Saturday, 21 September 2019

Porthcawl Porpoise

It was a cetacean free summer in Porthcawl this year. I do a constant effort survey at least once per month and my May survey produced one porpoise. June was blank. Two July surveys were blank as was August and all carried out in good weather conditions. On 11th August a local birdwatcher had a single while sea watching in a gale. Conditions were good on Wednesday 18th so I did my survey. My routine is to set up the telescope, record the conditions, and the have a quick scan with binoculars for an obvious gull feeding frenzy before a methodical telescope search. About 500 metres due south was a porpoise showing really well. A prolonged check of that area revealed a total of three. Yippeeee. They stayed visible for the whole hour of my survey moving slowly west with the ebbing tide. I was advised by a local trawlerman that a late run of mackerel have arrived so presumably the porpoise were following the food.

Friday, 20 September 2019

Cartlett Lady survey 19/9/19....

It was incredibly frustrating having to cancel our weekend Cartlett Lady survey trip due to the weather forecast deteriorating from almost no wind to a steady blow. I spotted another possible weather window the following week for Wednesday/Thursday (yesterday) and began the somewhat  tedious process of arranging the boat and advertising the dates in the hope we could get enough people to make it possible. Our surveys depend on getting enough people to share the cost of the boat! Thursday's forecast looked perfect so again I chanced my arm with setting things in motion.

On the day, having recruited our crew and  gathered at the Neyland Marina Cafe, we joined ace Skipper  Andy and First Mate Cassie! All seemed set fair as we motored out through the Milford Haven although a south easterly breeze was rippling the water and strangely one of the several wind turbines was rotating. 

As we cleared the heads into the open sea, veteran Sea Trust  volunteer Steve Rosser joined me to help with the recording sheets and we set off on a SW course towards the Celtic Deep.  Sat up on the Flying Bridge it was obvious that the south easterly, had strengthened a bit pushing against the tide and creating a choppy sea state three, my heart sank a little, this was going to be harder work than I had hoped!

Another of our long-time supporters Janette Humphreys, eager eyes spotted a Porpoise in the chop, just ahead, opening the score! we motored on for about forty five minutes before my straining eyes latched onto a splash,in among the whitecap waves at least half a mile away. I was beginning to doubt myself when Andy latched on to them and soon a big maternal group of Common Dolphins came in towards the boat, each adult seeming to have a small calf at her side as they raced in towards us giving some  spectacular views! We estimated the group size at 100+ all aboard were delighted, Phew! its always a bit of pressure when you have an expectant crew aboard waiting for us to deliver.

Everyone got some tremendous views and we got a really nice entry on our recording sheet. I went to the bow and got a few pic's for the record. We were missing Ken's photographic genius, who could not make this trip so it was up to me to try and get something to illustrate the trip report. I apologize for the poor quality and wonkyness!

Some seabirds feeding in the distance caught my eye and some strange splashing. Getting closer I was delighted to see a couple of hundred of feeding Manxies (Manx Shearwaters) along with a few Gannets! 

The surface was being ripped by some big disturbance I rekoned Minke whale , Andy  though tuna!
 Hate to say told you so Andy! For the next half hour or so we were thrilled by at least two Mink Whales and the attendant shearwaters partaking of a feeding frenzy.  To top it off , one of the whales came over to take a look at us, you don't get better views than that, if only my pic's had been a bit better but the boat rolling in the swell was my excuse!

A Minke just passing by!

 This of course was the highlight of the day, the choppy sea not really helping as we made our way over 30 miles out into the edge of the Celtic Sea with little to add although the sunshine and the memory of our whale encounter kept our spirits high!  We added around another hundred or so Common Dolphins to the tally on the way back in  as well as a nice Sooty Shearwater among another large  group of Manxies along with a Sabine's Gull and a probable Pom Skua to put some icing on the cake!
Huge thanks to Andy and Cassie for an enormously enjoyable outing and also to our supporters who made it possible!
Some more shots from © Steve Rosser!

 And when a whale is just too close!...

And some Sooty Shearwater  (among Manxie's)  the shots

Thanks Steve!]

And a few more shots from © Andrew Crowther

Thanks Andrew Brilliant!

Flying Puffing Pig!

Sea Trust
Published by Lloyd Nelmes13 hrs
Lovely survey today at a very calm water Strumble Head. The porpoise on the hand, were not calm, there was feeding, traveling, milling, tail slapping and social behaviour. 🥳🥳🥳
Check out this sequence of a porpoise breaching clear of it's friend!
Image may contain: ocean, sky, bird, outdoor, water and nature
Image may contain: ocean, sky, outdoor, water and nature
Image may contain: ocean, sky, bird, outdoor, water and nature
Image may contain: ocean, sky, outdoor, water and nature

They were only playing leapfrog!...or were they? Puffing Pig is an old sailors name for porpoises!

Thursday, 19 September 2019

Strumble Diary 18/09/2019

A belated entry for yesterday the 18th. A beautiful day at Strumble with just a hint of an Autumnal breeze keeping things cool in the shadow of the lookout. As I arrived the ebb flow was just starting and one or two porpoise were starting to move about. A bit sporadic throughout with ones and two's moving through against the strong tide. No marked animals but good to see the numbers increased over recent days. I did spot the tell tale breach and splash of a Rissos up toward Cardigan Island and about four miles out and was hoping they'd come my way, but I gave up waiting after an hour or so.

Monday, 16 September 2019

Its never too late!

Fran and I had just enjoyed an excellent Sunday tea with friends in St Nicholas, but Bryn the dog needed a bit of excercise, so we decided to go to Strumble. As I walked down to the lookout I saw what I at first took to be a seal bottling close in. It took a second glance to realise it was a Risso's Dolphin.It was the closest to shore I have ever seen them, no more than twenty metres from the shore below me.

 Sadly it was getting dark and overcast, poor conditions for my camera but I got a few shots. Better still the Chick Family were there and young Iris who along with the family is going around the UK coast for a sail training charity for underprivelidged youngsters , were also there. They had visited the Ocean Lab in the morning and Iris was so enthusiastic I took them to Strumble where Ken had given them a complete history of Pembrokeshire Cetaceans and Sea Trust! He must have inspired them as despite no porpoises they were still there! Having missed out on porpoises in the morning, which I would have normally almost gauranteed, they had been enjoying an incredible close up show by the Risso's for the past hour!

I had missed the best but was pleased thy had seen them, after a little while the Risso's , two perhaps three moved off as the dusk closed in. If only they came in this close all of the time!

Its worth pointing out the "Chick" (its their name)  family are circumnavigating the UK in this 1967 Moggie Woodie (Morris Minor Traveller 1000) they converted themselves! Somehow it sleeps the five of them. There is a cooker, shower, the whole kit and caboodle, they even grow salad leaves and herbs on the outside! Even more astounding, the five of them are living off ten pounds a day, including petrol for the Moggie!  
Great people doing something really adventurous and worthwhile, well worth giving them a wave or a helping hand if you see them! 

Saturday, 14 September 2019

Strumble Diary 14/09/2019

Having missed the Rissos that were reported yesterday I was determined to give myself the best Chance of seeing them this morning. It was an early start, 8.15am at the lookout a third of the way through the slack water between tides. The tide race from the flood had died away and all was quiet. I spotted a few distant porpoise, too far off for images but at least they were around. I got talking to various visitors as the morning moved on and it was while talking to one chap I spotted a splash off to the west about a mile out. There they were. The three Rissos that have been around for a week or so but I wished they were closer.
   They soon moved out of sight and it was back to scanning around for any signs of life. Thirty minutes or so later another splash caught my eye this time off to the NNW again at around a mile. This time about six to eight Rissos and one very large animal was breaching and making the most enormous splashes. They too soon passed through and it was back to watching the now well formed tide race for porpoise. A few came through reasonably close and I was delighted to capture our most prolifically sighted porpoise we know as Denty. As the tide race died away I did too and made my way home for a nice cuppa.