Posted by: orcaweb | May 13, 2015

Sperm whale makes its debut for Pont-Aven passengers!

This week started with a force nine storm! And I (Jess) have to say I could free myself turning green before we even made it up on deck! It was some serious weather! Becky and I, accompanied by a very dedicated bird watcher, battled to stay standing against the wind and enormous swell for a long as we could. However a sea state seven meant that we could not continue to survey.

I couldn’t even keep the camera straight in the wind, not ideal conditions for spotting cetaceans!

I couldn’t even keep the camera straight in the wind, not ideal conditions for spotting cetaceans!

We gave a presentation to a brilliant audience. The storm meant that we were very late arriving in Santander which actually gave us and the passengers more time surveying in the Bay of Biscay. Amazingly the weather had calmed down a lot by the afternoon and the late arrival worked in our favour. In the first half hour of a watch we got a view of a huge blow which likely belonged to a Fin whale, this was the first time I had properly seen its massive blow and the passengers we very impressed. The Common dolphins were out and about as usual. We see these dolphins almost every time we sail through the bay, which is unsurprising as they are the most abundant cetacean in the European Atlantic. I never get tired of seeing the beautiful hour-glass pattern on their sides and the way they leap out of the waves. They are stunning, and a wonderful sighting for a first time wildlife watching passenger to inspire them about marine life!

Common dolphins look small from the ferry but are actually about two meters long

Common dolphins look small from the ferry but are actually about two meters long

As we approached Santander in the early evening we had a real treat! We saw a whale blow that was unlike any I had seen before and Becky recognised it straight away. She shouted ‘Sperm!’ and sure enough, I saw a short, bushy blow that came out at a forty five degree angle. It was a Sperm whale! It was likely that this Sperm whale was a male as the females stay further south in warmer waters at this time of year, whilst the males head north in search food. What an excellent end to the day!

Did you know Sperm whales are sexually dimorphic? This means that males and females are different in appearance, with the males being much larger than the females.

Sperm whale blow!

WEEK 6 066

Sperm whale’s back. Did you know Sperm whales are sexually dimorphic? This means that males and females are different in appearance, with the males being much larger than the females.

The ships delay meant that when our Thursday morning watch came we were still in the Bay of Biscay, a cetacean hotspot due to its phytoplankton bloom and variety of underwater habitats. We saw one mysterious whale blow and some Common dolphins feeding. We haven’t seen many Common dolphins in the coastal areas, suggesting that they are getting their prey from the deeper pelagic waters.

We didn’t see any cetaceans on our afternoon watch, but we did have some bird excitement soon after! We were typing up our data in the bar when a gentleman approached us with a little bird in his hand! It had landed on deck 9 and flown into the window and the passenger told us how it appeared distressed and tired. We looked after it in our cabin until we reached land where we released it. It was later identified as a Meadow pipit.

Meadow pipits breed in open country on heath and moors and are usually seen in coastal meadows, pastures and bogs.

Meadow pipits breed in open country on heath and moors and are usually seen in coastal meadows, pastures and bogs.

On our morning Roscoff to Plymouth crossing we were joined on deck 10 by some musicians, a bagpipe group accompanied by some traditional dancing! We loved listening to live music as we watched the sea in hope of spotting Wildlife. We had some spectacular views of Gannets diving but no marine mammals.

Deck 10 on board entertainment!

Deck 10 on board entertainment!

Gannets have a two meter wingspan and can dive into the sea at a speed of 60mph!

Gannets have a two meter wingspan and can dive into the sea at a speed of 60mph!

Monday morning was a cracking deck watch! The sea was beautifully calm over the Bay of Biscay which meant we could see any cetacean activity. The first appearance was a mixed pod of Common dolphins and Striped dolphins. These species are often seen in mixed pods and sometimes they interbreed and produce hybrid calves.

Not long after we caught sight of a mighty blow, followed by the roll of a back that could only belong to a Fin whale. We had reports of Pilot whales on the other side of the ship and excitement certainly picked up amongst passengers when we saw a Cuvier’s beaked whale! There were no scars on this animal so it could have been a female or a juvenile male.

Cuvier’s beaked whales recently broke the record for the worlds deepest diving mammal. They can dive over 3000m deep and can stay submerged for 2 hours and 17 minutes!

Cuvier’s beaked whales broke the record for the worlds deepest diving mammal. They can dive over 3000m deep and can stay submerged for well over 2 hours!

We also had reports of a Storm petrel! A great bird! In the afternoon we were overloaded with Common dolphins. We had over twenty sightings of them, seeing around a hundred individuals!

Common dolphins

Common dolphins

And just as we thought the cetacean rush was over, we had another Cuvier’s beaked whale! A fantastic end to a brilliant day in Biscay and a very successful week!

Look out for our blog next week to find out what Rose Massingham and I have been spotting in our diverse and magnificent European oceans.

Jess and Becky

If you would like to find out more about these incredible creatures, learn more about ORCA, or how to become a member, please visit our website.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Categories

%d bloggers like this: