Posted by: orcaweb | May 14, 2014

Bow-riding Common Dolphins

This week on board Brittany Ferries’ Pont Aven, I have been joined by ORCA’s newest Wildlife Officer recruit Ella Potts.

What a fantastic first week aboard Brittany Ferries’ Pont Aven. After a rather bleak and foggy (lest to mention early) start to the week, our luck came in around about lunchtime on Wednesday as, unexpectedly, a mature Sunfish (Mola mola) specimen launched itself from the water column right in front of our viewing position. Such breaching behaviour possibly the result of disruption from our ships slip-steam; or maybe it was just pleased to see us. After this initial sighting, successive encounters came thick and fast. Pods of Common Dolphins (Delphinus delphis) ranging in size from three to twenty could be seen bow riding in our considerable wake at regular junctures throughout the day. Distant blows on the horizon were tentatively identified as Fin Whales, given the columnar-nature of the blows and their location on the continental shelf.

Common Dolphins

Common Dolphins

By mid-afternoon we had accrued quite a merry gathering of spectators on top-deck, all eager to see what cetacean species might grace us with their presence. We were rewarded for our patience, as first a pod of three Long-finned Pilot Whales (Globicephala melas) both surfaced and breached within 300 meters of the boat, closely followed by a pod of Northern Bottlenose Whales (Hyperoodon ampullatus); a rare sighting which evoked a great amount of excitement amongst the watching crowd (unfortunately we were unable to gain any photographic evidence). Our first day of surveying came to a dramatic close as we cruised over the Santander canyons, to be greeted by two individual Cuvier’s Beaked Whales (Ziphius cavirostris), which soundlessly grazed the waters surface before diving to the extraordinary depths for which they are famed. With that we shortly arrived in dock; a wonderful end to an eventful day.

Pilot Whale

Pilot Whale

Throughout the rest of the week, despite doggedly surveying the English Channel, we were left sadly empty-handed where sightings were concerned; a situation certainly not the case as we crossed the Bay of Biscay for a second time. Our early morning survey vigil was greeted by a string of Blows; speculated to be from either an unidentified Roqual species or more likely a Sperm Whale (Physeter Macrophalus) given its off kilter angle. Pods of Common Dolphins came alongside the boat throughout the day, often keeping pace for up to 20 minutes. With a final few Fin Whale farewell blows off in the distance and an acrobatic display from about twenty Common Dolphins, our boat slowly sailed into a bright orange sunset along a calm sea and out of the Bay, until next time.

Pod of Common Dolphins

Pod of Common Dolphins

If you would like to find out more about ORCA please visit our website! You can also support our work by becoming a member for as little as £3 a month!

See you next time!

Kerry and Ella

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