We saw burly great skuas powering their way through the stiff breeze. Snow-white gannets sliced the air and tickled the waves with their wingtips. Pilot whales appeared from the depths, a jet of spray came from a sperm whale and a pod of common dolphins joined us to surf our bow wave!
I saw lots of new and fascinating things in the Bay of Biscay. My favourites were the great shearwaters - relatives of the albatross family which breed in the South Atlantic - which flew just above the waves with such skill and certainty. The pod of more than 100 common dolphins which burst through the waves was a pretty amazing sight, too...!
We couldn't help but be impressed by the whales, dolphins and seabirds that we saw. Way out of sight of land, they were in their element and wonderfully adapted to deal with whatever the ocean threw at them. Even the storm petrels - tiny seabirds not much bigger than a sparrow - were right at home among the heaving waves.
Perhaps oddly, there were other creatures out at sea which impressed me more. Things you might not expect...
We had stowaways. While we watched for sealife from the deck of the ferry, more passengers came to rest onboard. Robins.
You've got to ask yourself: why does a robin want to cross the Bay of Biscay? We're not talking about just popping over the Channel... some of the birds were a hundred miles from land. They fluttered alongside the boat and found nooks and crannies to hide in, some in the lifeboats, which seemed entirely appropriate.
Most robins from the UK stay in Blighty, but a few have been found in France, Spain and Portugal during winter. It's likely that the birds I saw originated from mainland Europe - perhaps Scandinavia, from where robins and other thrushes will be arriving on the UK's east coast very soon. However, you really would think that it would be more sensible to fly over land!
There were other birds too, including a redstart, song thrush, a few swallows and meadow pipits. A chiffchaff joined us for part of the trip and there was even a migrant marmalade hoverfly for a while!
But it was the robins which stole my heart. Never underestimate a robin...
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