Posted by: orcaweb | July 30, 2014

Killer Whales At Dawn!

Hello from your Wildlife Officers on the Cap Finistere!!

This week I ventured out solo for the first round trip to Bilbao, and what a trip it was! Mirror calm seas from the beginning! I literally couldn’t have wished for better conditions. The first sighting was of a lone Cormorant grooming himself on top of a solar panel as we sailed out of Portsmouth. I sat waiting patiently and stayed glued to the window, as the sea was so perfect I thought something HAD to be out there!

Cormorant

Cormorant

However the channel is still a bit quiet at the moment and I soon thought my hope to see whales and dolphins so soon into the trip was nothing more than wishful thinking, a common problem among us officers, we really can’t stop looking!

Thursday morning came and at 06:15 two large dorsal fins appeared just in front of the ship, one obviously larger than its companion, “oh my god’ I thought to myself, ‘Killer Whales (Orca)!!’ I yelled.  This sparkled a quick reaction from some bleary eyed passengers who’d just come up for some fresh air, I noticed in the corner of my eye one passenger hadn’t moved an inch, weird I thought, then realized she had headphones in, I ran over to her waving frantically towards the whales, she soon jumped up from her seat and dashed over to the railings, and with that three more large black fins popped up, I couldn’t believe it! Five Orca!! We all watched in awe as these magnificent animals went about their business and casually swam past.

Orcas swimming just 200m off the ship!

Orcas swimming just 200m off the ship!

Then all of a sudden one, of the smaller Orcas most probably a female, leapt out of the water, everyone in unison just said “wow!’ and with that we were all stunned into silence, the only noise to be heard was the wind and a few clicks from cameras, two very lucky passengers managed to get a few shots of the Orca on their phones!! We all watched completely awe struck by these incredible creatures, I was literally left visibly shaking with excitement from our Orca encounter, this is my third sighting of Orca in the wild and they never cease to amaze me.

From past experience once you’ve seen Orca, the likely hood of seeing other cetaceans is slightly decreased, but not on this occasion! OH NO! A little under 2 hours after our first cetacean encounter we were joined by a small pod of Common Dolphins! “GREAT!” This is a good sign! However it was another hour and half before we saw anything else, but what a great sighting it was! A mixed pod of 15 Striped Dolphins and Common Dolphins were spotted swimming next to the ship. Everyone rushed to the barrier to see these amazing animals leaping out of the water. One very playful Striped Dolphin leapt clean out of the water showing the excited passengers just how powerful they can be! It was an amazing start to the day, a lot of excited passengers of all ages disembarked very happy indeed!

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Playful Common Dolphins!

The fun didn’t stop there, soon into the afternoon deck watch out of Bilbao,we spotted four Cuvier’s Beaked Whales, one of which was so heavily scarred that he looked almost Beluga like. We could see him clearly as he swam just under the surface, he looked more like a ghost than a whale! Everyone was so excited to see the mysterious looking animal just a few hundred metres in front us! The Cuvier’s, is another cetacean I will never tire of seeing they are truly remarkable!

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Ghost-like Cuvier’s Beaked Whale

Soon after, to everyone’s excitement we spotted a our second mixed pod of the day, once again all the passengers dashed to the barrier, they all oohed and aahed as the dolphins leapt out of the water, delighted children squealed and dragged their parents to see these magnificent animals in all their glory. Then, in the distance, a lone Fin Whale gave us a few blows as it swam by, something I hadn’t seen in weeks, so it was a welcome sight indeed. To finish off the day a small pod of Bottlenose Dolphins were seen feeding 200 metres off the starboard side of the ship, such a lovely way to end a FIN-tastic day!

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A very acrobatic Striped Dolphin!

On Friday afternoon I was joined by Wildlife Officer Becky, with no deck watch scheduled for the rest of the day we found ourselves a spot on deck and watched the sea as we left for Santander, Saturday soon came round and we squeezed our way through the masses of passengers who joined us for our afternoon deck watch, neither of us had seen the Cap Finistere quite this busy before!

We were pleased to see some very acrobatic Striped and Common dolphins showing off their skills close to the ship for all to see, unfortunately there were no whales that day but we were still happy with our sightings nevertheless.

Before we knew it we were back in the channel and ready to start a new day.

Sunday bought with it a beautiful sunrise and near perfect calms seas, so calm in fact that we spotted two Harbour Porpoises swimming away from us, they were soon followed by some very playful Bottlenose Dolphins who put on a spectacular show for us and our two eager passengers!

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Energetic Bottlenose Dolphins!

I don’t think either of us expected this much activity quite so close to the coast of Brittany. Welcome to Peak Season!! We can’t wait to see what the rest of the trip holds! But what a great first week!

As for the Channel being quiet, I was soon eating my words as both Monday and Tuesday gave us spectacular Common Dolphin encounters along with three elusive Sunfish.

Lets hope week two brings us just as many great sightings!

Until next time!

Katy and Becky

To find out more about ORCA and to become a member go to our website! http://www.orcaweb.org.uk/support-us/become-a-member

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