Posted by: orcaweb | August 24, 2011


Hello from Cap Finistere!

  I am back on board for my second full Wildlife Officer shift. I had an amazing start with a great sighting of a Fin Whale on Thursday morning shortly after sunrise and the day was looking really good with some perfect conditions for Whale watching. Thursday was full of sightings. I saw a few sharks for the first time and also some very fast moving large ‘blackfish’ possibly False Killer Whales judging mainly by their size and behaviour:  they were large black delphinids about 5-6m long,  swimming quite aggressively and even a bit chaotically which made it very difficult to predict where they were going to surface.  During the whole day we were periodically followed by pods of Common and Striped Dolphins. The day ended with a thrilling encounter with some peculiar looking dolphins. Those had darker upper body and brighter bellies divided by a thick black stripe starting from their beaks entirely covering the eyes and extending all the way to their keel.

On Friday I met Elfyn who has been helping me here on Cap Finistere while Mike is having a well-deserved week off.  The next day was looking excellent and we had many encounters with Fin Whales, Striped Dolphins and Common Dolphins. Elfyn took some breath-taking shots which were uploaded on our Facebook page for you to enjoy them ( . I have included a shot of a Common Dolphin here.

Common Dolphin - taken by Elfyn Pugh

Common Dolphin - taken by Elfyn Pugh

Elfyn`s account

On Sunday morning I went out on deck at sunrise as I had seen dolphins through the porthole of our cabin. There was already a passenger on deck to greet me. At this time we were on the return voyage to Portsmouth and we were basically off the Channel Islands. Our early morning efforts proved worthwhile as we had lots of Common Dolphins approach the ship and later we became even more excited as a large pod of about 30-40 Bottlenose Dolphins made their way towards the bow of the ship but couldn’t get there quick enough so they satisfied themselves by putting on a show in the wake astern of the ship. There was lots of breaching going on and we saw at least one Bottlenose Dolphin with a well grown calf. There were some good seabirds in this area too with scores of European storm petrels and the bird highlight of the day for me was seeing a sooty shearwater in the channel approaches.

Monday was an interesting day with constantly changing weather but that didn’t stop the countless Common Dolphins to keep us entertained for the whole day.

On Tuesday we were still having calm sea and superb visibility and we encountered about 15 to 20 baleen whales and also a large pod of Long Fin Pilot Whales.

Following our wildlife presentation today we were about to go out on our deck-watch when there was a knock on our cabin door. It seems that the bridge crew had received information that a large seabird had been found injured on deck 10 by a passenger. We were asked to see if we could help it in any way so we made our way down to the car deck to where the bird had been taken when we saw the bird it turned out to be a Cory’s Shearwater – a rather elegant bird closely related to the Albatross. We carefully checked it out and we thought it may have sustained an injury to the carpel joint on its right wing so we decided to place it in a cardboard box and keep it somewhere quiet on the car deck until we reached Portsmouth the next morning.

In Portsmouth, we took the bird to a local veterinary practice to check it out. The vet looked over the bird and could see no injury in the wings or legs and said it had probably just suffered a bit of a shock, but looked OK now. We have taken it back with us today and will release in out at sea. We will keep our readers informed of how the release goes.



  1. Hi, I’ve been on the Pride of Bilbao a couple of times to watch whales, dolphins and seabirds. I wondered, what is now the best ferry crossing for wildlife? The 2-night trip to Bilbao perhaps?

    • Hi,

      Sorry for the late reply. The best advice I can give you is to make sure that you’ll get a lot of daylight around North Sapin. So try and aim for a ship that gets into Spain late and one that leaves Spain early!

      Good Luck!


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