A Humpback Whale sighted in latest Biscay survey

27th May 2014

Plymouth- Santander- Portsmouth Survey 18th-20th May 2014

We would like to thank Captain Quere and his crew for being so accommodating to the ORCA survey team.

Perfect conditions after departure from Plymouth of a Sea-state 1 facilitated fine viewing of harbour porpoises and a Minke Whale with Bottlenose Dolphins putting in an appearance.

At 5.34am the next day Common Dolphins showed before we had commenced surveying. The sea-state increased from a 1 to 4 and Common Dolphins were the trend over this deep water area until we sighted a spectacular splash of water at 2 k’s which turned out to be a breaching Sperm Whale. A little later on we had a Bottlenose Whale cross the bow.  We had 3 unidentified beaked whales and Striped Dolphins.

On our return journey the weather became choppier with a sea-state 4 we had more Common Dolphins, a Cuvier’s and most surprisingly of all a Humpback, blows of which we had been watching for a while, reminiscent of gray whale.  We were a little perplexed until it fluked, seen and confirmed by three of us.  This is the second Humpback I have seen in Biscay, the first being with Chris Bielby and team in 2010.

The co-ordinates for this sighting were (viz- 44.32'369N - 004.04'238W) in water 4000m deep very close to the area called 'Jovellanos Seamount'. Likely to create nutrient rich upwelling's which might provide a good feeding ground for foraging cetaceans including the humpbacks. We wonder if there are any scientific reports concerning the area around that seamount which we could research to establish what might be around there that might prove attractive to whales.  At a similar time 2 Fin Whales were identified.

We had more sightings of striped and Common Dolphins and possible Risso’s. The last day was misty with rain and we did not see one animal and very few birds. For more in depth info on Humpback sighting you could look at Elfyn’s Facebook page or Orca Facebook.

Species Number Sighted
Minke Whale 1
Bottlenose Dolphins 5
Harbour Porpoises 11
Common Dolphins 599
Sperm Whale 1
Unidentified Dolphins 15
Striped Dolphins 11
Unidentified Beaked Whales 3
Common/Striped Dolphins 28/14
Cuvier's Beaked Whale 1
Humpback Whale 1
Risso's Dolphin 3
Fin Whales 2
Bottlenose Whale 2

Bird Sightings:

Gannet, Fulmar, Kittiwake, Manx Shearwater, Cory's Shearwater, European Storm Petrel, Great Skua (bonxie), Sandwich Tern, 'Comic' Terns (Arctic or common), Guillemot, Puffin, Razorbill, Yellow Legged and Herring Gull, Red-Throated Diver, a flock of 10 Common Scoter (4 male & and 6 female), Swallow, Swifts.

Insects- Hummingbird Hawkmoth, butterfly sp. (looked like a painted lady, a migratory species).

I would like to thank Jayne Dobner, Andy Gilbert and Elfyn Pugh for being such an excellent team and a pleasure to survey with.

Cait Cochrane, Team Leader