Jul19

A Quieter, but Interesting, English Channel

Categories // Bay of Biscay Wildlife Officer

A Quieter, but Interesting, English Channel

Find out what our Wildlife Officer and Wildlife Officer Placement have seen this week in the Bay of Biscay and English Channel. 

Back again after what feels like no time at all, and Wildlife Officers Heather and Alex have had another brilliant week. The Bay of Biscay has been quiet again this week animal-wise, lending only a few dolphins and mostly unidentified beaked whales. Imagine our delight therefore that the so called quieter waters have proved much more fruitful.

The coastal waters of the English Channel, around the northern edge of France and Brittany Islands and down to the continental slope, this is where the water depth reaches only up to 200m. We normally tend to find these waters very quiet with an occasional dolphin, minke whale or if we are very lucky and in mirror like condition the very cute harbour porpoises.

This week on our return Sunday voyage we rose bright and early to get up on deck to what was a beautiful morning.  We had a lovely sunrise that reflected perfectly on mirror-like conditions so we were very hopeful for sightings the French coastline was in sight. We were joined by a couple of optimistic early risers to see if they could spot some wildlife with us. However, time ticked by and we feared the quieter coastal waters were living up to their name. To keep us entertained we had a lovely view of French mainland, spotting various famous lighthouses and sea birds, particularly lots of gannets. Then just as one particularly keen gentlemen decided to go for breakfast, we spotted our first sighting. Difficult as they were to spot in the reflection of sun glittering on the surface a couple of dainty grey triangle fins were seen. Straight we grabbed for our binoculars trying hard to keep sight if these shy creatures, we had our first sighting of the morning, harbour porpoises. Then just like buses, as soon as we had that first sighting, a couple more quickly followed suit. We were surprised to spot couple more groups of these petit porpoises. It all happened very quickly, following the scene through binoculars that a big surprise took us next. Right in front of our viewing deck popped up something somewhat larger than the porpoises, but our first clue was the large footprint left behind. Lucky for all of those watching it came up again and to our delight we had a Minke whale! The whale proceeding to fast swim alongside and came up a good 6 times, meaning everyone with us got a good view of this lovely creature, sadly by the time we grabbed for the camera it decided to go camera shy. This was a great finish to our morning deck watch. We couldn’t believe our luck and our fellow spotters felt the same. even passengers who were having breakfast came up and told us they had seen something, turns out they had seen the Minke whale as well, now that’s what we called breakfast and a show!

As the day progressed, further sightings included a basking shark, a sunfish, the largest of all bony fish, and more Minke whales within the Channel. This just goes to show you never know what you could spot from our own shores. Believe it or not of the ninety known species of cetaceans in the world, around UK shores alone, depending on time of year and location we can see up to 25 of them. Proving that you really do not have to travel too far to see these mysterious and majestic animals.