Posted by: orcaweb | September 16, 2011

Week of Whales!

Hi followers,

It’s been a relatively quiet week for sightings in the Bay of Biscay this week as weather conditions have started to improve.

On Saturday Nathan and I went up on deck to search for marine life throughout the afternoon on the way to Bilbao. Nathan took the starboard side while I chose to observe from the port. This proved to be a bad choice for me. By mid-afternoon the closest I had got to wildlife was two friendly dogs which were being walked be their owner. After this I saw my first cetacean, sort of; a dolphin shaped balloon. Ironic for two reasons: firstly it wasn’t real and secondly that litter such as balloons, plastic bags, bottles etc are potential threats to cetaceans and other marine life that may confuse these items for food. In fact a point that we emphasise during our presentations on board are the impacts of litter. For example, despite their massive size, over 30m in length and 300 tonnes in weight, blue whales actually have tiny throats about the width of a grapefruit. It doesn’t take much intelligence to figure out that they huge giants are vulnerable to eating litter and it clogging up their throats preventing them from feeding. This is known to be a problem for whales, dolphins, turtles and various seabirds – worth thinking about.

Anyway I digress, I did eventually see a cetaceans. A few common dolphins appeared and a Cuvier’s beaked whale. As the sun was disappearing over the other side of the ship I went and joined Nathan and soaked up the remaining solar heat. Annoyingly, for me, Nathan’s day had been far more eventful with sightings of several beaked whales, large pods of dolphins and sunfish.

On Monday and Tuesday we had our staple diet of common dolphins and fin whales. By Wednesday the seas were relatively calm as we left Portsmouth with naval helicopters using the ship to practice locking on targets. That evening we saw no cetaceans but were joined by several gannets gliding along the ship.

Despite being up at sunrise on Thursday we saw no cetaceans at all. This made the journey one of the very few blanks I had experienced. After an eventful time in Santander we re-embarked and headed towards Portsmouth. The evening was much better and we spotted 2 pods of fin whales some of which were travelling very close to the ship on their way to equatorial waters
At the end of the month all ORCA Whale & Dolphin Officers will leave the Cap Finistere until next year. Nathan remains on-board with Ivo next week and they’ll keep you in the know about what’s going on in the English Channel and the Bay of Biscay.

Mike & Nathan
ORCA Whale & Dolphin Wildlife Officers
Cap Finistere


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