Posted by: orcaweb | April 1, 2015

Wildlife Officers get wet and windy with the whales!

The Wildlife Officer Programme on board Brittany Ferries has officially started and what an incredible and crazy week it has been! Chantelle and I (Tiffany) were on board for a few days prior to training commencing and the first couple of days passed by in a blur with trying to find our way around the ship and trialling the new rota.

We had a good attendance at our talks with lots of interested passengers! Sadly no sightings for the first two days due to very rough seas but we were joined on both days by a very keen and dedicated passenger named Gavin (Hello!), who kept us company on our deck watches and braved the howling winds and choppy seas with us! We even had a passenger come out onto deck just to “commend our bravery!”

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Beautiful sunrise on the way back to Portsmouth

Our bad luck soon changed by Friday morning as I spotted two fins before we had even had a chance to go onto effort! Sure enough a small pod of seven beautiful Common dolphins appeared-my first ever sighting of Common dolphins and the first sighting of the season! Just over an hour later, a pod of fifty Common dolphins started heading in towards the ship and playing in the ship waves. This was witnessed by a passenger who had come out onto deck at just the right time! This excitement, plus the sightings of a Razorbill, Guillemot and Cormorant made for a very successful deck watch!

Common Dolphins- Mother & Calf!

Common Dolphins- Mother & Calf!

On Saturday we had lots of fun playing games with very enthusiastic children who also joined us up on deck when the sun finally came out. Shortly before docking in Santander, Chantelle spotted the splashes of four unidentified dolphins in the distance, which got everyone very excited! These dolphins came closer to the ship but unfortunately not close enough for passengers to see. All in all the first few days on board were fantastic and I enjoyed every single minute. We couldn’t wait to be joined by the rest of the Wildlife Officers and Lucy to see what sightings the training days would bring!

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Some creative fun with the children on board.

Monday- our first training day, the rest of the Wildlife Officers (Becky, Jess, Rose & Clare) and Lucy from the ORCA office, joined us on board. In the morning, we all met Pierre le Bear, which kicked off our children’s activities. All of us were keen to try out our new arts and crafts- making Whales, Dolphins and Sharks using recycled materials and they went down a storm! The kids really got stuck in and we had lots of creative and imaginative creatures. Chantelle did a brilliant presentation to over 100 people in the afternoon, including lots of children! This got everyone psyched up for our afternoon deck watch and we had several families join us. Despite the rough seas, we had lots of practice surveying and recording variable weather conditions and using our equipment. We also had some fantastic sightings of birds including, a Shearwater and a Great skua chasing a group of Auks.

Lucy and Pierre Le Bear reunited!

Lucy and Pierre Le Bear reunited!

Lucy spent the next morning going through Advanced ID skills with us, for when we encounter rarer species. This enthused us even more and we were eager to get back up on deck to practice our skills and have a chance to see some of these uncommon animals that the Bay of Biscay has to offer! Within an hour, we had our first blow ahead of the ship and then within minutes the second largest animal in the world surfaced and rolled forward within 150 meters of the ship! This is also the fastest whale in the seas and is known as the mighty Fin whale. The excitement was felt amongst all the Wildlife Officers as this was the first Whale of the season and as we moved further into the Bay of Biscay, our eyes were glued to the water! It wasn’t long before we saw the distinctive flash of yellow and grey which instantly identified the three Common dolphins which joined us for a fleeting visit next to the ship to say hello! After two hours, the weather got the better of us and we decided to call it a day surveying but were very happy Wildlife Officers after an excellent second day of training!

Deck watch with keen passengers

Deck watch with keen passengers

All in all we have had a very successful few days of training. Chantelle and Clare are staying on the Cap Finistere for another week of great sightings whilst Jess and Becky will be starting their adventure on the Brittany Ferries flagship the Pont Aven on Thursday.

Cap Finistere and Pont Aven Wildlife officers

Cap Finistere and Pont Aven Wildlife Officers

Keep an eye on our Facebook and twitter pages throughout the season for any unusual sightings of cetaceans we encounter. If you would like to become a member or find out more about ORCA please visit our web page.

Our Cap Finistere trivia question of the week is….How fast can a Fin Whale travel to give it the nickname ‘greyhound of the sea’? Read next weeks Cap Finistere blog to find out!

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