Posted by: orcaweb | June 4, 2014

Biscays Baby Boom!!

What a great ‘Welcome Back’ from the Bay of Biscay!!

 

It’s safe to say after two weeks on shore I was more than ready to get back out on deck and spot some Cetaceans, and I was not disappointed!

 

Thursday morning gave me some amazing sightings. My first morning back on the Cap Finistere I was greeted by four Common Dolphins within the first twenty minutes of being on deck. As the morning went on several bigger pods soon joined us, much to the delight of some very chilly but patient passengers. All morning Common and Striped Dolphins kept popping up all over the place and each time I went to record a sighting even more showed up. They definitely kept me on my toes all the way to Bilbao. This including a rather stealthy pair of Common Dolphins who casually swam past the ship as we started to pull in. I was also informed, by a few eager passengers, of several other pods of Dolphins that they had seen off the stern and port side of the ship. It really was a great morning for all those who came and joined me on deck, but the fun did not stop there!

Playful Commons

Playful Commons

 

The afternoon was utterly spectacular, spotting almost two hundred Dolphins on the afternoon deck watch and 5 whales, which including the ever so mysterious Cuvier’s Beaked Whale and two Northern Bottlenose Whale – a first for me! But the sightings didn’t stop there! With deck watch over I went in to have dinner, however the conditions were so good it didn’t stop me from looking out. As I entered the cabin, what did I see, but two splashes just outside the window, ‘oh no!’ I thought! So I quickly got out the camera and sat patiently awaiting more Dolphins, thirty minutes goes by, no Dolphins – so I started entering in my data to the computer all while sitting directly in front of the window, as I didn’t want to miss a “fin”!

 

Cuviers Beaked Whale

Cuviers Beaked Whale

 

I was soon rewarded with a pod of Striped Dolphins, including calves, feeding directly outside the window, AMAZING! I grabbed the camera and ran to the stern of the ship in hope that I might catch another glimpse of them as we sailed by, but alas I was too slow. However, all was not lost, while chatting to some passengers, I caught something out of the corner of my eye. I took another look, within seconds Common and Striped Dolphins were leaping out of the water all over the place enjoying the wake, and the last glimmer of sunlight! The bright pink sunset reflected beautifully off their shiny backs, making the experience even more spectacular. Just like the Striped Dolphins I’d seen earlier in the day they were launching themselves vertically out of the water and crashing back in with a huge splash. I don’t think there was anyone, passengers or crew that didn’t see something that day!

 

Playful Striped Dolphin!

Playful Striped Dolphin!

With all that excitement I headed to bed eager about the next morning, 7am came and I was wide awake and raring to go. A quick look out of the window showed some fog in the distance, nothing unusual there, so I grabbed breakfast and came back to find the fog had closed in all around us (I was only gone 20 minutes) but that’s life at sea. The fog can appear and close in from nowhere, but I wasn’t disheartened, that was until I got up to deck 10. The fog had come in even closer and I could barely see the ocean beneath me, with a huge bellow from the fog horn I packed up and waited for it to clear. Moments later I bumped into some eager passengers looking slightly disappointed at the sight of the weather. I urged them to keep positive and that I would be keeping my eye out for any changes. They were still extremely happy and excited about what they’d seen the night before so I still had some very happy campers despite the weather.

 

Luckily within thirty minutes we’d passed the worst of the fog, I headed back outside but unfortunately there were Dolphins or Whales to be seen that day. As Saturday came so did more Dolphins. There were also three Cuviers’ Beaked Whales and a lone Fin Whale, whose blow I just managed to spot out of the back window of the ship as I was about to start the presentation, what a way to get everyone excited!

 

On Sunday I was joined by Rebecca Garrity who has been one of our Wildlife Officers on the Pont Aven, this is Becky first time back on the Cap Finistere since training week. Welcome Back!!!

 

Hello again, with three weeks of being away it’s very exciting to be back in the Bay of Biscay and to finally join a fellow Wildlife Officer on board the Cap Finistere. What a welcome I had!

 

After a very long deck watch on Monday afternoon, with no sightings we finally spotted two unidentified Dolphins casually swimming past two minutes before our watch ended.As the ship turned around and started making its way back to Portsmouth, we were joined by many passengers up on deck throughout the afternoon. We were all certainly not disappointed. With many separate Common dolphin pods sighted throughout the journey, one encounters stood out from the rest. With over 200 individuals this super pod consisted of Striped and Common Dolphins including hybrids (a Common x Striped dolphin) and at least 5 calves. This made a total of 440 individuals in one deck watch!

Hybrid Dolphin (Common & Striped)

Hybrid Dolphin (Common & Striped)

 

Shortly after, we were very excited to be greeted by two separate, small pods of Long- Finned Pilot Whales, both of which included calves, one of these was so young it’s dorsal fin was still curved to one side which is only seen when they’re first born, this sighting is a first for both of us!

 

Long-finned Pilot Whale and her very young calf!

These sightings made for a fantastic end to the day and to our first week back at sea.

 

Katy and Becky

 

 

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