Posted by: orcaweb | June 26, 2017

Au revoir, adios and good bye!

Hi everyone, welcome to the last installment of the Cap Finistère blog that will be written by myself, Katie. It is my final week on board and I am feeling very sad that I will have to say goodbye to the whales and dolphins of the Bay of Biscay as I have had a great time watching out for them and had an amazing three months! I’d like to thank both ORCA and Brittany Ferries for having me as it has been an absolute pleasure.

This week, Hazel and I felt as if we were welcomed on board by the ocean on Wednesday, as it delivered a beautiful sea state in the channel! We were therefore able to spot a Minke whale (YAY), which was my first one this season and only the second one we have seen on board the Cap Finistère this year. It is a shallow water species and has a very distinctive arched back and upright, curved dorsal fin when it surfaces, so we were able to identify it immediately and I was of course thrilled! We were also lucky enough to see some shy harbour porpoises swimming away and also a pod of Risso’s dolphins! This was another exciting sighting for me as it is only the second time I have seen them. Unfortunately what with all of the excitement these sighting caused, we weren’t able to catch any photos… Sorry!

The following day we saw some lovely common dolphins; these have become my favourite cetacean in the Bay of Biscay because they are so playful and we can always rely on them to show up and impress all of us!

CD 1

A common dolphin, my favourite Biscay cetacean.

We also had a sighting of a whale as we were right on top of the depth change area in the middle of the Bay of Biscay. Amazingly, we heard it exhale heavily when it first appeared which is what drew the attention of many passengers to it and we saw it exhale a second time which created a busy blow. My first instinct was that it was a beaked whale as it had a very rotund body and small dorsal fin, although we normally see them further south in the bay. Unfortunately I wasn’t quick enough with the camera so couldn’t get a photo, but if I were to hazard a guess I would say we saw a northern bottlenose whale!

Later on that afternoon we saw some more whales! I know, how great is that?! This time we could definitely identify them and they were none other than a trio of groovy Cuvies (which translates to three Cuvier’s beaked whales)! On the same deck watch we saw more pods of common dolphins and also a pod of striped dolphins too, so it was certainly turning out to be a great week!

On Saturday it was a beautiful sunny day but there was quite a rough sea state. Nevertheless the common dolphins didn’t disappoint, as in just the afternoon deck watch alone, we saw 56 of them; 4 of which were calves!

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Here are the common dolphins swimming towards the front of the ship.

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Mother and calf common dolphins, aren’t they lovely!

On Sunday I was on deck for my last sailing past Brittany and it was a beautiful sunny day so I got some brilliant views of the lighthouses and coastline. This area is also great for bird life and we saw cormorants, kittiwakes, Manx shearwaters many gulls and some young gannets that must have been less than a year old!

lighthouse edit 4

The orange and white lighthouse is called La pointe Saint Mathieu with an adjoining abbey on its left.

 

cormorant 5

Here is a cormorant we saw near the Brittany coastline.

On Monday I had to say my final au revoirs to the French crew that disembarked for the crew change in Roscoff, which was sad as I have really enjoyed working alongside them! We did a deck watch in the afternoon which began in the northern part of the bay and although we didn’t see any cetaceans, we saw 12 blue sharks (yay for sharks) as it was yet another beautifully clear day!

shark6

This is one of the beautiful blue sharks that swam by the ship!

Later that evening, Hazel and I decided to go and see the sunset and we were also lucky enough to get a sighting of three beautiful pilot whales very close by in the evening light! It was stunning and neither of us could contain our excitement. Fortunately there were a number of passengers that witnessed them too and this certainly was one of my favourite sightings I have had all season!

pilot7

Three beautiful pilot whales swam by close to the ship during sunset on Monday evening.

On my final day we had another beautiful sea state and were lucky enough to see two separate beaked whale sightings! In our first deck watch we saw a group of 6 beaked whales, yes s.i.x.! That is the most I have ever seen together and although we are not 100% sure, we think they were northern bottlenose whales! Later on that day we also saw two more Cuvier’s beaked whales so I don’t know what is in the water at the moment but it certainly seems to be making the beaked whales appear!

NB whale 8

Here is one of the 6 beaked whales we saw. We think it is a northern bottlenose, what do you think?

So it has been a very pleasant last week indeed, but I can’t go without talking about some more of the highlights of my time on board the Cap Finistère. First and foremost, there was the breaching fin whale which I saw in my second week. Yes, I’m sure everyone remembers that week; I for one will never forget seeing such a huge animal propel itself out of the water 5 times in a row. It was a beautiful sight to see and now a memory that I will treasure; it is amazing to think that we share our planet with such majestic creatures.

finwhale9

Here it is again, the breaching fin whale seen at the start of the season. An incredible sighting and one I will never forget.

I also have some other sightings that make it into my highlights: During week 9 I had a fabulous common dolphin sighting of a 40 strong pod which went on for about 5 minutes. One of the reasons I loved this particular sighting so much is because it was a beautiful sunny day, the water was crystal clear and the sea state was behaving! I was also lucky enough to see 2 Cuvier’s beaked whales together really close to the ship once, which we identified as a male and female and I am thrilled to have seen this because I am convinced they were in love!

CD10

Here is a final picture of a beautiful mother and dolphin calf from my favourite common dolphin sighting this season.

Finally I must mention one of the most important highlights of all, which was having the opportunity to work with my two fantastic colleagues, Jess and Hazel. These girls are both extremely knowledgeable about all kinds of wildlife and I feel as if I have learnt a lot from them. There has also been non-stop laughter, intriguing conversations and some great memories made. I wish them all the best in the future and I am very glad I had the opportunity to work with them! Thanks girls, you are both stars!

Thank you for reading. Au revoir, adios and good bye!

Katie

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!

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