Friday, 9 December 2016

2017: Year of the Welsh Porpoise!

Let’s get them Protected!!!!

Join Sea Trust for….

New Year’s Day Porpoise watch with Sea Trust at Strumble Head
Breaching porpoise: Image, Ken Barnett
Join us at Strumble Head for our annual New Year’s Porpoise watch
Starts 14:30-15:30 1st of January 2017!

 (If weather bad we will try again on the 2nd)

Thursday, 8 December 2016

Strumble Diary 8/12/16 A glut of Gannets

Unbeknownst to us, Ken had done an early shift but reported little activity when we caught up with him later in the day and most of it pretty furtive with animals just showing fin tips and frustrating his efforts to get pic's
Chantelle and I got there a couple of hours later and I was surprised to see at least forty Gannets foraging over a pretty well defined tide-race which resembled a long shiny river.

All the Porpoise action seemed to be on the edges of the race, we had quite a good click count  but the strong sun, messy choppy water and reflected glare creating a pattern of dark and shiny waves made spotting them very difficult.
So many shots were no more than splashes...
Several Gannets had plunged in but the porpoise just showing briefly at about 7 O clock from the middle gannet was typical of what was going down...
This is not work for the inexperienced , most people would not have seen this animal...
Most days I would have deleted these pic's but these are hard won records.

 I am sure we missed quite a lot. The Gannets were really excited and we had mass dives of five or six birds on several occasions but the porpoises were  not always visible due to the disturbed and glary conditions.

More Thesher Stuff..

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Strumble Diary 07/12/2016

High winds, low cloud, occasional rain deteriorating as the morning went by and choppy seas. Just the sort of day no sensible person would venture to Strumble. Then again the Sea Trust crew don't always do sensible. I arrived there about 9.35 ish and first look through the binos produced a single porp. That was it for nearly an hour but as the two tides met a bit more action happened. In all I would estimate that I saw close on forty animals passing through east to west with only a few traversing the tide race or stopping off to forage. As I was about to leave Cliff, Chantelle and Theresa arrived to do a count so I stayed to lend an extra pair of eyes. The count was very low as was to be expected at the stage of and slowness of the tide but it's still valuable data all the same. We all left after the count was complete. Due to the conditions the images today are not of a high quality but serve as a record nonetheless.

Photobombed by a Greater Blackback Gull.

Sometimes this is all you see. 4 inches of fin at a quarter mile.

We got jellies Baby!

Our Click Count at Strumble yesterday was hampered by a view restricted by murky weather conditions and a a strong SE wind kicking up the outer area that was visible. 
Add to that a fishing boat re-locating its pots in the area we regard as the hot spot and it was a bit early in the tidal cycle might account for the count was way down on the big counts of earlier in the month. However we still probably saw more porpoises in the hour than anyone else in the UK!
None the less 
The stars of the show were a couple of large Rhizostoma Pulmo, or to give them their common name "Barrel Jellyfish" which were spotted by Chantelle close in to the cliffs below us. The larger of the two looked to be about half a metre in diameter. 

Last week one was washed up on the beach at Goodwick which was found by  Sea Trust Volunteer Adrian and his dog Bella, rather a nice size comparison!

Monday, 5 December 2016

Thresher shark filmed in Goodwick/Fishguard Harbour!

See David Scott's video of a Thresher Shark trapped besides the moored Stena Europe! wish someone had told us sooner but great that David recorded it! ...

Sunday, 4 December 2016

Historic Day For Strumble Porp Watching

It's been a roller coaster ride this past two years since I started taking images for Sea Trust. We've brought the quality of data collected to new levels with fin ID and a look into the social side of the Porpoise. Every time we get something new I now get as excited as Cliff. Time and again we've disproved some of the written texts on porpoise behaviour and now we've done it again. Cliff set me a challenge a couple of weeks ago to get definitive proof that breeding was taking place at Strumble and to encourage me showed me what it was I should be looking for. I'll spare you the detail,  suffice to say male porps are well equiped for the job. So it was then that today despite the poor start to the session with very choppy conditions and the porps there but not showing well that we set about a click count. Cliff, Brad and myself struggled to get into double figures and ended the count with an average of around six which compared to the recent days was very poor. Cliff and Brad then went and I was left to finish the session.
   A short while later a few groups appeared with a lot of dash and splash but still not showing too well. I spotted a porp off to my left and followed it in the lens to see another porp approach it from it's left. It shadowed it a while before moving in very close and seemingly lunging at it at which point the other porp flicked it's tail high in the air. I followed them closely as they sped across my view and it was only when I was processing the images that I realised what I had witnessed. It was an attempt by a male to mate with a female with calf in attendance. The sequence of images below show the action and proof once again that Strumble is not only a feeding location but a social and breeding hub as well.

If you want to add anything Cliff please feel free.

He moves in on her.

He shadows her closely

He makes his move
A closer view
She moves away at high speed

She leaps to avoid his advances

Look closely. He's tight to her and the calf is at her tail

Still moving away quickly

He's still shadowing

Finaly he gets between her and the calf before I lose sight of them.

The Photographic Genius that is Ken Barnett..

Ten or more years ago I was told by an "Expert" that Porpoises bred in the summer months when the males "came into condition". There used to be a forum called UK Cetnet which I used to put postings in and occasionally (Very occasionally) so would others. Almost the only other regular contributor was a chap called Elfyn Pugh who like me was taking some early steps into seriously looking at cetaceans. On several occasions I noted that among the large numbers of Porpoises present at Strumble Head even in the winter were often mothers with small calves. I had a little correspondence with another expert and she said that in any population there would be exceptions to the rule and so I bowed to this wisdom. At a conference of the great and good in York I met up with several people who recognised my name from those Cetnet posts and a couple of them expressed a little skepticism as to the numbers of porpoises I was recording at Strumble. Maybe i was getting it wrong, it made me question my observations? I asked one or two of them why they did not make posts but it seemed that they were too busy in their offices to get out and watch cetaceans very often, indeed not many of them lived anywhere that would offer that opportunity.
I am a self educated man with no degree or PhD to my name just thousands of hours spent on land and sea observing cetaceans, mainly porpoises over more than a decade and quite a lot before that.
I started Sea Trust in the simple belief that cetaceans in UK waters were under recorded and poorly understood. Strumble Head had been overlooked when both the Cardigan Bay and Pembrokeshire Marine European Designated Marine Special Areas of Interest were designated and I could not understand why.
Anyhow we have been monitoring Porpoises regularly often on a daily basis for over a decade both from sea and shore. We have compiled a mass of data and No I was not wrong, the experts were! Of course being experts they still think the world is square or at least ignore evidence to the contrary. So we still have no protection for Harbour Porpoises at Strumble (or anywhere else in Wales or England)
This week I did a slow scan count and recorded 50 + Porpoises surfacing which means that there were a minimum of fifty animals there and as they do not all surface at the same time possibly twice that amount, which is similar to the numbers that I was posting on Cetnet all those years ago.
But better than that today Ken actually photographed a male and female Porpoise in the act of procreation IN DECEMBER! Look closely and you will see the undeniable evidence! Hell what do we know! 

P.S. Don't tell JNCC they will never believe it!

Saturday, 3 December 2016

Watch the birdies, One man and his dog! all in a Strumble morning...

The weather has moved on with a bit more wind from the SE making the outlying sea a bit rougher than in recent days although the waters of our lee-shore were relatively calm. We didn't see the Risso's but we probably would not have seen them yesterday in similar conditions..People often struggle trying to see the porp's at Strumble, my advice is watch for birds circling and look beneath most often there will be a porpoise below them. In the winter its mainly larger gulls although today there were also half a dozen gannets feeding with the porp's their excited Grna Grna Grna calls clearly audible to us half a mile away. Leo the dog is the latest Team Sea Trust recruit and a valuable addition. He probably knows more about porpoises than many so called experts.

Watch the Birdies
 Porpoise with well grown calf

Gannets circling feeding Porpoises.
Leo the expert porp hound.

Strumble Diary 03/12/2016

A very active session this morning with 60-70 porpoise passing the lookout during the height of activity. Several groups moving together were observed with one group in particular catching my attention as one individual was very active and breeching seemingly for fun. It took several efforts to capture but eventually I nailed it. Also note the previous leapfrogging shot.  I was joined later in the session by Cliff and Stevo but by then the action was starting to cool down and eventually the porps moved off to the west and we made our way home.

A nice leapfrog capture.