Posted by: orcaweb | July 13, 2016

Whale Watching Heaven in the Channel


Hi, I’m Mary a trainee wildlife officer and after my first exciting week aboard the Cap Finistere with Yolanda and the ecstasy of spotting orcas, Lucy joined me for my second week. What a start, a mirror calm channel and minkw whale, blue shark, ocean sunfish and numerous harbour porpoise were enjoyed by all out on deck on Wednesday evening’s deck watch – it was whale watching heaven.

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mirror calm reflection

On Thursday, our first morning in the bay produced several pods of common dolphins and a close encounter with a fin whale, after Lucy’s presentation on leaving Bilbao, right on cue, as if scripted from the rear window we enjoyed 2 pods of dolphins leaping in the wake, the first common and the second acrobatic striped dolphins.

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Towards the end of the day, as we approached the northern shelf of the bay we encountered several small pods of common dolphins and recorded splashes as “other” but on examining the photos they turned out to be tuna as seen below.

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Then what appeared to be 3 whales blowing, confusing us with their differing blows as they passed us but on looking at the photos it appears that it was only 2 animals, one a rorqual and the other appearing to have a V shaped blow, maybe you would like to make a suggestion as to the second whale blow?

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Friday we awoke back in the channel, where we saw 2 harbour porpoise and I conducted my first full quiz, which seemed to go without a hitch and participants said they had enjoyed it.

Up early for the northern shelf in the hope of catching a glimpse of the orca, we were invited on to the bridge to be told they had just been spotted on the port side of the ship, such a shame as we were confined to the starboard side but whilst on the bridge we had our first sighting of the day, common dolphins but with a separate larger dolphin, possibly a Risso’s dolphin amongst them.

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At our children’s activities, having just finished measuring out the length of all the cetaceans which can be seen within the Bay of Biscay, to add a final flourish, a fin whale passed the ship giving the children a good sighting before disappearing on the horizon. We finished the day with a pod of striped dolphins feeding in front of the ship and then leaping in the wake and a Cuvier’s beaked whale close to the ship. I was later pleased to find I had managed to capture such clear image of such a beautiful animal.

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The following two days we were able to find several frequent small pods of common dolphins, these sightings were greeted by cheers of delight by the children, one of whom managed to take some lovely photos.

On Tuesday we left Bilbao with rough seas, unable to be on effort for much of the day but this did not stop us finding some striped and common dolphins and a sunfish to the delight of our more hardy passengers and especially a young girl so pleased to have seen her first dolphins.

Looking forward to next week’s adventures!  Bye for now, Mary.

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 collect our vital scientific data, then please visit our website for more information!



  1. Nice write up Mary.

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