Thursday, August 4, 2011

Activity in the Strait of Gibraltar in mid summer

The Orca activity in the western end of the Strait at this time of the year is related to the exit of the Red Tuna from the Mediterranean towards the Atlantic. The tuna enter the Mediterranean in April to breed and leave in July and early August. The Strait is very deep, reaching 1000 metres, but in the west a sill rises from the sea bed and the depth is reduced to around 200 metres. Any fish passing this is forced upwards allowing a chance for fishermen (below) and orcas (above) to catch the fast fish.

One interesting aspect is that the highly intelligent orcas have learnt to go for the tuna which have been caught in the fishermen's hooks. It is not unusual for the fishermen to pull up a tuna head, rest of the body missing!

The groups of orcas seem to fuse and split at different times as they hunt for the fish. Here is a pod of females, recognizable by the small, curved, dorsal fins

Male (right) with higher fin than female (left)

Female with young

The Strait is a busy shipping lane so the orcas have to be alert to this danger at all times

Male Orca

Female starting a dive

Male showing the large fin clearly

While watching the orcas we picked up other activity which we illustrate from here down, with images from our own archives, taken in the Strait at other times. Here is a group of Common Dolphins Delphinus delphis

Loggerhead Turtle Caretta caretta

Common Tern Sterna hirundo - steady flow of birds migrating towards the Atlantic

Black Tern Chlidonias niger - The first birds are now moving into the Atlantic

Balearic Shearwaters Puffinus mauretanicus - coming from the western Mediterranean to feed in the rich waters of the Strait

Cory's Shearwaters Calonectris diomedea - also feeding in the upwellings of the Strait

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Magical 24 Hours

The last 24 hours have been magical. Few places can offer what the Strait of Gibraltar can. Here an Orca Orcinus orca off Tangier, Morocco, this morning...Last night 10 thousand Black Kites Milvus migrans and up to 100 thousand Common Swifts Apus apus migrating south over the Rock of Gibraltar (below)

Part of a large flock of Black Kites yesterday

Black Kites against a backdrop of migrating Common Swifts

This is a quick news flash. These stories will be developed in future blogs...