Posted by: orcaweb | August 20, 2014

Two not-so-common dolphins…

Morning Readers!

 WO Clare checking in for another instalment of our weekly blog from the Brittany Ferries Cap Finistere! After last week proved relatively quiet on the cetacean front, Chantelle and I were both hopeful for calm seas and plentiful sightings.

 The sea state was sitting at about a 5 on the scale on Wednesday, meaning lots of white caps, making watch a little bit more difficult. After an hour of stormy seas, we decided to invest our time in running a children’s activity hour, which was a wonderful success yet again. About 10 keen children joined us in the planets bar for a children-friendly presentation, games, and our ‘Create a Creature’ drawing challenge. For this, the kids have to create a sea creature from their own imagination, but it must have three things – a way to swim, a way to breathe and a way in which to defend itself / attack another. Sure enough, Chantelle and I were astounded at the amazing imaginations of young people, capturing some of the wonderful adaptations within nature today and bringing them together in such unique and clever ways. The enthusiasm of all of the children who took part left us both energised!


Some of the drawings by the children in a Create-A-Creature!

Some of the drawings by the children in a Create-A-Creature!

 We started Thursday with newly-revived spirits, and it was also the day of me giving the main presentation for the first time. It was a bit nerve-wracking speaking in front of lots of people, especially since I haven’t studied marine biology or been in the conservation game very long. However, I actually really enjoyed it and got into the swing of the talk. The time flew by and the passengers were very encouraging with the feedback at the end. The deck watch straight afterwards was good too. We saw six blows over a few hours, all too far in the distance to identify which type of whale they were. It was likely to be the Fin Whale due to the size of the blow but we had to log them as unknown. We also saw a few pods of Common Dolphins. Unfortunately the Friday morning deck watch wasn’t so fruitful, but this may be partly due to the sea state being at a 5 for most of it and sailing in the channel the animals you’re most likely to see (Minke Whale and Harbour Porpoise) would be tough to spot with so much white water.

Two of the lovely Common Dolphins

Two of the lovely Common Dolphins


So, we rose nice and early for the sunrise deck watch on Saturday with much anticipation as we knew this could be a really good day for watching whales! Sure enough, today brought some larger pods of dolphins fairly early on, and much to my excitement they were mixed pods – both Common and Striped Dolphin. These two do like to spend time together and the Striped Dolphins are quite acrobatic – we saw them jumping around making big splashes in our wake. We also saw three blows, including one which we suspected to be a Sei Whale, but it’s very difficult to tell for sure. While we were giving our presentation a couple of passengers saw a small pod of Pilot Whales from our usual deck watch position, and also lots of blows on the port side of the boat. As we came into Santander we were wowed by numerous pods of Common and Striped Dolphins which got a great reception from the passengers, especially all the children. Lots of ‘ahh’-ing and ‘wow’-ing!!

The speedy, acrobatic Striped Dolphin

The speedy, acrobatic Striped Dolphin


Sunday saw us spend most of the day in the coastal waters and the channel. We saw a few groups of Common Dolphins who were obviously more focused on feeding than on performing – they were staying quite far out and often only surfaced for a few seconds. There was lots of feeding activity in general, with some large flocks of birds diving down to pick out fish too. It was very dramatic to watch! We also saw a Great Skua, which Chantelle managed to capture in this picture:

The majestic Great Skua

The majestic Great Skua


We kick started the new week with an afternoon spent mainly in the coastal waters around Brittany. Before we came on effort, I got very excited as I saw two separate pods of dolphins, some looked very much like Bottlenose Dolphins from a distance, although I didn’t have my binoculars so could not be sure. The rest of the watch was mixed, with some quite long periods with no sightings, and then a flurry of activity from our friends the Common Dolphins. We saw a few different pods over the day but the highlight was definitely in the last couple of hours of our watch, when a pod of around 70 Common Dolphins came zooming in from ahead. They, as always, received a warm welcome from the passengers, with lots of people trying desperately to capture the moment on camera. They were really beautiful, and we saw around 15 calves too, including this tiny one which Chantelle captured on our camera – it was so small, we think it must have been very young, possibly even a newborn, as it’s pectoral flippers are flat against it’s body. It was incredible, and the perfect end to a beautiful sunny day, with a fabulous sunset just to ice the cake.

A teeny tiny baby Common Dolphin!

A teeny tiny baby Common Dolphin!


Tuesday – what an amazing day!! I’m going to hand over to Chantelle to tell the story from here because we saw her very favourite animal.

 Hello everyone, it’s Chantelle again, and a massive thanks to Clare for handing over to me! So our last week has been a mixed bag of sightings, with some days yielding many more cetaceans than others, but Tuesday just had to be the best of the lot. So Clare completed another presentation (which she has become incredibly good at, may I add) whilst I sat in the windowsill, looking out to see if any of our charismatic cetaceans would show themselves. The sea was sitting at a very calm sea state two, making for excellent spotting conditions. However, I didn’t manage to spot anything from my very narrow viewing point, and so Clare and I headed up onto deck ten, where we were joined by lots of keen passengers. Sure enough, we immediately saw two blows, one incredibly close to the bow of the ship! We ran over to the port side to see if it surfaced again but sadly it must have dived before we could identify it. After about half an hour, we spotted another whale blow in the far distance, which we assumed to belong to our wonderful Fin Whale. Three whales were also spotted heading away from the ship, which we believed to be Cuvier’s Beaked Whales. But these were not the most exciting sightings by far…

 I don’t really have the words to describe this sighting, but I’ll try my best…After about 45 minutes up on deck, we saw a very dark animal surface with a rather tall dorsal fin, unmistakeable in fact. Could it be? Well…it couldn’t not be. The 2 metre dorsal gave this species away as the absolutely incredible Orca (otherwise known as the Killer Whale). There were definitely at least two, one male and one female, and they swam alongside us at about 400m away from the ship, meaning plenty of passengers got to witness them in all their glory. I have been waiting to see this species for my entire life, and I still can’t believe whilst I am sat here writing this that it actually happened. Incredible.

The incredibly tall dorsal fin of the male Orca...

The incredibly tall dorsal fin of the male Orca…

And the equally awesome female Orca

And the equally awesome female Orca

After this amazing sighting we knew our day couldn’t be trumped! We did however continue to see blows, and one more quite close Fin Whale, as well as some dolphins later in the evening as we hit the shelf – our usual Commons and the lovely Striped too. We had a great day, and it was made even better by all the children who joined us on deck with their keen eyes – four girls who asked to be named were Mar, Martha, Florrie, and Lucy and they were super excited to have seen the Orca!!


Let’s see what the next week brings…!


CB and CB

A beautiful sunset and pods of dolphins...what a privilege!

A beautiful sunset and pods of dolphins…what a privilege!



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