, Dragonflies, Cetaceans, other Mammals & general wildlife & scenery shots. Whilst time consuming to sort the photos, it has been a good diary for me of my trips over the last five years. Hopefully other readers enjoy reading the Blog as much as I do, when I've gone back & re-read old Posts. In just under the last five years, I've now reached the 500th Blog Post & just pasted 280,000 hits on the Blog. To celebrate that I've attached this single photo which I think is my favourite wildlife photograph for the last five years.
Rainbow-bearded Thornbill: This wasn't a Tick, but it was my Bird of the Colombia trip. Hotel Thermales del Ruiz, Colombia (25 Feb 18)It is also a sign that I am well behind on blogging as I've not started on either the Colombia or Chile trips that preceded the Atlantic Odyssey trip. Something I will have to address over the Winter, once I've finished the Atlantic Odyssey & West African Pelagic cruise.
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23 Apr 18 - Atlantic Odyssey - Day Twenty Five: Ascension Island Frigatebird

Wed, 10/10/2018 - 18:00
The previous Post covered the Seabirds we saw on the early morning visit the Plancius made to Boatswainbird Island. We also saw large numbers of Ascension Island Frigatebirds, which deserve their own Post, given it is the breeding endemic Seabird at Ascension Island with around 10,000 pairs. The main colony is on Boatswainbird Island, although following the removal of feral cats on the island & the placing of model Frigatebirds, the first pairs were encouraged to breed again on the mainland in 2012. Ultimately, expanding the colony will give the opportunity to grow the size of the population.
Part of the main Ascension Island Frigatebird colonyA close up of part of the Ascension Island colony
The Ascension Island Frigatebirds were constantly patrolling the skies
Ascension Island Frigatebird: Juveniles are very obvious with their white heads, white chests & broken breast band
Ascension Island Frigatebird: Juvenile
Ascension Island Frigatebird: Juvenile at Boatswainbird Island (24 Apr 18)
Ascension Island Frigatebird: Juvenile at Boatswainbird Island (24 Apr 18)
Ascension Island Frigatebird: Juvenile at Boatswainbird Island (24 Apr 18)
Ascension Island Frigatebird: Juvenile chasing a Brown Booby at Boatswainbird Island (24 Apr 18)
Ascension Island Frigatebird: Juvenile chasing an immature Red-footed Booby at Boatswainbird Island (24 Apr 18)
Ascension Island Frigatebird: Subadult females are identified by the white axillaries and a paler brown collar & breast band
Ascension Island Frigatebird: Subadult female doing what Frigatebirds do best to get food by terrorising the nearest Seabird such as this Masked Booby
Ascension Island Frigatebird: Adult Female look all dark, but have the dark brown neck collar & no red throat
Ascension Island Frigatebird: Immature male showing a white belly & axillaries and a red throat. Photographed over the Green Turtle beach (24 Apr 18)
Ascension Island Frigatebird: Immature male showing a partial white belly & axillaries and a red throat. Photographed at Boatswainbird Island (24 Apr 18)
Ascension Island Frigatebird: Subadult male showing the red throat & white axillaries at Boatswainbird Island (24 Apr 18)
Ascension Island Frigatebird: Adult males have a red throat & do not have a brown collar & breast band
Ascension Island Frigatebird: Adult male
Ascension Island Frigatebird: Adult male showing the red throat & a small metallic pectoral patch when the sun catches it. Photographed over the Green Turtle beach (24 Apr 18)After an hour or so at Boatswainbird Island, we headed off for Georgetown: the main settlement on the island. The photographers wanted more time at Boatswainbird Island as we were leaving just as the early morning light was improving. There were so may Seabirds around it had been difficult to get as many photos as any of us would have liked, especially as sometimes I had to lower the camera to just enjoy the overall spectacle. However, we had to get to Georgetown & clear customs, as we had a busy day planned on the island. So, we really needed to crack on for Georgetown.
Some good rock layers confirm this is a volcanic islandThe surf was rough in placesThere was a wind farm & another communication base en route to GeorgetownA wider view of Ascension Island with Georgetown at the right-hand side of the photo Georgetown in the distanceHistorical gun emplacements on the hillside above GeorgetownAnother base high up on the top of the volcano
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23 Apr 18 - Atlantic Odyssey - Day Twenty Five: Ascension's Boatswainbird Island

Sat, 10/06/2018 - 18:00
Another early start as we were arriving at Ascension Island at first light. We probably arrived close to Ascension Island well before it got light, with the ship's crew leaving the final approach to the morning as it would be more interesting for the passengers. There was no point in arriving at the Georgetown harbour in the dark as there would be no opportunity to land early as we would have to wait for the island officials to come on board to check the Plancius's papers & everybody's passports. There are a number of nationalities that are not allowed to land at Ascension Island & one nationality is Russian. This isn't too surprising as the island hosts both UK & US military bases. We had one Russian passenger on the Plancius, but he was one of the four passengers who departed at St Helena to fly home.
Ascension Island in the early morning lightWe heard from the Expedition staff as we approached Ascension Island, that we would be making a short stop at Boatswainbird Island. This is a small island just offshore from the main island which crucially has not had any problem with Rats or other introduced predators on it. Therefore, it has been a very important breeding island for the Seabirds. Obviously, this was a big highlight for most of the passengers. The island got its name from the sailor's old name for Tropicbirds which was Boatswainbird or Bosunbird. The bosun was one of the Petty Officers on a ship & often responsible for giving commands with his piercing whistle. The calls of the Tropicbird reminded the sailors of the bosun's whistle.
Boatswainbird Island: Boatswainbird Island is close to the main islandA closer view of Boatswainbird Island: The white colour is due to decades of guano
Most people were on deck to experience Boatswainbird Island
Martin from the Expedition staff
Kirk Zufelt (Seabird fanatic) & Bob Flood (filming for his next Seabird book?)
Jemi getting ready to take another of her 360 degree photos of people on the lower deckAs the Plancius got closer, it was clear that the top of Boatswainbird Island was filled with breeding Masked Boobies.
Masked Booby colony on the top of Boatswainbird IslandA close up of part of the Masked Booby colony
There was also another large Masked Booby colony on the mainland
A closer view of the Masked Booby colony
Masked Booby: Adult. This is the nominate dactylatra subspecies of Masked Booby which breeds on Ascension Island, as well as, in the Caribbean and on islands as far South as the Brazilian coastMasked Booby: AdultMasked Booby: AdultWe also saw the other two species of Booby that breed on Ascension Island: Brown Booby & Red-footed Booby.
Brown Booby: Adult. This is the nominate leucogaster subspecies which breeds on Ascension Island, as well as, the Gulf of Mexico and the CaribbeanBrown Booby: AdultRed-footed Booby: Adult. This is the nominate sula subspecies which breeds on Ascension Island, as well as, the Caribbean and Fernando de Noronha & Trindade Islands off the Brazilian coastRed-footed Booby: AdultRed-footed Booby: Subadult The only White-tailed Tropicbird I had the chance to photograph was this juvenile on its first flight. Unfortunately, it clearly jumped too early in its life & ended in the sea. I didn't keep watching it, but suspect that it was probably feeding an Ascension Island Frigatebird chick soon after I took this photo.
White-tailed Tropicbird: JuvenileWhite Tern: This is the nominate alba subspecies which breeds on Ascension Island & St Helena, as well as, Fernando de Noronha & Trindade Island
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22 Apr 18 - Atlantic Odyssey - Day Twenty Four: A Messy Eater

Fri, 10/05/2018 - 18:00
The highlight of the final day at sea between St Helena & Ascension Island were not the Seabirds including the first Ascension Island Frigatebird or the Cetaceans seen & other Sealife, but some messy eaters were saw as we passed them. They were four Leatherback Turtles, the first Leatherback Turtles we saw on the Odyssey.
Leatherback Turtle: The large size & lack of any plates on the body leaves Leatherback Turtle as the only candidate. They have five long ridges on their backLeatherback Turtle: It was on view for the best part of a minute, before it finally divedI had mixed emotions when I initially saw this first Leatherback Turtle. While it was good to have only seen my second Leatherback Turtle (the first being on the Pompey - Bilboa ferry in Aug 1999 of the French coast), I thought it was tangled in some pink debris hence my mixed feelings. I had been mainly looking through the camera & unable to fully see what the pink debris was. After we were discussing the Leatherback Turtle, somebody pointed out that what we had actually seen was a Leatherback Turtle feeding on one of its favourite foods: Salp. Salp is a long barrel-like floating planktonic 'Jellyfish', however, it strictly not a Jellyfish. Salp feed on phytoplankton. Within 45 minutes, we had seen our second Leatherback Turtle of the day.Leatherback Turtle: The second sighting started in a similar way to the firstLeatherback Turtle: This time the head started to appear as Sea Turtles need to breathe airLeatherback Turtle: This is one of my favourite photos from the OdysseyLeatherback Turtle: A close up of the head & back which shows four of the five ridges on the backLeatherback Turtle: Having breathed in & probably checked us out, it was time to disappearLeatherback TurtleLeatherback Turtle: The third individual was thirty minutes later & not as close. It also didn't have any SalpLeatherback Turtle: The final individual was picked up in front of the Plancius on the starboard side, but rapidly divedIt had been a great morning.
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22 Apr 18 - Atlantic Odyssey - Day Twenty Four: From Big To Small

Thu, 10/04/2018 - 18:00
We had already had a good selection of Seabirds & Flying Fish on the Atlantic Odyssey on the final day at sea before reaching Ascension Island. However, it was a bit of a frustrating day for Cetaceans. Before breakfast we had a pod of distant Dolphins that were too distant & the views too poor to figure what they were. Later, while everybody else was at lunch, I picked up a logging Surfboard, either a Pygmy Sperm Whale or Dwarf Sperm Whale, about a half mile in front of the ship. Unfortunately, it close to dive before I could get any photos. Again, the views were too brief to be able to identify it to a species & I was the sole observer. Fortunately, we were more successful with our first party of Striped Dolphins which appeared at the end of breakfast & were around for a few minutes. Having got used to a quick breakfast, I had been back on deck for some time, but a number of people were still eating breakfast & missed them. Still that was their choice to have a leisurely breakfast.
Striped Dolphin: They have a habit of these high jumps as I've also taken photos in Biscay of one doing a similar jumpStriped DolphinStriped Dolphin: The thin black stripe is one of the key features for Striped Dolphins. It looks like the back individual is a youngsterAfter lunch, we were told that we would be passing over a sea mount during the early afternoon. This is effectively an island that never made it to the surface & while the top was probably a few hundred metres below the surface, it was a prominent seabed feature given the seabed would typically be at least two or three kilometres deep. Mountains on land are generally windy & turbulent places. Seamounts are similar with the turbulent sea conditions produce upwellings which bring food & nutrients to the surface. The food & nutrients will attract Fish & other sealife, which in turn provides food for Cetaceans. Around 14:00 we encountered a distant blow of a large Whale, but again it was too far to be sure about its identity. Finally, couple of hours later, two Sperm Whales were found logging (floating & in no hurry to dive) on the surface. Their presence was probably related to the seamount.
Sperm Whale: One of two Sperm Whales that were logging on the surface a few hundred metres from the PlanciusSperm Whale: Having had the superb close encounter with the Sperm Whales on the previous day, the Expedition Staff decided we would not stop for another close encounterSperm WhaleSperm Whale: The small dorsal fin is just visible at the right-hand sideIt was good to see this Sunfish next to the Plancius. It was close to the surface when I picked it up, but it went into a crash dive as the camera was raised.
Sunfish: Honest. I only saw three on the Odyssey & this was the best photo. If you want to see a photo of what they should look like here is a Sunfish I photographed later in the summer on the Portsmouth - Santander ferry One of the other new highlights seen today was my first Portuguese Man-of-war Jellyfish. I carried on seeing a few roughly every other day until we reached Madeira. They are a bizarre Jellyfish with a large pale pink floating sac, with the tentacles dangling under the water.
Portuguese Man-of-war: The first of two seen during the day. The tentacles are clearly visible on this individualPortuguese Man-of-war: Water on the sac can catch the light & cause them to glisten which allowed me to pick one up later in the trip at 400 metres in front of the Plancius, even though the sac is only a few inches long
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22 Apr 18 - Atlantic Odyssey - Day Twenty Four: At Sea From St Helena To Ascension Island (Day 2)

Wed, 10/03/2018 - 18:00
The second full day at sea on the approach to Ascension Island was another hot day at sea. There were a few Seabirds species, but all were in low numbers except for Sooty Terns, as we were still in very deep water & over 200 nautical miles from Ascension Island at dawn.
Bulwer's PetrelBulwer's PetrelBulwer's PetrelBulwer's Petrel
Cory's Shearwater: This is the borealis subspecies
Band-rumped Storm-petrel: This is one of a group of two Storm-petrels seen in the afternoon. We were around 150 nautical miles from Ascension Island. While this is the nearest breeding site, it not certain that they are from the Ascension Island population
Band-rumped Storm-petrel: Both of the Band-rumped Storm-petrels
Band-rumped Storm-petrel: Another photo of the two individuals
Band-rumped Storm-petrel: Another photo of the two individuals
Band-rumped Storm-petrel: One of the two individuals
Band-rumped Storm-petrel: One of the two individuals
Band-rumped Storm-petrel: Later in the afternoon, we encountered this Band-rumped Storm-petrel which is in heavy wing moult. As with some of the photos of Band-rumped Storm-petrels, they can at times show a slightly forked tail
Band-rumped Storm-petrel: Another view of the last individual
Band-rumped Storm-petrel: A final view of the last individual
White-tailed Tropicbird: This was our first White-tailed Tropicbird of the trip
White-tailed Tropicbird: This is the ascensionis subspecies which occurs on Fernando de Noronha and Ascension Island
Sooty Tern: This was the only species we saw a lot of during day. But perhaps not surprising as they are a pelagic Tern & there are around a half million breeding pairs on Ascension Island
Sooty Tern
Sooty Tern
Sooty Tern
Sooty TernIn the late afternoon, we encountered our first Ascension Frigatebirds. The first ones were probably around a mile from the Plancius & even the closer ones, were quite distant. But it was good to see the first Ascension Frigatebirds even though we all expected to see large numbers while we were at Ascension Island. I have now seen all five species of Frigatebirds.
Ascension Frigatebird: A record shot of two individuals chasing a Sooty TernGiven the water temperature was 28 degrees then it is no surprise that we saw good numbers of Flying Fish. Although nearly all were Small Clearwings, there were also the larger Atlantic Flying Fish & a few Four-winged Flying Fish.
Atlantic Flying Fish: I saw around 25 of these during the dayAtlantic Flying Fish: Another individualSmall Clearwing: This was easily the commonest Flying Fish & I saw around 500 during the daySmall Clearwing: They associate in shoals & when we disturbed a shoal around 30 - 50 would fly out of the sea for a single short glide
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25 Sep 18 - The UK Wildlife Sighting Of The Year

Mon, 10/01/2018 - 18:00
It had been a fairly quiet morning visit to St Aldhelms, an old patch that I'm spending a lot of time at this Autumn following last year's Two-barred Greenish Warbler. There were only a few migrants with singles of Wheatear & Whinchat, along with a scattering of Chiffchaffs & Blackcaps. A lone Golden Plover flew over calling as I was about to leave.
Golden Plover: This Golden Plover flying South was the highlight of a quiet morning at St AldhelmsI had just got back home & was enjoying a cuppa of tea, whilst adding my sightings to my Birding database. When I finished that, I checked RBA & saw a message of a Beluga Whale in the Thames from Coalhouse Fort on the Essex shoreline: a message that was equally incredible & unlikely. A quick look on twitter found a shaky video of a Beluga Whale surfacing several times. I didn't know the finder, Dave Andrews (@ipterodroma), but he seemed to be a serious Birder & naturalist, rather than a hoaxer. Sadly, there are strange individuals who seem to get a kick out of posting hoaxes e.g. a recent claim of a potential ringtail Harrier in Dorset, with a photo attached of one of the recent claimed Pallid Harriers from Norfolk. Fortunately, I was away at the time & didn't waste time looking for that hoax.
Beluga Whale:A shot of the head & the front half of the bodyAnyway, back to the Beluga Whale. By this time, people were already responding to the original tweet. Some comments were genuine & congratulatory or checking directions. But there was also the sort of crap I would have expected from Birdforum querying the identification e.g. it being a hybrid (but no suggestion of what kind of hybrid it was) & also it was an albino Minke Whale. I have no problem with people querying the identification, but if you are going to do that it's better to ensure you know what you are talking about first, in case it dissuades other people who think you know what you are talking about. Although the video was shaky & not close, it could be see blowing briefly as it surfaced: therefore, it was surfacing normally & all the visible body was white. Additionally, there was no visible dorsal fin. The colouration & more importantly the lack of a visible dorsal fin pretty much rules out any of the other North Atlantic Cetaceans. Seeing it blowing mean it wasn't showing a paler underside as it surfaced. The The only other potential Cetacean without a dorsal fin would be a Narwhal, but the colouration was ruling that out. Therefore, it was clearly a Beluga Whale & off Essex. I decided I was going to be leaving soon, but I had time to made some lunch while I was waiting for an update to confirm it was still showing. By the time I had finished my lunch, there had been an update to confirm it was still showing & even better, the directions looked like it would be visible just to the East of Gravesend & from the Kent shoreline. This would knock thirty minutes time of my journey & also reduce the walk once I got there. The only thing left was to phone a couple of mates who might also be interested in looking for it. They weren't interested in heading off. One was Marcus Lawson, who knew the finder & added the final confirmation that he was a sound observer. It was time to head off to Kent about thirty minutes after seeing the initial messages. It was a straight-forward journey, although the Sat Nat failed me & reported I was there despite being in the wrong location. A quick check on the mobile gave me another road to try & that time the Sat Nat got the right location. Fortunately, it was only a 1/4 mile walk along the riverbank before I reached the first group of observers.
Beluga Whale: A slightly better view of the front half of the bodyWithin about five minutes, it surfaced, blew briefly & dipped down again. After resurfacing a few times, it dived deeper & was gone for another five minutes. These seemed to be the pattern of it surfacing every five minutes or so, with around five or six brief appearances, before diving deeply again. It probably didn't move about twenty or thirty metres from where I first saw it over the next two hours. It was diving frequently & hopefully it was finding food during its dives. Apparently, it had been on the Kent side of the river about an hour earlier, but was now appearing on the Essex side of the deep-water channel. Therefore, it was probably 3/4 of the way across the river. There wasn't anything I could do about that. It would have been a slow journey back to the Dartford river crossing & back East to the far bank & a longer walk. Given the traffic it would have been well over an hour before I was on the opposite shoreline. While it would have been closer, the light would also have been a lot worse by the time I got there. Given my dislike for Essex having been born & brought up in Kent, then I wasn't heading to the wrong side of the river.
Beluga Whale: Again, no view of any dorsal fin & when properly exposed the colouration appeared pale greyish white, rather than white: which would suggest it was an immature Beluga Whale There have been just under twenty previous records in the UK with the most recent sighting being a few years ago of two off the North East English coast. This is the most Southerly UK record. At the time of writing this Post on 1 Oct 18, the Beluga Whale has been present in the same area of the River Thames for a week & still appears to be feeding OK. Looking at the Marine Mammals of the World Edition II, Beluga Whales have a varied diet of Fish, Squid, Octopus, Shrimps & Crabs. They often occur in estuaries when the water depth can be only a few metres deep, although they also can dive up to 300 metres deep. If it is able to find enough food, then it might be able to survive for some time in the River Thames, but it is worrying that it is feeding in a busy deep-water channel. In the two hours I was there, two large ships passed close to where it was feeding. I can't believe that noise will be good for it.
Beluga Whale: There was no sign of a dorsal fin, thus ruling out all the other potential Cetacean species in the North Atlantic, other than a female Narwhal which can be ruled out on colouration & sizeThis surprise Cetacean is my 40th species seen, out of a total of 90 species. It is my 30th species that I have seen this year. I really can't see how any Bird turning up in the UK will top this Beluga Whale, unless it self-found Pallas's Sandgrouse at St Aldhelms late this autumn. I had been thinking of signing up to rejoin the Plancius for a trip to Spitsbergen this Summer, but decided against it on cost grounds & to allow me the time to investigation the best time of year for a trip. Beluga Whales would have been one of the targets for that trip. I will still be going to Spitsbergen at some point in the future as it does look to be a great trip.
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13 Sep 18 - A Lucky Encounter At Littlesea

Sat, 09/29/2018 - 18:00
I recently went down to Littlesea to the look for the Purple Heron (which now looks like it has moved on as I've not seen it since 1 Sep on three subsequent visits to the Little Egret roost). Due to the limited visibility from the high hide these days due to vegetation that has built up over the years, then I view the Egret roost from next to the hide. I could hear people talking quietly in the high hide, but wasn't sure if they were birdwatchers or not. I decided to focus on the Little Egret roost & give them a shout if the Purple Heron arrived. The Little Egrets were arriving, but weren't settling down in the roost. This wouldn't be down to me as I'm over 100 metres from the roost. As the light dropped, suddenly two guys appeared in front of the hide & were as surprised to see me in the low light, as I was to see them. One guy disappeared to talk to his mates in the hide & the other, Nige, started chatting. It turned out they were part of a team working for the Nathusius' Pipistrelle Bat project & were around for one night of Bat trapping & ringing. Obviously, this was fully approved & licenced by Natural England, the Nathusius' Pipistrelle Bat project & with approval from the National Trust & they were all accredited to handle Bats. Other members of the project were out at Radipole that evening. They had been setting up a couple of their specialist Bat traps at the water's edge which is why the Little Egrets were unsettled. Although they didn't have visibility of the roost, the Egrets could presumably hear them as they moved around in the lakeside trees & bushes. Anyway, they didn't seem to have had any lasting impact on the Little Egrets. There was a no show by the Purple Heron, but think that was down to it having moved on. As the last of the Little Egrets were arriving I carried on chatting to Nige, who as well as being into Bats, was a Birder from the Blagdon area near Bristol. I asked if it would be alright to hang around & was told that would be OK. It was getting dark so we joined the other three in the hide. At regular intervals in the evening, one or two members of the team walked down to check the two Bat traps & bring back their catches in bags. All the Bats that came up to the high hide were identified, measured & weighed & the Nathusius' Pipistrelle Bats were also ringed. I was told it was OK to take a few photos with the Iphone (using the light of their torches).
Soprano Pipistrelle Bat: The photo isn't great, but I didn't want to do more than grab some quick photos. Albeit the time taken to get the photo was short, compared to the time the Bats were being identified, aged & sexed, measured & weighedCommon Pipistrelle BatI have a reasonable knowledge of how to identify the UK mammals, except for Bats. I haven't ever got around to getting a Bat detector due to their expense & not got as far as finding a mate who knows a lot about Bats to get me started on the basic identification features of Bats. To date, it's been one of those things to do in the future when I've got the time & opportunity. As a result, my UK Bat List was limited to Brown Long-eared Bat (having trapped one pre-dawn in my pre university ringing days in Kent), Greater Horseshoe Bat (at a private Purbeck site I was allowed to visit) & Noctule Bat (pointed out by Richard Webb at Middlebere). I learnt as much about UK Bats that evening as I had learnt in all the years I've been Birding. When I started Birding, my mates always said the small Bats you saw at dusk were Pipistrelle Bats as that was the small common Bat. Those statements were never good enough to me to add them to my Mammal List as I didn't know how to separate them from any of the scarcer small Bats. Then a few years ago, I discovered that Pipistrelle Bats were actually two species: Common Pipistrelle Bat & Soprano Pipistrelle Bat. They were both common & widespread across the UK & in similar habitats. They could be separated based on their calls as Common Pipistrelle Bat echo locate at 45 kHz & the Soprano Pipistrelle Bat at 55 kHz. But that isn't much use without a Bat detector & still doesn't help me separate them from the other small less common Bats. I also discovered at the same time, there was a third species, Nathusius' Pipistrelle Bat, which is a scarce visitor to the UK from Eastern Europe. Presumably, the extreme wing of the Tory Party will want to stop them arriving in the near future, so that will reduce the identification problems post Brexit. One of the Nathusius' Pipistrelle Bat project's goals in to help understand the arrival & movements of this species in the UK & Europe.
Nathusius' Pipistrelle Bat: It is believed that Nathusius' Pipistrelle Bats arrive in the autumn from Eastern Europe & then disperse in Southern England. They are still scarce species compared to the two common UK speciesNathusius' Pipistrelle Bat: The ring goes on the forewing & thus is a C shape, rather than a closed ring as with Bird ringsThe identification of the three Pipistrelle Bat species in the hand looked tricky compared to most Bird & Macro Moth identification & I won't go into the identification features as my photos don't show the features anyway. Ageing & sexing was slightly easier. In the end, the group trapped three Nathusius' Pipistrelle Bats, three Common Pipistrelle Bats (although the first wasn't brought up to the hide) & one Soprano Pipistrelle Bat. They also trapped a Whiskered Bat. They were disappointed in the numbers caught, but I was really pleased to be allowed to hang around & learn a lot more than I knew about Bats. However, I wasn't too worried when the decided around 02:00 to knock it on the head. I had only popped out to count the Little Egret roost & had expected to be back soon after dusk. The skies had cleared a couple of hours ago & the temperature plummeted, so perhaps that hadn't helped Bat activity.
Whiskered Bat: This was the final Bat caught that evening. Slightly larger in the hand than the three Pipistrelle Bats & with a paler breast
Whiskered Bat: While I could see it wasn't one of the Pipistrelle Bat species, separation from the very similar Brandt' Bat that might also occur at Studland seemed even harder & included a detailed check of the teeth shapeMy thanks to Nige & the other three lads for letting me stay & watch them. It had been a great evening.
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21 Apr 18 - Atlantic Odyssey - Day Twenty Three: Clymene Dolphins

Tue, 09/25/2018 - 18:00
The first full day at sea on the crossing between St Helena & Ascension Island had started well for Cetaceans with a small party of Sperm Whales & a party of around fifteen Short-finned Pilot Whales before breakfast. This was followed by a brief appearance of a small party of False Killer Whales while most people were still finishing their breakfast. The morning continued with another party of eight Sperm Whales in late morning which were in no hurry to dive & allowed us to have prolonged & close views. Soon after that a distant Orca put in a brief appearance off the port side, but too distant & brief for photos. It all quietened down for Cetaceans for several hours until late afternoon when we picked up a distant pod of at least fifteen Dolphins on the starboard side. Unfortunately, they were hunting & didn't want to come & check out the Plancius. The photos aren't any better than record shots as they didn't come closer than a half mile. However, the photos did allow them to be identified as my first Clymene Dolphins.
Clymene Dolphin: It is just about possible to see the three coluration tones on the right hand most exposed individual. The odd pale marking on the central individual is presumably splashing water or an effect of the harsh crop
Clymene Dolphins are one of the Spinner Dolphin group & are also known as Short-billed Spinner Dolphin. They are a small Dolphin with a maximum size of only 1.9 metres & thus are only about 80% of the size of a Striped Dolphin or one of the Atlantic populations of Short-beaked Common Dolphin. They have similarly markings to the Atlantic population of Spinner Dolphins, which also have a similar range in the Atlantic. Clymene Dolphins occur in the tropical & subtropical Atlantic, Caribbean & Gulf of Mexico, in a broad band from Brazil to New Jersey in the US & from Mauritania to Angola & are typically a deep-water oceanic Dolphin. The key features are they are similar to the larger Spinner Dolphins, more robust in shape & having a shorter & stockier beak and an erect & only slightly falcate dorsal fin. The colouration is a dark grey uppersides, light grey sides & a white belly, with the dark grey dipping into the light grey under the eye & below the dorsal fin. There may also be a dark band running along the rear flanks which Spinner Dolphins do not show. The main separation from the Atlantic population of Spinner Dolphins is Spinner Dolphins are a bit larger (between intermediate in size between a Clymene Dolphin & Short-beaked Common Dolphin), are slimmer with an extremely long & thinner beak and the dorsal fin is either slightly falcate or erect & triangular in shape.Clymene Dolphin: Showing the dark flank stripeClymene DolphinClymene Dolphin: The short beaks are visible on these individualsClymene DolphinOverall, it had been another long, but brilliant day on the Atlantic Odyssey with five Cetaceans species seen & two new Cetaceans for my list: False Killer Whale & Clymene Dolphin.
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