2010 05 17- pod of North Atlantic bottlenos dolphins, 6-8 Cuviers beaked whales and a pair of Skua Print E-mail
Written by Andrew Stevenson   

Set off from Robinsons Marina in Somerset on Dom Perginon with Camilla, Bob, myself and two of Bob's guests. We didn't find any humpbacks today, but we did find a pod of dolphins in the canyon between the Bermuda platform and Challenger Bank. No humpback whale song on Challenger and none sighted but on the way back home, in the middle of the canyon, I saw what I first thought were dolphins but as we approached I questioned this assumption and then one large (male?) Cuvier's beaked whale breached at least fifteen feet out of the water. And then just as suddenly the whole group of them disappeared. The one whale that breached was tubular, pale, almost pink in colour and probably was about sixteen to eighteen feet long if not longer.

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Photo taken by Todd Pusser- not on this occasion. My previous photos were of single males.

Cuvier's beaked whales are found throughout temperate seas from Shetland and the Aleutians in the north to southern Africa, Australia and the Chatham islands, usually in water 1,500 – 3,500m deep. They are distinctive, with highly variable colouring – often with orange-brown hue, often white head and pale back and heavy scaring especially in mature males. They have a short beak and a large heavy body with small dorsal fin appearing further back on the body.It is one of the most striking members of the family with bold markings ranging from a yellowish- grey to brick red. Most of the body is typically a warm orangey-brown with a paler head. There is usually a darker patch around the eye. As the animals mature the extent of this pale pigmentation increases, gradually forming a cape that stretches back to the dorsal fin.
Adult males have a pair of teeth that protrude from the tip of the lower jaw and are usually covered in scars from the teeth of other males. In addition to this scratching the species also some times has white oval scars attributed to a deep sea fish known as the cookie cutter shark. Both male and female whales can be identified by their short beaks and large rotund bodies. When the animals surface the back appears longer, with the dorsal fin placed further back, than in the Mesoplodons. In Bermuda there have been a number of Cuvier's beaked whale strandings.

I have sighted Cuvier’s beaked whales on four occasions over the last four season and it’s likely that single animals are mature males, indicated by heavy scarring. On other occasions they reportedly encountered in groups of two to eight (up to 25 have been rarely recorded). These groups often appear to be of mixed composition, with at least one adult male and adult females. It does seem that females usually leave mixed sex pods to raise their young. The species feeds on deep sea fish and squid and probably dives for an hour or more to considerable depths to forage. They are often seen logging or swimming slowly at the surface, perhaps resting after a deeper dive. They are general undemonstrative but have been seen breaching on numerous occasions.

A very special day seeing these whales.

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We also saw a pair of Great or South Polar Skua. We usually get one or two sightings per year. I'll put the photos up later...

 


 
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