Posted by: orcaweb | September 23, 2015

Farewell Fins and Friends

So here we are, I (Lucy) find myself in my final week on board the Cap Finistere as a trainee Wildlife Officer, and what a week! On Wednesday I was reunited with Tiffany and was looking forward to showing her how much I had come along since our first week together at the end of August. The weather was starting to calm after the previous week’s storms, however we started the week with a sea state eight in the channel so our first day back together did not bring us the sightings we had been hoping for. Thursday brought fog and rain but this didn’t stop us from getting out on deck at sunrise. We were soon rewarded for our commitments with a couple of whale blows, one being a definite fin whale and the other a possible sperm whale. Tuna fish also leapt from the water in a mad frenzy indicating that things were looking up for me and Tiff.

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A fin whale surfacing to breathe.

After a productive day of presentations and passenger engagement we headed into our second deck watch feeling hopeful. Our first sighting came in the form of a sunfish, I really love these animals and it is always a mood booster to see these strange and unusual creatures sauntering past the ship. More tuna fish followed and then came the striped dolphins, four pods in total, moving through the waves at a good enough pace for us to identify them confidently. Another two whale blows rounded off our Thursday afternoon nicely.

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Striped dolphins giving us a show.

As in previous weeks, Saturday brought us some of our best sightings. Striped, common and bottlenose dolphins all made an appearance throughout the day. Pilot whales passed by in their slow and graceful manner, fin whale blows could be seen in the distance, tuna splashed around us and we even caught sight of an unidentified shark and even a medium cetacean, potentially a beaked whale making a solo journey through the bay.

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Common Dolphins leaping through the bay.

Sunday greeted us with the best sea state we’d seen in weeks. A beautifully flat and calm sea state two meant our job of spotting cetaceans became much easier. Lots of common dolphins came bounding through the idyllic views and bottlenose dolphins were also seen giving a show to some tourists in a rib off the French islands, much as they were last week. It did make me wonder whether they were in fact the same pod, resident to the area.

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A bottlenose dolphin off the Brittany coastline.

On Monday morning I woke up feeling a little gloomy that my adventure with ORCA was coming to an end, I think the dolphins sensed this as from the moment we stepped outside we were greeted by common dolphins and they just kept coming in. For four hours it was pod after pod with the end of the day totalling 13 pods of these beautiful animals. Four sunfish also made an appearance, waving their fins above the waves as they passed the ship. It’s fair to say I went to bed that night much happier than I had woken.

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A Sunfish at the waters surface.

As if I had spoken too soon, we left Bilbao on Tuesday morning and headed into another storm within the bay. The decks were closed and after giving my final presentation we were unable to start our deck watch with huge swells, a sea state of 9 and above and spray that would soak anyone brave enough to step outside.

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The sun rising over a cloudy sea.

I am so grateful for the experiences I have been able to enjoy whilst on board with both Tiffany and Chantelle. A huge thank you to them both for making it such a fun and memorable time. Thank you to ORCA for giving me this chance and providing me with invaluable cetacean spotting skills and knowledge. Thank you to all of the passengers who have attended our presentations and quizzes, donated to our cause and shown such an enthusiastic interest in the work we do and the animals we protect. A massive thanks to Brittany Ferries and their amazing crew, I’ve never felt so at home and the support I have received is greatly appreciated.

So there we have it. Thank you to everyone who has been keeping up with my adventure, I hope it has been an interesting read. I will leave you all in the capable hands of Tiffany and Chantelle for the last week of the season and please keep up to date with all of ORCA’s good work.

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A beautiful rainbow over the bay of Biscay.

Last week’s trivia question was:What is the main difference between male and female pilot whales when identifying the species at sea? Please comment below with your answers.

The answer is: Male pilot whales have a very wide and stocky distinctive dorsal fin. Females have a much more dolphin like and curved dorsal fin.

This week’s and the final trivia question of the season is: How many species have we seen from the Cap Finistere this season? Please comment below with your answers.

If you would like to make a donation to help fund the fantastic work that ORCA do, or to become a member and train to become a Marine Mammal Surveyor to help us to collect our vital scientific data, then please visit our website for more information!

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