Posted by: orcaweb | May 22, 2013

Fooled by Ocean Sunfish, sightings of Pilot Whales, Bottlenose Dolphins and many Striped & Common Dolphins.

Wednesday 15th May 2013 Portsmouth- Santander

After a very rough journey out of the English Channel (which included all outdoor decks being closed) this morning dawn watch was cancelled. In the early afternoon the sea calmed down to a good enough state to start watching. I was joined by many interested passengers, and it wasn’t long before some Common Dolphins appeared. Today they seemed very reserved and quiet, with very little breaching. Instead they swam quietly under the water, which with the poor sea state made them difficult to spot from a distance!

We saw many ocean sunfish passing close to the ship, including a large dark coloured one swimming close to the surface with one fin waggling out of the water. This solves the mystery of the possible cetacean with the waggling dorsal fin last week – it was actually a large ocean sunfish masquerading as a cetacean!

We saw several more small pods of Common Dolphins throughout the afternoon, many of them attracted to the ship. We also saw a pod of four Striped Dolphins swimming quietly away from us, and shortly before arriving in Santander a pod of five Pilot Whales appeared swimming diagonally past us towards the horizon.

Thursday 16th May Santander – Plymouth

Today’s sea state was beautiful and perfect for cetacean watching… but none seemed to be around! We did see many Guillemots in large flocks sitting on the sea close to the ship around the Isle of Ushant.

Crossing the channel mouth into Plymouth, there were many lone gannets sitting on the surface of the sea. I kept scanning hopeful that some cetaceans might be around them, but none appeared.

Just twenty minutes before arriving in Plymouth, I went down to the crews mess to be told that I’d just missed seeing 50-60 Bottlenose Dolphins out of the window playing alongside the ship!

Monday 20th May Plymouth – Santander

The dawn watch was very well attended by passengers and dolphins alike! Throughout the watch we had many pods of common dolphins attracted to the ship. We also saw some lone dolphins breaching spectacularly, which may have been Striped Dolphins.

Halfway through the presentation, the captain announced that there were lots of dolphins around the ship and a very large whale blow ahead –most likely a Fin Whale! Unfortunately I had to carry on with the presentation so missed seeing it completely, but many of the passengers rushed off and got a good view of the whale blow. One described it as having lots of dolphins leaping out of the water around it. The watch after the presentation was very quiet, with unfortunately no more sightings.

Santander – Portsmouth

After announcing the deck watch I had several interested and dedicated passengers join me on deck, braving the windy conditions! This included the lovely lookout that joined Chantel on the Cap Finistere on the 11th May. With their help we spotted many pods of Common Dolphins feeding, attracted to the ship, breaching and milling around. We also had many Striped Dolphins, which were much shyer staying further from the ship, and some mixed pods. A few hours into the watch we were joined by a passenger who had spotted something under the water from their cabin window, which sounded like it could have been a Cuvier’s Beaked Whale! We also had a couple of possible low whale blows, but with the sea state of 4 and the wind wobbling our binoculars it was hard to catch a glimpse of the animals.

In all it was a very dolphin filled day, with a running total of 485 dolphins spotted, the majority of these Common Dolphins but also many Striped Dolphins.

Tuesday 21st May Santander – Portsmouth

It was a very misty journey through the English Channel today. No cetacean sighting, but today was my first time giving a new presentation on Beaked Whales – which went down well. Before I started a passenger came up and asked what the cover slides picture was of as she was sure she had seen one yesterday! So perhaps another Cuvier’s Beaked Whale sighting for yesterday, or confirmation of the one reported by another passenger.

So it’s been a fantastic week for Dolphin sightings. Unfortunately technical problems with the camera means no photos this week, but Katrina now has the camera working so I imagine they’ll be lots of beautiful photos from the Pont Aven soon!

Imogen (Pont Aven WO)

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