Posted by: orcaweb | July 11, 2010

The One That Got Away

With the excitement of last trip’s pod of Orca (Killer Whale), I was starting to doubt Richard’s assertion that sightings had been on the slow side recently.  Now that we’re in back in Portsmouth after another return crossing to Spain, I can apologise to him and fully confirm that sightings, on the whole, have been on the lower side in terms of numbers.  However, it is quality over quantity, and despite this trip being a trip of ‘possibles’ and ‘probables’ the quality was high.

As we entered the canyons in the southern edge of the Bay of Biscay, a crowd of 10 or so waited patiently to see if we would be rewarded with a glimpse of the rare but regular Cuvier’s Beaked Whale.  After a short time, the man stood beside me spotted a disturbance in the water, which was swiftly replaced by an arching dark grey/blue back and a small ‘puff’ blow.  The fact that this Beaked Whale wasn’t close to the boat was an instant trigger for me to ‘grill’ it closely.  The animal was clearly not a Cuvier’s, but was certainly a Beaked Whale sp., meaning we were on to something very special indeed.  Breaking the surface and emitting the low and puffy blow a number of times, but always travelling directly away from us, the head remained unseen, not allowing for a chance of identification.

The much rarer Beaked Whales that could be encountered in the deep canyon waters of the southern Bay are the long-beaked Sowerby’s Beaked Whale, the True’s Beaked Whale which looks like its been in a fight with its dark-shadowed eyes and the even rarer Gervais’ Beaked Whale.  I’m not going to hazard a guess as to the identity of the Whale in question, as the only way to reliably separate them at sea is by position of their protruding teeth, and with no close views of the front of the creatures head, there is no way to reliably put this creature down to species.  It will have to just be “the one that got away”, for now.

In other sightings, 250+ Common Dolphins leaped down the side of the boat entertaining the adults and children alike, whilst 50+ Striped Dolphins delighted crew members and public alike as they hunted and played around the boat for quite some time on the evening of the 10th July, as seen in the accompanying photographs (Common Dolphins above, Striped below).  Also, Richard’s friend the Racing Pigeon was back this morning!

And on a strictly non-wildlife note, big big thumbs up to Brittany Ferries for their hospitality to date.  I have never been fed and watered like I was last night.  Outstanding.

Lisle Gwynn  –  ORCA Wildlife Officer

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