Sei , Minke & Killer Whales, Risso’s and Striped Dolphins spotted from the Quest for Adventure

16th May 2013

Summary of Sightings

Species Number Sighted
Unidentified Dolphins 331
Common Dolphins 64
Striped Dolphins 605
Risso's Dolphins 13
Medium Cetaceans 1
Unidentified Whales 5
Pilot Whales 30
Minke Whales 6
Sei Whales 1
Sperm Whales 1
Killer Whales (Orca) 12
Sunfish 13
Loggerhead Turtles 12
Tuna 15
Mediterranean Spearfish 1

Hi all

We've been back a week from the first Quest cruise this year and we had a great trip.

Although this was  a short trip and we had few sea days, we were up early to get surveys in before reaching ports and as usual, were the last to be served dinner in the evenings, rushing in from the decks at last light.  We did however clock up over 1,000 cetaceans across seven species, including some incredibly inquisitive Risso's dolphins and, although they were way out at sea, some unmistakable and magnificent orca.

Many thanks to the team: Becca Walker (Team Leader), Stephen Marsh (Wildlife Officer), Fiona West and David Cunniffe, who provided the following write-up.

Not included in this report are the few hours on the last night that we had cruising up the River Guadalquivir through the magnificent Donana National Park to Seville at dusk.  We were off effort and so able to really enjoy the pink haze of thousands of Greater Flamingo, the distinctive silhouettes of hundreds of Glossy Ibis flying to their roosts, Black Storks, Avocets, Black Kites, Shelduck and numbers of Mallard - often overlooked but still a lovely duck!


Monday 29th April (Barcelona to Port Mahon)

The weather was clearing after the day's rain,  but the Sea State (5) made observations a little difficult, however, a pod of up to 15 dolphins was spotted at 18.50. Birds seen included: Shearwaters, Petrels, Little Gulls and possibly Audouin's Gulls.

Tuesday 30th April (Port Mahon en route to Gibraltar)

The weather had greatly improved and sighting conditions were excellent as we left Menorca. Shortly after leaving the harbour we encountered our first dolphin and this was  soon followed by an impressive pod of approximately 100 Striped Dolphins. Soon after 18.00 hours we saw our first whale blow in the distance and as we got closer we could identify the whale as a Sei Whale, thereafter we saw two more large whales, unfortunately not seen clearly enough to positively identify the species, and one Minke Whale. Bird species included a very large gathering of cormorants, shearwaters and petrels.


Wednesday 1st May (En route to Gibraltar)

The team assembled on the Sundeck before first light, ready for a full day's observations and it soon became clear that the sighting conditions were excellent. The first pod of up to 30 Striped dolphins was seen at 07.45. and throughout the day, there were approximately 30 separate sightings of dolphin pods, culminating in a "super pod" of approximately 300 animals seen at 20.00 hours.

Pilot Whales were seen at various times in the day and two pods of Risso's Dolphins came very close to the side of the ship and appeared to be very curious. From 10.00 hours  a series of Loggerhead turtles passed very close and the calm weather conditions allowed us to see Tuna and even a Mediterranean Spearfish leap clear of the water.

The evening supplied perhaps the most exciting sightings of the day, when, in the space of 20 minutes, a Sperm Whale, a small group of Pilot whales and the "superpod" of approximately 300 dolphins were seen.

Birds seen through the day included: Yellow wagtail, Swifts, Pallid swifts, and various warblers.


Thursday 2nd May (Gibraltar to Seville)

"Quest for Adventure" left Gibraltar and headed for the Straits in bright weather and we had high expectations of seeing some interesting marine life; however, a poor sea state – a very choppy 5 – meant that viewing conditions were less than ideal. A group of 20 dolphins was seen amongst all the white water and some Flying fish were also seen. The best sighting of the day was a group of 12 Killer Whales (Orca) seen at 17.00 hours.

Birds seen included: Great Skua, Gannets, Black terns and Whiskered terns


All the following species seen from the Quest for Adventure



Cory's Shearwater
Yelkouan Shearwater
Mediterranean Shearwater
Petrels (Unidentified sp)
Mediterranean Gull
Yellow-legged Gull
Little Gull
Audouin's Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Arctic Skua
Whiskered Terns
Common or Arctic Terns
Black Terns


Yellow Wagtails
Sub-Alpine Warblers
Willow Warblers
Turtle Doves
Greater Flamingos
Medium to large size raptor
Black Kite
Pallid Swifts
Grey Heron
Glossy Ibis
Night Heron
Stork (unidentified sp)