Over the weekend of the 21st/22nd I was lucky enough to be guiding for the Company Of Whales across the Bay of Biscay. In fact it was my last trip on the P&O ship the Pride of Bilbao as a Company Of Whales guide as this particular crossing is being stopped at the end of September. What a great trip to end on though with the main highlight for me being the sighting of a single pod of 15+ Cuvier’s Beaked Whales just south of the northern shelf edge. To date this is the largest single group of Cuvier’s recorded in the Bay. The following thinking is purely supposition on my part based on the observation and that of others. The group was of animals of different sizes with large mature types and smaller probably immature types. One of the group saw 8 of the larger animals through a scope and was unable to observe any scarring on the bodies indicating that these were female. Males show scarred bodies as they spar and scratch each other with their teeth. This would suggest that the smaller animals (at least 4) were immature animals and possibly lead to one conclusion that we were looking at a large group of females and immature whales. The pod surfaced 4 times and appeared calm before disappearing. So were we looking at an extended family group possibly even led by a matriarch or some type of crèche, if so is this a seasonal activity? The frustrating thing is we’ll probably never know.
The two photos below were taken by Rik Addison.
So why are they Cuvier's and not northern bottlenose whale? Well, you can make out a sloping beak, and shallow dip behind the small melon. Slightly more tenuous is the fact that you can see the head and dorsal fin in view at the same time when they surface, the chances are that in bottlenose whale, being a larger cetacean, you probably wouldn’t see that.