Aug28

Baby Boom in the Bay of Biscay

Categories // Bay of Biscay Wildlife Officer

Baby Boom in the Bay of Biscay

Emma and Lily have a week surrounded by baby dolphins in the beautiful Bay of Biscay

It’s Lily here on the second week of my placement on the Cap Finistère, where I discovered tired eyes mean lots of sightings! It’s been such a busy week for spotting things, and I say "things" because some of them were questionable. There was plenty of mysterious splashes and blows this week. On one of these mysterious days we found ourselves becoming frustrated, seemingly spotting nothing at all, until… ORCAS? Two massive black fins sticking out at us in front of the ship soon disappeared, a strong glare from the sunrise stole our chance to confirm what we saw. Questioning ourselves we thought it over, no other life around for hours, big tall black fins, looked like a big black dolphin, small subtle blow, well it must be orcas!

Excited with our rare spot we felt the week couldn’t get much better. We were wrong as we were about to experience the now named Bay of Biscay Baby Boom. Both common and striped dolphin calves and their mothers seemingly joining us for the ride to show off their impressive synchronised breaching skills. Nearly every other pod had a beautiful little bouncy bean to show us, it’s so reassuring to see that the dolphins are still choosing to breed and raise their young in the area! The population seems to be booming, which is a great indication that our oceans are still somewhat healthy despite the known threats.

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I’m so impressed with their ability to keep up with the rest of the pod, when some of them are so small. I felt the need to read into calves more and actually was impressed to discover that mother dolphins speak to their calves in the womb, teaching them their signature whistle (their own special name) before they are even born. Not only that but mother and calf actually synchronise their breaching not because it looks impressive, but because the mother dolphin is teaching the calf the need to surface to breath. I’ve felt so honoured to see these young creatures enjoying their family time so close to the ship, and really hope we keep seeing them so confidently joining in with such lovely natural dolphin play.

It’s Emma here now, for the second half of this week’s blog; Lily and I have enjoyed our first week together on board which treated us to beautiful flat seas and amazing sightings. One of our favourite sightings this week has been the beautiful striped dolphins. They have amazed us with their acrobatics as they fling their bodies high into the air and splash down onto their backs, a distinct behaviour we have continued to spot in this species after they always appear so close to the ship.

Whilst we are out on deck, we frequently see the crew in the bridge in front of our deck getting excited over sightings that we are having. This week, one of our best sightings was after we spotted some of the crew with their phones taking pictures almost directly below – we immediately looked down and told passengers to keep their eyes out too… and from underneath the waves suddenly we saw a fin whale! This huge whale was swimming on its side along the ship, and we could not believe our eyes, genuinely unsure if we were dreaming. Lily and I stood shaking in excitement when we spotted there was a second whale directly behind it, also on its side, which we thought was most likely a calf, even though it still seemed huge next to the ship!

Along with our incredible sightings, the dedication and knowledge of some of our honorary young Wildlife Officers who have stuck with us for the entirety of some long cold deck watches this week has truly impressed us. We have met some definite future marine biologists in Ramon, Beth and many other lovely children on board, sharing some of our best encounters with them. As the summer holidays are coming towards the end, we are really going to miss the incredible questions and stories they have for us!

As Lily and I set sail again for another week, we are looking forward to the mysteries and sightings that the Bay continues to throw at us!