Posted by: orcaweb | May 16, 2013

Breaching Striped Dolphins, Beaked Whales, breaching Tuna and a Blue Shark!

Wednesday 8th May 2013 Portsmouth – Santander

This morning’s dawn watch started off misty and overcast with a poor sea state, but this soon cleared up in time for the appearance of a pod of about 30 Common Dolphins with several calves.

The afternoon watch started with the sun shining on a beautiful blue, slightly calmer sea, and a strange sighting! It looked like a medium size grey cetacean with its dorsal fin sticking out of the water, but it appeared to waggle from side to side as the animal swam along the surface! Very odd – perhaps not a cetacean at all! Shortly after this a sharp eyed passenger pointed at two Cuvier’s beaked whales swimming away from the ship. We also saw an ocean sun fish, which some passengers had been hoping to see.

The sun then went in and we had another spectacular sighting of what looked like two beaked whales breaching individually in the distance, jumping fully out of the water about 20 times! It was a bit too far away to ID, but they were medium sized, brown or grey in colour, possibly with a white belly on one of them. We also saw several medium size pods of Common Dolphins, an unidentified dolphin jumping in the distance, followed by another unidentified cetacean jumping very high out of the water again in the distance! The sea calmed completely with barely a ripple, but unfortunately no further cetacean sightings before we reached Santander, but we did spot another ocean sunfish drifting past.

Today’s credit has to go to all the amazing and interested passengers I met, many of whom spotted things before I did! A fantastic first day back on the Pont Aven.

Thursday 9th May 2013 Santander – Plymouth

A large swell and high sea state of 4-5 resulted in no cetacean sightings today. I was joined by a keen bird watcher, who pointed out many different sea bird species including many Gannets, Terns and some Puffins.

Monday 13th May 2013 Plymouth – Santander

On this crossing I was joined by an ecologist who was travelling with a small group of people on a wildlife trip. We decided to keep in contact using his walkie-talkies and had a very productive day of watching!

At dawn we had incredibly beautiful conditions and sea state, and it wasn’t long before the first common dolphins of the day appeared. Small pods kept appearing over the next hour, and then two separate pods of Pilot Whales appeared travelling parallel to the ship. We also saw two whale blows separately; one which we think may have been a Fin Whale due to its size. After a very eventful dawn watch, with a sighting almost every 10 minutes, the final part of the journey in to Santander was very quiet, though we did see some Ocean Sunfish drifting past the ship and a migrating Short (or Long) Eared Owl.

Santander- Portsmouth

I was joined on deck by Elfyn Jones armed with a camera, which proved very useful in helping to identify sightings today. The first sighting was of a breaching tuna fish, shortly followed by a brilliant sighting of a blue shark very close to the ships wake.

However, it wasn’t long before we spotted some cetaceans breaching spectacularly in the distance – vertically and fully out of the water for some of them! It was tricky to positively identify them, but after some discussion we decided that their behaviour was typical of striped dolphins – later confirmed by blowing up one of Elfyn’s photos. Later on we saw a larger pod of striped dolphins feeding and breaching in a spectacular way again. The final sighting of the watch had several pods of common dolphins passing and being attracted to the ship. After dinner I could not resist coming up again to watch many more pods of common dolphins come towards the ship, some feeding close to the ship and breaching beautifully. A magical end to the day!

Tuesday 14th May 2013 Santander- Portsmouth

This morning’s dawn watch was very quiet with no cetacean sightings, but we did see a migrating Gold Crest valiantly keeping up with the ship! Also sighted were a Great Black Gull and a Great Skua. The watch after the presentation took place on a lower deck, sheltered from the light but persistent rain. From here I spotted a group of black sea birds sat on and circling the water, and after peering at them through my binoculars spotted a grey falcate dorsal fin, most likely belonging to a Bottlenose dolphin!

I’m looking forwards to seeing what the next week will bring, and now have a camera on board so hopefully should have some photos for the next blog post!

Imogen (Pont Aven)

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