Posted by: orcaweb | July 18, 2012

Portsmouth-Roscoff-Bilbao-Portsmouth

Monday 16th July

As the boat sailed off to Bilbao the conditions were not the best to watch cetacean activity so I focused more on the talk I had to do to all the cetacean enthusiasts. After the talk, the conditions improved so much that became one of my best days so far… but no cetaceans  to be sighted!

Many passengers endured the strong winds for a long time and yet, they did not spot any cetaceans.

In my mind there was always a thought “Patience is always rewarded”… but when?

As time went by passengers left for their dinner but with a fellow wildlife photographer stayed with me and we were distracted by the occasional gannets, fulmars and Cory shearwaters.

As my eyes were looking at the infinite Bay of Biscay, in the corner of my sight I saw a BLOW! In the distance but I could see it was a huge, tall blow just like a geyser! It was so tall that my options of ID were either the most common baleen whale in the Bay, a Fin whale, or an occasional visitor, a Blue whale! It was so far out that I couldn’t see any profile of the animal… On to another sighting, I was hoping so! The light dimmed out, I was left alone to appreciate the beautiful sunset and thinking of the next day’s sightings “Will we see some beaked whales?”. The answer was promptly given by a glimpse of a Cuvier’s beaked whale, not more than 80 meters from the boat, I tried to reach my camera in time… but by the time I was taking a photo, I could only see a “footprint”of the beaked whale! Maybe it is Nature teasing me for the next day…

 

Tuesday 17th of July

As we left Bilbao, I kept thinking about the previous day. Was Nature teasing me with that Cuvier’s beaked whale late evening?

I was hoping the weather would be great for spotting the elusive beaked whales. Flat sea on the way out but then the wind started to pick up! My chances of spotting beaked whales or even any other cetaceans were decreasing by the minute!! I did my talk with a great audience and as soon as I finished, everybody started to walk towards deck 10. The first passengers to arrive at the deck saw the first common dolphins of the day… without me!

Back on deck 10, I suddenly, saw something floating right next to the wake of the boat, about 50 metres from the boat… I promptly shout “Beaked!!”. Too late! Me and a few others passengers saw the cetacean. Short sighting but enough to clearly see that it was a beaked whale.

Ten minutes after that someone shouted “Dolphins!”. They were Pilot whales, since 2 species of Pilot whales overlap in this area they could have been Long-finned or Short-finned but we clearly saw them! They were showing a travelling behaviour, a big male in the middle of the pod and I saw a juvenile amongst them. A nice family of Pilot whales! Another cool sighting!

 

The pod of Pilot whales couldn’t catch up with Cap Finistere speed and these were last sighted past the wake of the vessel. Soon after this sighting we had the visit of several pods of Common dolphins. Very active, doing some preparation for the Olympics with their long jumps! Probably a new sport- Synchronized long jump!

 

The Striped dolphins wanted to be part of sightings and got really close to the vessel and this juvenile striped dolphin showed us why he should be in the Olympics! Some nice high jumps!

 

Still watching all this activity close to the boat, someone shouts “Whales! Bow!”. It was whales, BEAKED WHALES! I picked up my camera and I started shooting my 8 photos per second, forgetting that I would eventually run out of storage!! They were far but I was lucky enough to get some nice photos of a pod of 6 Cuvier’s beaked whales! We saw the typical whitish that the males get on two of the whales and the others were probably females and I think there might have been a juvenile Cuvier’s beaked whale. One of them showed a lack of scars which in this species is typical of juveniles. So far , we had two sightings of beaked whales.

 

After this sighting, I clearly saw a feeding frenzy, involving gannets, shearwaters and dolphins. As passengers were trying to locate the feeding frenzy, midway there were two more Cuvier’s beaked whales! I couldn’t believe it.. Nature was clearly teasing me the day before,  but I was not prepared for this much!

As this feeding frenzy was far out of my cameras reach and the Cuvier’s beaked whales also drifted out of our reach, I turned my sight to the mid of the ship, attracted by a big hump in the water… And then there were two humps, two bulbous heads first and then the immense bodies of…more beaked whales??? I was trying to figure it out at first but then it became so obvious to me that it was Northern Bottlenose whales. The passengers were still trying to locate the feeding frenzy when I shouted and pointed to the Bottlenose Whales. Huge animals, with an estimated size of 8 meters. I couldn’t have asked for more!

 

We received visit s from many more pods of common dolphins and when I called it a day, there were still common dolphins riding the bow of the vessel and passengers reported to me that they kept on seeing commons dolphins!

Thank you Mother Nature, for showing all this spectacular animal activity and being able to share my passion with other people!  I hope that my great-great grandsons will still see the same species that we see now… But for this to happen there has to be more awareness, and more understanding of our natural world. I hope that I’ve made my mark in the world by donating my time, my effort and my knowledge and most of all I hope that with this report of all the sightings we did these last days, you will be touched and work for leaving your mark in this world!

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