Posted by: orcaweb | April 15, 2015

Peaceful waters and playful dolphins.

Tranquil Thursdays really did live up to its name this week with beautifully calm seas throughout the Bay of Biscay all day. The flat ocean made for perfect dolphin spotting with over 160 Common dolphins seen leaping in the bay from 20 different sightings. In the afternoon we were joined on board by the Taylor family, who last week on their southbound crossing had kept us company on deck throughout treacherous weather, but this time they were well rewarded by continuous sightings in the calm seas until the sunset. We were also joined once again by Gavin (who we had met in our first week) and he also entertained us up on deck with stories from his bird watching trip in Spain.

The Taylor family and Gavin helping us spot dolphins.

The Taylor family and Gavin helping us spot dolphins.

The Taylor family joined us again bright and early on Friday morning to watch the beautiful sunrise in the English Channel and we spotted two whale blows in the distance over the calm waters. It was the first sightings of whales in the channel this season, which made us excited for the possibility of seeing the illusive Minke whale in the coastal waters. After the deck watch we went downstairs to get creative with the younger passengers and made whales out of paper plates. It was amazing to see how inventive children can be; we had whales all colours of the rainbow!

Whale plate craft 1Whale plate craft 2

Saturday morning was quiet over the northern shelf just into the Bay of Biscay, but our patience was rewarded when we returned up on deck after giving a presentation to many interested passengers. We arrived to be told that we had just missed a pod of dolphins whilst doing the talk (typical!), but soon enough we had over 50 Common dolphins racing towards the ship. We spotted them near the horizon giving us plenty of time to show everyone that had joined us up on deck. The water in the bay was mirror calm again, so they all had a fantastic show of common dolphins leaping in the clear waters and riding the waves of the wake. Two children were extremely excited to see their first ever dolphins, and very lucky to have such a good sighting. After a great deck watch being joined by over 50 people, we arrived into Santander early giving us some time to relax in the sun after our crazy three days of sightings.

CommonCommon leap 2Common leap 1

The Common dolphins appeared again on Sunday morning, this time close to the Brittany coast as we navigated around the rocky islands and light houses. A passenger was extremely lucky to step out on deck 10 as we spotted the splashes of a large pod of Common dolphins feeding with Guillemots, and he was excited by his immaculate timing to this surprise encounter. Sunday afternoon proved hectic but extremely fun as we played Cetacean memory games and amazed 30 excited children by demonstrating to them the size of the Bay of Biscay Cetaceans. We then joined them and the rest of the entertainment team with a treasure hunt around the ship.


Surveying for dolphins around the Brittany islands


Lighthouses on the Brittany coast

Despite just seeing the Common dolphins this week, we have had some amazing encounters of almost 300 dolphins as they playfully leaped towards the ship in the calm waters. Along with these cetaceans we have seen a lot of birds including the Great Skua, terns, loads of Gannets (including a few juveniles) and a couple of terrestrial birds – a Kestrel seen in the middle of the English Channel, miles away from land and a Collared dove catching a free ride on the ship!

Collar Dove

Collared dove catching a free ride


Kestrel spotted in the English Channel

The answer to our trivia question last week is:

Striped dolphin, if you looked carefully at the photo you would have seen the light band running up to its dorsal fin, distinguishing it from a Common dolphin.

This week’s trivia question:

What is the largest pod size of Common dolphins recorded in European waters?

Clue: check out the ORCA website!

I hope you enjoyed reading our blog this week, we have had a fantastic week on the calm seas. Don’t forget to check back next week to find the answer of our trivia question and see what other great cetaceans we can spot in the Bay of Biscay!

Clare and Tiffany.


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