Strait of Gibraltar Pelagic
Tanger or Tangier in Morocco
I had a lovely day out on Saturday with a group of friends on The Strait. The sun was shining and the calm seas made for a comfortable journey westwards.
We motored out of The Strait until to a point almost opposite the town of Atlanterra in fact and as soon as we left the Tarifa area we started to pick up both Cory's and Balearic Shearwaters.
The Moroccan fishermen use hand lines are used to fish for Blue-fin Tuna. This one was caught and was over 2.5m long
Most of the Cory's Shearwaters were of the Mediterranean race diomedea, as one would expect. You can also see the Atlantic form, which is often referred to as a different species but in reality is another race, often referred to as Scopoli's Shearwater. Basically, it all revolves around the amount of white on the primaries, the Atlantic birds have much less.
Out on The Strait of Gibraltar
Birdlife International do not split these birds and offer this explanation:
'Taxonomic note Calonectris diomedea (Sibley and Monroe 1990, 1993) has been split into C. diomedea and C. edwardsii following Hazevoet (1995), contra Brooke (2004). Calonectris diomedea (Hazevoet 1995) was split by Sangster et al. (1998) into C. diomedea and C. borealis. However, this treatment is not followed by the BirdLife International Taxonomic Working Group because morphological and genetic differences between the two taxa are slight, similarly large divisions exist within diomedea as between diomedea and borealis and qualitative differences in voice do not necessarily amount to isolating mechanisms. '
Cory's Shearwaters hunting squid
Our Cory's Shearwaters breed on islands and cliffs in the Mediterranean. Atlantic birds in Europe have outposts in the Atlantic at the Canary Islands (Spain), Berlengas Islands and the Azores (Portugal).
After breeding, birds from the Atlantic colonies predominantly winter off the coast of South America and southern Africa, with some individuals from the Mediterranean wintering in the area of the Canary current (Navarro and González-Solís 2009).
Wilson's Storm Petrel - a bit distant but identifiable
We had a few good pairs of eyes on board and also saw a few Leach's Storm Petrel although I didn't manage to get any recognisable photos but both Andy Paterson and myself could clearly see the forked tail which is a pretty distinct identification feature in separating 'Stormys'.
European Storm Petrel
A deep breath from a Sperm Whale before diving
The Sperm Whale is a toothed whale that lives in pods. It has a huge brain that weighs about 20 pounds (9 kg); it is the largest brain of any animal. The Sperm Whale has a single blowhole that is s-shaped and about 20 inches long. The blowhole is located on the left side of the front if its huge head. The whale has a 4-12 inch thick layer of blubber.
Sperm Whales are the largest toothed whales with teeth on the lower jaw only.
Adult males grow to be about 50-60 feet (17-20 m) long, weighing about 40-50 tons (36-45 tonnes). Females are smaller, about 33-40 feet (11-13 m) long, weighing about 14-18 tons.
The four-chambered heart of the average sperm whale weighs about 277 pounds (126 kg) - about as much as two average adult human beings!
Cory's Shearwater flies past the Moroccan fishermen
Fin Whale resting and exhaling on the surface
Fin Whales on the surface super-oxygenating before going down deep to fish. Measuring in at around 88 feet they are considered the second biggest whale in existence in terms of length right after the blue whale. Fin whales are filter feeders and hunt their prey by swimming towards it with their mouth open consuming large amounts of food and water.
They then expel the water from their mouth while trapping their prey inside their baleen bristles. The bristles act like a filter by allowing water to seep through the baleen bristles while preventing their food from escaping.
In some cases these whales have been observed working together by swimming in circles around their prey frightening them into a small ball. The whales then swim towards their prey engulfing large amounts of food one at a time.