Posted by: orcaweb | June 15, 2016

Now you see us, now you don’t…

On Wednesday, Lucy and myself (Yolanda) boarded the Cap Finistere. After a meet and greet and a presentation, we went outside for our first deck watch of the week. Although the sea was lovely and calm, we didn’t spot any whales or dolphins. However, we saw lots of seabirds and met some really nice passengers, so it was still an enjoyable deck watch.

bird pic

A seabird glides above the water

The next day, we were up on deck for 5 am to make sure we didn’t miss any cetaceans. When we arrived, it was still too dark to survey but we got to see an incredible sunrise. The sea was calm and the sky was clear, making it ideal conditions for spotting cetaceans.

Sunrise pic

Sunrise over the Bay of Biscay

As we were admiring the view, something caught Lucy’s eye – a beaked whale! A few minutes later, a pod of common dolphins came splashing towards the ship. This pod was the first of many – over the course of the morning we saw about 240 common dolphins! We also saw several striped dolphins in mixed pods with the common dolphins, too.

4 common dolphins

A pod of Common Dolphins approach the ship

2 striped

Striped Dolphins

As we approached Spain, we had a fantastic sighting of a beaked whale. At first glance, we thought it was a Cuvier’s Beaked Whale, but when we looked through the photos, we began to suspect it might have been a Blainville’s Beaked Whale!  The photos have been sent to a beaked whale expert for confirmation. Blainville’s Beaked Whales are very rarely seen, so this will be a very exciting sighting if confirmed (watch this space!).

Mystery beaked whale

Blainville’s Beaked Whale (we hope…!)

Shortly before we arrived in Bilbao, we were treated to a sighting of Lucy’s favourite animals – pilot whales! A pod of about 10, including a mother and calf, were seen swimming slowly through the water – a lovely sighting to end a brilliant deck watch.

2 pilot whales

Pilot Whales

After a brief stop in Bilbao, we were back on deck. Over the course of the afternoon, we saw about 250 common and striped dolphins! Although some of these were attracted towards the ship, many were feeding, and were more interested in fish than in us! We also had a fantastic sighting of a tuna leaping out of the water. Lots of passengers joined us for our deck watches, and got to see these incredible animals.

common 12

A Common Dolphin swimming through the water

Our Friday morning deck watch was uneventful, but we had a very enjoyable children’s activity where we made cardboard cetaceans with 3 lovely children. In the evening, we held an ORCA quiz, with 12 teams. There were some fantastic scores – nobody scored less than half marks, and we had 4 winners!

On Saturday, the day began with a deck watch, where we saw several pods of common dolphins. After a presentation, we then held a children’s activity where we measured out the lengths of various whales and dolphins, and then played some whale and dolphin card games.  In the afternoon, we were back out on deck again. We saw several more pods of common dolphins, including a surprise pod really close to the Spanish coastline.

common 3

A Common Dolphin approaches the ship

Sunday morning’s deck watch was very foggy and we didn’t see any cetaceans, but we saw several gannets gliding majestically above the ship. After a very well attended presentation, we then held a children’s activity, where we made paper plate sea horses.

On Monday, we made some more seahorses in our children’s activity, and then headed up on deck. The sea was very rough, making it much harder to see cetaceans, although we met some lovely passengers.

Unfortunately, the sea was even rougher on Tuesday, so our hopes were not high for spotting cetaceans. However, we saw several pods of common dolphins bounding towards us through the waves. Several passengers, including some of the children who had been learning about cetaceans in Tuesday’s children’s activity, also got to see the dolphins, making it a really nice end to the week.

3 common dolphins

3 Common Dolphins splashing through the sea

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!

Cetacean love,



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