A Sowerby’s and Sperm Whale Survey

29th Apr 2014

Plymouth - Santander - Portsmouth 20th April 2014

Summary of Sightings

Species Number Sighted
Unidentified Whale Blows 4
Fin Whales 10
Sperm Whales 4
Cuvier's Beaked Whales 8
Sowerby's Beaked Whales 4
Minke Whale 1
Common Dolphins 374
Striped Dolphins 15
Bottlenose Dolphins 36
Harbour Porpoise 5
Common or Striped Dolphins 25
Unidentified Beaked Whales 6
Unidentified Dolphins 53

We left Plymouth and sailed out into a sea state 4 but only had one sighting, this being a single Harbour Porpoise.

The next morning in Biscay we had an improving sea state and were confident that we were going to have some sightings. After only minutes of starting the survey we had two sightings of dolphins, probably Common, and then ten minutes later we were treated to four Sperm Whales close to the ship. Next a single Cuvier's Beaked Whale showed well and soon after four Sowerby's Beaked Whales appeared in front of the ship and all this within a magical 17 minutes. More dolphin sightings then followed until 07:41 when a distant blow was seen and then a single Beaked Whale followed by two more Cuvier's Beaked Whales, Common Dolphins were again showing well until 09:43 when we had a sighting of a distant Beaked Whale. As we neared the coast of Spain we were treated to a school of around 15 Bottlenose Dolphins to end an incredible morning.

After our short stop in Santander we were soon setting off on the return sailing and eager to start surveying and just into the survey we saw twenty Bottlenose Dolphins ahead of the ship. Next came a sighting of four Beaked Whales and then a single Cuvier's Beaked Whale followed by many sightings of Common Dolphins and a single Sunfish. At 17:21 we had our first Rorqual blows, these were Fin Whales and sightings of these and Common Dolphins continued until 18:06 when we saw three Cuvier's Beaked Whales. More dolphin sightings followed until 18:43 when we were treated to a breaching Minke Whale, a bit of a surprise for us as this whale is usually associated with shallower waters. As the afternoon progressed we had more Common Dolphin and Fin Whale sightings and even a close sighting of the very acrobatic Striped Dolphins. With Fin Whale blows seen in the last light of the day we all agreed that this had been an amazing day.

The next day in the English channel was quiet but we still managed four sightings of Harbour Porpoise and a smashing end to the survey.

The survey had produced an incredible 58 sightings made up of 545 animals

As always, many thanks to Brittany Ferries for their continued support in making the surveys possible.

- Paul Burley