Posted by: orcaweb | April 28, 2015

Dolphins put on a show for Pont Aven passengers!

Tuesday brought us a wave of new passengers and a wave of new bird species! On our afternoon watch from Portsmouth we were joined by two excellent young birders from Oxford who helped us spot Sandwich Terns, Fulmars, a flock of twenty-two Brent geese, and even an Egret. Amazingly we also had some turtle doves follow us all the way from Portsmouth to Santander.

Turtle doves following the ship

Turtle doves following the ship

Rose with our dedicated passengers

Rose with our dedicated passengers

We were also joined by ship expert Andy who gave us lots of information on the fishing boats, shipping containers and coasters we could see. It was great to learn more about the types of ships and the people that use and share the Bay of Biscay with its marine life. And we certainly saw some excellent marine life too!

Rose and Andy enjoying the sunshine!

Rose and Andy enjoying the sunshine!

On Wednesday morning Rose and I (Jess), along with some dedicated early rising passengers, were treated with a glimpse of three Pilot whales just five minutes before we finished our morning watch. We also had some excellent views of gannets in their different stages of yearly plumage, which enabled us to identify the age of the juveniles.

A Juvenile Gannet

A Juvenile Gannet

The last minute pilot whales left us satisfied as we went to give our first presentation of the week to roughly fifty people. This was a very successful presentation delivered by Rose as we then had twenty passengers join us for the afternoon deck watch, and they were not disappointed! The Common dolphins were performing for them, showing off the beautiful hourglass patterns on their flanks. It was lovely to see how the passengers were using what they had learned in the presentation to identify the dolphins themselves, and they were in for even more of a treat when a group of Cuvier’s beaked whales appeared. Their blows and the scarred backs on the males were clearly visible and the passengers were excited to see such an unusual, deep diving creature, a rare treat!

A male and female Cuvier' beaked whale, photograph by Daniel Ka

A male and female Cuvier’ beaked whale, photograph by Daniel Ka

A beautiful Cuvier's beaked whale

A beautiful Cuvier’s beaked whale

Rose with lots of passengers up on deck 10

Rose with lots of passengers up on deck 10

It is such a fantastic feeling when your patience is rewarded with a sighting, and if that wasn’t enough, we later had another group of six Cuvier’s-beaked whales which included a male that was almost completely white with scars, which showed his old age.

A group of Cuvier's beaked whales

A group of Cuvier’s beaked whales

Thursday morning brought no Cetacean sightings as we headed to Plymouth, however we were lucky enough to see spectacular views of the Brittany coastline, and Xavier the Radio Officer joined us on deck to tell us stories of Ushant Island and haunted lighthouses!

The beautiful Brittany coastline

The beautiful Brittany coastline

Ushant Island and lighthouse

Ushant Island and lighthouse

I then gave a presentation to a small but eager audience where Rose and I met some wildlife guides from Gibraltar, who told us tales of Killer whales and Whale sharks they had encountered around the Southern area of Spain.
On Saturday we explored the city of Cork during our time in port which was a lovely chance to recover our land legs! Our afternoon deck watch brought a lot of wind and rain making our visibility very low. After two hours of battling the elements I was beginning to lose hope of seeing any cetaceans, when suddenly a dolphin that we had not seen before jumped out of the sea. It was a large Bottlenose dolphin, followed by two more, a lovely surprise that made the rain all worth it!

The back end of a Bottlenose dolphin

The back end of a Bottlenose dolphin

I was really looking forward to getting out into the Bay of Biscay on Monday, especially after the success we had last week. Surprisingly we had no whale sightings, but we were inundated with Common dolphins! And they are always an absolute pleasure, especially when our patient passengers are enthusiastic and delighted to see them.

Common dolphins by Daniel Ka

Common dolphins by Daniel Ka

Common dolphin jumping

Common dolphin jumping

We have met some wonderful passengers this week that have all been on great journeys and come from many different backgrounds, and it has been a joy to talk to and learn from them.
Keep an eye out for our blog next week to find out what Wildlife Officer Becky has been up to and to hopefully see some pictures of the front half of dolphins!

The back end of a Common dolphin!

The back end of a Common dolphin!

To find out more about ORCA and how you can become a member please visit our website.

Rose and Jess

 

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