The Black Sea and Eastern Mediterranean -
the BSPC pipeline inspection.
Map showing the work area
The job was an ROV pipeline
inspection survey of two lines crossing the
Black Sea from Samsun in Turkey over to Russia. The job was nearing
completion when we joined the vessel MV Geosund in Samsun on 3rd March.
On completion of the job the vessel sailed west through the Bosporus
into the Mediterranean and ultimately to Algerciras in southern Spain.
For more links to other trips to the area see the following links:
Survey and construction vessel Geosund arrives in Samsun harbour, Turkey
In the harbour there were flocks of Tufted Duck, plenty of Coot and
several Great-crested grebes as well as various gulls and large numbers
Grebe in Samsun harbour
The very first morning offshore, approximately halfway between Turkey
and Russia, there were grounded migrants onboard the vessel. Following
a pattern that was repeated over the next several days most stuff
cleared off shortly after dawn leaving largely only the dead and dying
behind. Dead birds were found on deck pretty much daily during this
trip. The corpses of Skylarks, Black Redstarts, Robins and others were
a reminder of the risks taken by migrating passerines.
A few moribund Skylark were picked off and eaten by a Rook whilst a
couple of Cormorants rested onboard moving only when disturbed..
bedraggled Skylark landed on a winch and became covered in grease
Click on the picture for more Skylark images
By dawn on 6th March we had moved to N 42° 39.3’, E
37° 36.5 and more typical early spring migrants turned up,
mostly Skylarks but also White Wagtail and a Yellowhammer.
onboard, 06 March 2010
Click on picture for more Yellowhammer images
Cormorant onboard survey
vessel, Black Sea, 06 March 2010
Click on picture for more Cormorant images
During strong westerly winds the next day several distant Yelkouan
Shearwater gave brief views.
On 8th March a much larger movement was obvious with a flock of some
200 Skylark circling the vessel during the pre-dawn darkness
– complete cloud cover must have made navigation virtually
impossible for them. Most disappeared shortly after dawn when they
managed to realign themselves using the light from the sun.
sheltering under the helideck, 08 March 2010
Interestingly a Black-necked Grebe also circled the vessel with them
but instead of moving on after dawn it settled on the sea near the
vessel. A Heron took off from the mast as I went out on deck before
breakfast and other species included a male Black Redstart, a few
Stonechat, a White Wagtail and a Kestrel.
Late at night, around 2300 flocks of thrushes were seen and heard
circling around. Fieldfares, Song thrush, Blackbird and Redwing were
joined by small flocks of Skylark.
Female Stonechat 08 March
By dawn of the 9th March (again before breakfast and before it was
light) the deck was covered in migrants of a large variety of species,
some of which were somewhat surprising. Highlights were a couple of
Cetti’s Warblers – one of the few birds that
remained onboard after dawn and a Corn Bunting.
Cetti's warbler, 09 March 2010
Click on picture for more images of Cetti's
Corn Bunting resting onboard pre-dawn
With all this going on I discovered that I had forgotten the battery
charger for my camera. This led to a desperate remedy – one
that worked just fine but is probably not to be recommended. That
battery grip I’ve been thinking about buying moved right to
the top of the list….
charging....not to be recommended but desperate times breed desperate
in the afternoon a Kittiwake flew past – a vagrant in these
parts and possibly only the second ever photographed in Turkish waters.
More thrushes were heard around the vessel after nightfall.
A male Black
Redstart passes a dead Skylark on deck, March 2010
Click on picture for more images of Black Redstart
completion of the job the vessel started the transit to Athens for
demobilisation. Unfortunately we passed the Bosporus at night but went
through the Marmora straights during daylight.
The Straights of Marmora were a once in a lifetime experience with
thousands of Yelkouan Shearwater passing – huge flocks
heading both to and from the Black Sea flew past constantly. They
steered well clear of larger vessels such as ours but passed very close
to the many small fishing boats.
of Yelkouan Shearwaters moving through the staits of Marmora
following "landscapes" were also taken using a 400mm telephot lens - no
time to change lenses with flocks of Yelkouan Shearwaters passing!
from Marmora straits, March 2010
from Marmora straits, March 2010
Numerous Mediterranean Gulls and Great Egrets were among the other
species seen in this area as well as pods of dolphins.
Things were relatively quiet off Athens although there were a few
Sandwich Terns and plenty of Mediterranean Gulls among the hundreds of
The vessel sailed on from Athens towards the western end of the
Mediterranean. As usual for this area there was very little to see for
the most part with just one Cory’s Shearwater flying past and
dead male Subalpine Warbler of the eastern race found on deck.
We finally went ashore at Algerciras in southern Spain. Whilst waiting
for the crewboat off Gibraltar in the early hours of the morning and
long before dawn a flock of around 30 Audoin's Gulls fed around the
vessel. Attempting to photograph these gull at night produced some
rather surreal images - even with the ISO set to 3200....