Posted by: orcaweb | June 25, 2014

Groovy Cuvier’s and Striped Dolphin Days!


Well hello everybody and welcome to yet another installment from your ORCA Wildlife Officers on board Brittany Ferries Cap Finistere!

So we kick started a new week on board the ship with lots and lots of Common Dolphin sightings, when heading towards Bilbao to drop lots of happy passengers off to spend wonderful holidays in Spain. The conditions were beautiful, with hardly any white water rearing it’s head, and quite often we could clearly see the beautiful markings of the dolphins even when they were gliding gracefully just beneath the ocean surface. We were also treated to a sighting of the elusive Cuvier’s Beaked Whale – these incredible creatures can dive down for just over two hours without needing to come up for a breath, so to catch a glimpse of one is incredibly lucky!

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Common Dolphins – just look at those beautiful markings!

After having dropped off the passengers in Bilbao, we popped back to Portsmouth before traversing the Bay to reach Santander, and boy did we have some wonderful sightings…

The funny thing is, we didn’t see any different species to those we had seen in previous days (apart from perhaps a few more Striped Dolphins), but for some reason these sightings were just different and more spectacular. On the way in to Santander we got the best Cuvier’s Beaked Whale sighting either of us has had so far. Plenty of passengers had joined us up on deck to enjoy the gorgeous conditions and help to look out for whales and dolphins, and one eagle eyed passenger spotted two of our Cuvier’s about 500m away from the ship. This sighting was not the best by a long shot, as roughly ten minutes later four of these beautiful whales popped up within about 10 metres of the boat! Scarring was clearly noticeable on the back of one of the individuals, indicating this one to be a male, as the males of this species scar each other with the two tiny teeth that erupt on either side of the beak. Our crowd got a wonderful treat that day, watching the animals then surfacing just along the side of the boat.

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One of our super close male Cuvier’s Beaked Whales!

Santander soon came and went, and before we knew it we were on our way back to Portsmouth. We decided to complete an impromptu deck watch on the evening leaving Santander, and were treated to a mixed pod of Common and Striped Dolphins, with the stripeys breaching right next to the boat. Four lucky passengers got to see these marvellously acrobatic dolphins, and left that evening with big smiles and lasting memories.

Amy then departed on the Sunday evening to move onto another ship, leaving myself to continue on board the Cap Finistere alone. Unfortunately, the Monday was relatively quiet with only a sunfish being spotted. However, the day was wonderfully sunny, with sweeping views of the gorgeous Brittany coastline and conversations with some very friendly and interesting passengers to help me wile away the hours.  Before I knew it, my last day on board the Cap Finistere came around, and I woke up anticipating a day of plentiful sightings in the Bay. Sure enough, I was joined by some very dedicated passengers, and we were treated to well over 100 dolphins that day. This included four Bottlenose Dolphins, who soon scarpered away from the ship as we passed!

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Au Revoir Bottlenose Dolphins!

We also got to see another of our Cuvier’s, but particularly high up in the Bay, where I really wasn’t expecting it! Having been joined by a keen photographer, he allowed me to see the photo he took with his super fast 6-frames-per-second camera to be able to identify the animal. Everyone had been waiting patiently to see a whale all day, and certainly had their dedication rewarded!

So, this concludes our week on board the Cap Finistere. I must say I am very happy to have seen lots of the Cuvier’s around again, as I personally went through a particularly large patch of not having seen them, so this week has been a real treat with so many sightings.

I would just like to thank all of the talkative, supportive, friendly passengers we are joined by up on deck. It’s so important to all of us Wildlife Officers to hear your wonderful feedback, you make our quieter days a lot more interesting with your stories, and I can tell you nothing beats the feeling of helping someone to see their first cetacean!

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Fare thee well wonderful travellers!

All the best and be back soon,

Chantelle and Amy

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