9 May 2018

9 May 18 - West African Pelagic - Day Nine: Long-finned Pilot Whales In Biscay

During our time in the South Western corner of the Bay of Biscay on the West African Pelagic, we had had some early morning views of a Fin Whale, as well as, some nice encounters with Short-beaked Common Dolphins & feeding Seabirds. In addition to these Cetaceans, we encountered a small pod of Long-finned Pilot Whales after breakfast which we passed fairly quickly. However, it was good to see them, as it was the twenty fifth Cetacean that I had seen since boarding the Plancius six weeks earlier in Ushuaia.
Long-finned Pilot Whale: There is a male at the front & a female behind
Long-finned Pilot Whale: Male
Just after lunch, we bumped into a larger, more extended pod of Long-finned Pilot Whales. The Expedition staff & Captain agreed to turn the Plancius around & slowly approach them as they were hanging around on the surface. As we had found on a number of occasions during the Atlantic Odyssey & the West African Pelagic, the Plancius is a great ship to allow a slow & careful approach to Cetaceans on the surface without causing them to want to disappear. The combination of the quietness of the Plancius & the expertise of the Captain & crew really helped us to have another enjoyable Cetacean experience. I have seen Long-finned Pilot Whales on a number of occasions from ferries in the Bay of Biscay, but the ferry was always sailing to a timetable & didn't allow the close views we experienced from the Plancius.
Long-finned Pilot Whale: This is just five of the twenty five or so individuals in this extended pod
Long-finned Pilot Whale: This male went through a close dive for the cameras
Long-finned Pilot Whale: Male. They are hard to separate from Short-finned Pilot Whales in areas where they might overlap. In the North Atlantic, the Canaries & Madeira are around the Northern Limit for Short-finned Pilots Whales & from the Bay of Biscay & further North, then Long-finned Pilot Whales are the expected species. Any Pilot Whales seen off Portugal, Southern Spain & North Africa would need more care to identify the particular species
Long-finned Pilot Whale: Male
Long-finned Pilot Whale: Male
Long-finned Pilot Whale: Male
Long-finned Pilot Whale: Male
Long-finned Pilot Whale: Male. A final wave of the flippers & he has gone
Long-finned Pilot Whale: This spyhopping individual gives a great view of the melon, beak & relatively small eye considering the head size
Identification of the two Pilot Whale species is difficult as the fins that are long or short are the flippers which on the underside of the body. This is only really possible to see on beached individuals or very rarely on exceptional views in clear water.
Short-finned Pilot Whale: I was lucky to get this photo of the shorter flippers on this Short-finned Pilot Whale. This photo shows the right-hand flipper which is shorter in length than the overall length of the dorsal fin. Long-finned Pilot Whales have a flipper length that is similar to the overall dorsal fin length (At sea between Ascension Island and Cape Verde 28 Apr 18)