Posted by: orcaweb | June 17, 2012

Rough Weather

Trip 31 – Portsmouth to Bilbao & Bilbao to Portsmouth
(08/06/2012 – 10/06/2012)

Leaving Portsmouth in very strong winds, I had very little hope for the following day. Thankfully when I got up on deck in the morning it seemed as if we had left the worst of the weather behind us.

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I was soon rewarded with a glimpse of a small pod of Pilot whales – although sadly I was slow off the mark with the camera, and they only surfaced a couple of times.

As the day wore on, the sea became increasingly calm, to the point that it was close to perfect for cetacean watching. In such good seas, I soon spied a couple of beaked whales (probably Cuvier’s but I only got the briefest of glimpses).

I was soon informed that there had been another beaked whale close to the ship on the other side. As usual there were plenty of common dolphin (possibly striped too, but I didn’t get any positive ID on this species) playing around the ship, and charging (swimming together in a line) in the waves of our wake.

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The weather early the following morning leaving the bay was dreary and the sea was no longer flat. Try as I might I couldn’t spot more than a few seabirds in these conditions, until we left the bay.

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The channel was covered in a thick fog so nothing much to see there but gannets and shearwaters unfortunately.

Trip 32 – Portsmouth to Roscoff to Bilbao & Bilbao to Portsmouth
(10/06/2012 – 13/06/2012)

Although the weather was very good for Cetacean watching in the channel, it steadily deteriorated as we entered the Bay of Biscay – despite the gentle wind and bright sunshine. It was sad to see what I was pretty sure was discarded bait or thrown back by-catch from some of the fishing vessels in the area.

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I did however get to see a tern resting on a pallet of driftwood and my first Fulmar of the year!

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As the sun set, I also managed to catch a glimpse of a sunfish.

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Fingers crossed for better luck tomorrow.

Frustratingly the weather leaving Bilbao was quite rough – certainly for Cetacean watching. One dolphin pod showed up just as I finished giving our presentation, playing around in the wake behind the ship. I also managed to spot another pod doing the same thing a little later on. Apart from that (sorry I didn’t manage to get any photos on either occasion) I wasn’t able to spot anything else amongst the waves and rain.

Trip 33 – Portsmouth to Santander & Santander to Portsmouth
(13/06/2012 – 15/06/2012)

The weather in the channel after leaving Portsmouth was good, with sunshine and flat seas – they even became quite glassy briefly. Gannets, shearwaters and fulmars however were all I was able to spot.

The next morning was bright and sunny if a little windy. The sea state wasn’t too rough, however plenty of white horses (cresting waves to anyone who hasn’t come across this term) dotted the sea, making picking out anything difficult. Apparently one or two dolphin were seen on the other side of the boat at about 6 in the morning, but during my 4 hour vigil from 6:30 the only living thing I saw (apart from a few seabirds) was a large but rather lonely looking jellyfish.

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As we entered sunny Santander, I went down below hoping for better luck on the way back.

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For once hoping seemed to work! The bay was perfectly flat when we left Santander and remained so for the majority of our journey through it. The first pods of common dolphin began to appear just as I started our presentation in the bar at the back of the ship. In fact a pod of around 50 dolphin showed up at precisely the moment that I was talking about that species – perfect timing! With so many dolphin around I wolfed a quick dinner and headed up on deck hoping I hadn’t missed them all. At first it was relatively quiet with only a few small pods of dolphin in the distance, but it wasn’t long before some bigger pods began to race towards the ship. And a huge thanks to the crew on the bridge for letting me know when there were dolphins on the other side of the ship to me!

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There was even sunfish and another blue shark to add to our records.

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With the sun setting and light fading it became increasingly difficult to spot anything let alone photograph it – although this did lead some almost artistic blurring.

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And with the light gone, I went to bed.

Edit: Although not for long – we hit some rough seas overnight.

Trip 34 – Portsmouth to Bilbao & Bilbao to Portsmouth
(15/06/2012 – 17/06/2012)

After some rough seas in the channel overnight, Saturday morning started with poor conditions for cetacean watching – all I managed to spy among breaking waves were a couple of young gannets, still with most of their brown juvenile plumage.

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As the day wore on, the seas did steadily calm, until just off the Spanish coast conditions were very good for Cetacean watching. Despite this, and well over 6 hours spent up on deck I wasn’t able to spot anything in the eerily quiet waters except a single skua around lunchtime. The Cetaceans were certainly still about though – several people saw dolphins, sometimes even from their cabin windows (although always on the other side of the ship to me). Hopefully I will have more luck early tomorrow morning in the Northern part of the bay.

No such luck unfortunately. As the sun struggled to break through the clouds, I got a great view of Gannets plunge fishing, but sadly no Cetaceans. Later on in the channel wasn’t much better even though conditions were perfect for Cetacean watching. A few gannets and shearwaters to be seen though.

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And that’s it from me again. Hopefully now the seas seem to have calmed down a bit Tom will be able to bring you some better sightings!

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