Posted by: orcaweb | August 6, 2014

Speedy Minkies and far away Fins

It wasn’t long before Brittany Ferries Cap Finistere had turned round and was once again making the descent through Biscay towards Bilbao. Katy and I headed out to our first deck watch on Wednesday afternoon, but the Channel waters showed no cetacean activity. However, we were not the only ones looking out for marine life as we were accompanied by a very close flying Gannet who also, occasionally, had his eye on us.

Hi there Gannet

Hi there Gannet

Whilst still very high up in the Bay during our early morning deck watch we had many Common Dolphin sightings, some right next to the ship, others quite far out. Striped Dolphins also showed off their powerful displays as they launched their entire bodies metres out of the sea surface. At the same time something else caught our eye, however just as we had seen it the animal decided to dive, we can only speculate that it had been a Cuvier’s Beaked Whale considering its size and colour.

Cuvier's beaked whale

Cuvier’s beaked whale

On our return trip to Portsmouth we had the entire Southern part of the Bay to cross. Again it wasn’t long before the Common dolphins showed themselves along with a few Striped dolphins. We were joined by many passengers on deck and some very eager children who were all very excited to have just seen dolphins. It wasn’t long before we had our first confirmed Cuvier’s Beaked Whale of the day.  Just like last week’s sighting it was almost all white due to heavy scarring and because of this we knew it was a mature male. With mirror calm seas, we were able to pick up even the slightest disturbance in the water however for the rest of the afternoon, all our sightings were very distant, 600m or more, and somewhat inactive, as a result, many of the pods we spotted were unidentified.

Striped dolphins

Striped dolphins

As Saturday came around, we headed towards Santander. It wasn’t long until our early deck watch had its first sightings of Common Dolphins. Whilst still in the costal waters we had noticed a definite increase in sightings around the coast of Brittany. Later that morning a glimpse of a fin was spotted slicing through the water.  Keeping an eye on that patch of water we waited, hoping whatever it was would surface again… all of a sudden, a short blow followed by a quick roll of the back and a very prominent dorsal fin gave way to a close Minke Whale encounter. This was so fast however, we were unable to get a photo in time. Very unusually, there were no sightings in the last few hours as we approached Santander apart from one very distant and unidentified dolphin.

Common dolphin

Common dolphin

On Sunday, as we made our way through the coastal waters towards Portsmouth, we were joined by two young passengers on the early morning deck watch. We had a small pod of common dolphins attracted to the ship, who swam very close by, giving us a wonderful sighting. That afternoon we headed back out on deck, it was packed full of people of all ages, a very impromptu “Q and A” session took place between the kids and I whilst, many jellyfish later, Katy’s hour of watching the sea paid off with a very speedy Harbour Porpoise. That afternoon Katy disembarked as I made the final trip of the week solo.

Harbour porpoise

Harbour porpoise

Jellyfish

Jellyfish

On Monday, for the first time so far, the whale and dolphin presentation was interrupted, very conveniently by a pod of dolphins breaching in the distance at the back of the ship. The deck watch also brought out the Common Dolphins as we made our way through the French islands off the coast of the Brittany peninsular. Later that afternoon we also caught a very quick glimpse of a Minke Whale however, as before, as soon as the camera was pointing in its direction, the whale did not surface again. I have now made it my aim to get a photo of a Minke before the summer is over.

Common dolphins

Common dolphins

Mating Common dolphins???

Mating Common dolphins???

Tuesday brought on a very busy day indeed, with a very calm sea state 1- it was whale watching heaven. There had been a few sightings before the deck watch, a blow during the presentation and a lot of splashing on the horizon. The first sighting of the deck watch was spotted by a very young passenger. The sun was shining off the back of a very large animal in the distance. My initial thought was that it could have been a Sei whale, however after closely looking at the photos, our final guess pointed towards a posible Northern Bottlenose Whale however it is not certain. Please do let me know what you think.

Posible Northern bottlenose whale?

Posible Northern bottlenose whale?

This animal was, a few minutes later, followed by a possible and very distant Pilot Whale.

Fin whale

Pilot whale

Nearly an hour later a pod of very inactive Bottlenose Dolphins casually swim past.

First Bottlenose dolphin pod

First Bottlenose dolphin pod

There was a lot of splashing from all manner of different sized animals throughout the early afternoon, none of which were closer than 800m and many of them didn’t show much of themselves at all.  Most of these sightings unfortunately had to go down as unidentified.

Distant splashing

Distant splashing

All this activity had attracted quite an audience and I was joined by many very keen wildlife watchers. We were all hoping for a closer sighting of any cetacean and our patience was soon paid off as an hour after the last unidentified splashing, a very large pod of Bottlenose Dolphins, with calves, shoot themselves out of the water as they started to bow ride right next to the ship.

Second pod of Bottlenose

Second pod of Bottlenose

Bottlenose

Bottlenose

A lot more distant and unfortunately unidentified splashing took place far out in the distance. We soon approached the continental shelf, the sea state picked up to a 3, with a few white caps to the waves, however this did not stop the Common Dolphins coming out in force to bow ride next to the ship surrounded by Cory’s shearwaters. Later on we were also joined by some Great Shearwaters.

Cory's shearwater

Cory’s shearwater

Common dolphin bow riding

Common dolphin bow riding

Breaching Common dolphin

Breaching Common dolphin

Great shearwater

Great shearwater

A wonderful way to end the week! Thank you to all the very eager passengers who kept me company out on deck.

Don’t forget you can support ORCA by becoming a member for as little as £3!  We have also just launched a new fundraising event the ‘ORCA Challenge 2014’Register your fundraising activity for ORCA and you could win a year’s membership, a place on a Marine Mammal Surveyor Course and a return channel crossing with Brittany Ferries! Good luck!

 

Becky

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