Posted by: orcaweb | May 28, 2014

Common Calves and Suave Sharks


Week 21st-28th May – Cap Finistere

Bonjour, hola and hello!

Welcome to your one stop-shop of Biscay wildlife news! This entry is being provided for you by Ruth Coxon and Chantelle Barry from Brittany Ferries’ Cap Finistere… Thanks for joining!

Having never worked together before, we were a little bit nervous, but we had absolutely no reason to be. The week started off a little slow, with but a few Common Dolphin sightings coming up to greet us from the waves. Sure enough, we passed the time with lots of fun activities. As it was half term, we got meet lots of great kids, so we thought we’d make our talk a little more exciting by introducing a dance, with moves based on the characteristics of each species.  This not only amused us, but several of our passengers, who got to witness us practicing our ‘Sperm Whale’ and ‘Minke Whale’ moves out on a sunrise deck watch. Lets hope it was as fun for the kids as it was for the adults!

Common Dolphin and her calf

Common Dolphin and her calf

With lots of children around, we were often joined by Pierre the Bear – the Brittany Ferries mascot. He joined us for a meet and greet one evening, showing off all of the dance moves to the new passengers, and sporting a wonderful ORCA sticker. Pierre also graced us with his presence for a few minutes out on deck, and with such large eyes we were hopeful that he would be able to spot us lots of cetaceans!  Unfortunately, no cetaceans were to be seen – Better luck next time, Pierre!

Pierre the bear looking out for Whales and Dolphins

Pierre the bear looking out for Whales and Dolphins

Moving on to later days, we spent a lot of time in the coastal waters near to the North West tip of France, and had a beautiful  calm morning of travelling through some of the French Islands, with lots of picturesque lighthouses and villages. For about 20 minutes, we had eight Gannets soaring just above us, most likely using the ships wind for that bit of extra lift. The waters were so wonderfully calm here that we managed to catch a glimpse of two small groups of the ever so discreet Harbour Porpoise.  Despite being Europe’s most common cetacean, they are rather hard to spot, so these sightings were rather fortunate. Yet it wasn’t until sunset that day that we were joined by some of our larger, more obvious cetaceans, such as the charming Common Dolphin. However, this was not our most exciting encounter of the evening. A lone dolphin appeared in the golden lighted surface waters, and ‘lob-tailed’ constantly for about half the length of the ship. We didn’t manage to catch much of a glimpse of this animal, but after reviewing some photos and matching them up with these behaviours, we believe it to be an Atlantic White Sided individual…exciting stuff!

Many Gannets soaring above the ferry

Many Gannets soaring above the ferry

Just as quickly as this day had ended, the sun rose again over the Bay, and brought about our last day on board the ship. On leaving Bilbao at 9.30am, we knew we were going to be in the Bay of Biscay for the whole day, so excitement began to build. After having given the presentation to a handful of passengers, we came to the cabin to layer up for the chilly outdoor conditions. As we were doing this, 3 common dolphins leapt clear of the water right next to our window. Needless to say, this soon hurried us out onto the deck! But these three were just the beginning, as-throughout the day we became inundated with common dolphin sightings. The conditions were just perfect – a lack of white water and beautifully clear skies meant that the dolphins were being seen in their best light, including lots of tiny calves.

Striped Dolphin

Striped Dolphin

Dolphin’s face

These wonderful conditions weren’t only excellent for spotting cetaceans, we were also joined by lots of fish – big,big fish… Ranging from 15-30 metres away from the side of the boat, Ruth and I were delighted to spot 9 SHARKS! This is the first time either of us have ever seen sharks in their natural habitat, so unsurprisingly kept us incredibly excited.

Suave sharks sauntering by the boat

Suave sharks sauntering by the boat

A shark showing it's dorsal fin

A shark showing it’s dorsal fin

As for whale sightings, we managed to spot 5 upon that awesome last day – two probable Cuvier’s Beaked Whales, two elusive Minke Whales, and (unfortunately) one dead whale that was spotted about 5 kilometres away from the boat. Maybe this floating food bonanza was the reason for our many shark sightings?

Minke Whale

Minke Whale

Amongst our Common Dolphin sightings, we noticed several hybrid individuals, which appear to be the produce of a mixture between Common and Striped dolphins. But not only that, we also spotted a calf that was quite a bit lighter than usual, almost appearing to be albino, as it leapt alongside its mother. Furthermore, upon looking through our photos that evening, we noticed a Common Dolphin that was disguising itself as an Orca calf – if only it was the case!

Common Dolphin and it's white calf, and hybrid dolphin

Common Dolphin and it’s white calf, and hybrid dolphin

Common Dolphin disguised as an ORCA calf

Common Dolphin disguised as an ORCA calf

After a wonderfully satisfying final day, we are happy to pass you on to Becky and Katy, two more of our wonderful colleagues. But don’t forget you can find out more about ORCA via the website where you can become a member to support our work!

Until next time!

– Chantelle and Ruth

Chantelle and Ruth practicing the 'Sperm Whale dance move'

Chantelle and Ruth practicing the ‘Sperm Whale dance move’


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