Posted by: orcaweb | June 11, 2014

ORCA spots an Orca – TWICE!

The channel had certainly picked up from that morning and our first deck watch included a game of dodge the 30m high spray that would come over the bridge and engulf the deck. With an early start before we arrived in Bilbao there were many pods of Common Dolphins surrounding the ship keeping us both on our toes. However, this was not all, something unusual was spotted out of the corner of Katys eye, all of a sudden, BLOW! Our first whale of this trip, closely followed by another two. All of whom were too far in the distance for a definite ID or photo. As we edged ever closer to Bilbao with the port in sight we saw a much smaller blow and back of a whale, much smaller than what we had seen earlier but still far bigger than anything we were expecting to see so close to land. We are both pretty sure it had been a Minke whale, though this is not confirmed.

01 CD

Common dolphin breaching

That afternoon deck watch, again, did not disappoint. It was as though those Common dolphins had been waiting for us. We had many passengers of all ages coming to see the impressive show these animals displayed. One lady in particular who had never seen a dolphin before (but had always wanted to), was jumping for joy as she watched them darting through the waves. Later on that day some familiar faces appeared, three passengers who had joined me on deck watch during my second week on the Pont Aven over two months ago, what a coincidence. As a very successful deck watch came to an end our last sighting of the day was from a very distant blow on the horizon.

02 Us two

On deck Watch Rebecca Garrity and Katy Whitaker

An early start to Saturday morning saw our first and only trip to Santander for this week. It was most certainly the one to remember, with two new species ticked off my cetacean list and one off Katys. The first new sighting for the two of us was in the form of a mysterious dolphin. Something obviously different from what we were used to seeing. It was fairly porpoise shaped, small, with a seemingly blunt face and a definite white blaze down its side. These animals were very quick and only a tail shot was caught on camera but please do let us know what you think.

03 Un ID dolphin

Unknown ID

This sighting, as exciting as it had been, was not the highlight of the day. This puzzling dolphin was, a few hours later, over shadowed by yet another dolphin, a much bigger one and one we never thought we would have the fortune of seeing within the Bay of Biscay. Just a few hours off the coast of Santander (after seeing Cuvier’s Beaked Whales and Striped Dolphins), a few splashes were spotted 700m towards the horizon, our binoculars picked up an animal breaching. It was far too small for a large whale but certainly a lot bigger than your average dolphin or beaked whale. Slightly confused, the camera came out and the fantastically powerful camera (on full zoom) shows the unmistakable black and white colouration of the first Killer Whale/Orca of the season!!!!

04 Orca Katy

First Orca of the Season, taken by Wildlife officer Katy Whitaker

Feeling very giddy and shaking with excitement we could hardly contain ourselves with jumps of joy, hugs and high fives, it was safe to say that many of the passengers on deck were watching us, slightly bemused. The grins still haven’t left our faces.

05 High Five

Two very happy Wildlife officers

As we left again for Portsmouth, both Common and Striped dolphins could be seen from either side of the Cap Finistere. Sunday soon came, we woke up to the sight of a stowaway Collared dove outside the cabin window. It was time for Katy to disembark early as she jumps ship and boards Brittany Ferries Pont Aven. Have a fantastic week Katy.

05 Dove

Stowaway Collared dove

Setting off for Bilbao, I was not alone on deck as many keen wildlife watchers joined me for the afternoon. We had a very odd sighting of splashes and waves being created by something very big under the water, but this elusive creature did not show us any clue as to what it may be. Unfortunately this one will have to remain a mystery.


Tuesday saw the end of the week, but what a way to end it! Hundreds of Common dolphins kept passengers and I busy for a good hour as we left Bilbao. Also a Sperm whale had been spotted during the presentation. Just over two hours into the deck watch and, oddly enough, exactly (to the minute) 3 days after our first Orca sighting came the second. This sighting however, was not a distant splash on the horizon. These two Orca were casually swimming 100m from the ship. It was an utterly fantastic and once in a lifetime sighting. The Bay was so calm you could see them swimming under the water. As one came up for air it made for these stunning photos! They waved us off with a fluke. What a sight – I am speechless. A fantastic end to an incredible week!


The start of the second Orca sighting


My favourite photo, such a wonderful animal


That unmistakable white patch


It’s rolling back


The final view, a fluke




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