Tuesday, 17 October 2017

The calm after the storm reveals some more Risso's

A brief visit to Strumble this morning was rewarded by meeting up with some old  birding mates Chris Grayell, veteran "Strumbler"  Richard Davies and the much travelled and much respected  cetacean man  Elfyn Pugh. The birders were filling their boots with four species of Skuas and other nice bits and bobs.  Ace camera man Ken was also there but having a frustrating time with the porp's that kept foiling his attempts to snap them. I managed to get onto a Juvenile Pom' Skua and a pale phase Arctic Skua, thanks to Chris and Rich.  But then latched onto a small falcon that sped out  from the coast with winnowing wings, gaining height rapidly. I suspected it was a Merlin but as it was flying away at speed it was not until I noticed it was after another smaller bird and began circling higher and higher making repeated stoops as its prey eluded it that this typical Merlin hunting technique confirmed my suspicions. It was the most prolonged attack I have ever witnessed and eventually they just disappeared out of range, so no way of knowing who won! Soon after I had to go so left them all to it

It was a pleasant late Autumn afternoon, so I decided to go back to Strumble. The tide was just beginning to make and after searching hard, I noticed gannets feeding over a few porpoises a couple of miles out to the South West. They were no more than specks but obvious in the good light and relatively calm sea. I did miss a close one that popped up a couple of times and then disappeared without trace. 

Searching for more porps I thought I noticed a tall fin, and so it was, tall and raked with others including a very pale one The dark one was I believe the one I am sure we watched pup last week it has a dark fin with a kind of lightening bolt scar. They were all at least a mile away and hard to locate in the camera lens but I managed to crack off a few record shots.

They were moving at a steady pace surfacing erratically heading north east into the bay. I reckoned on at least eight including calves but they were hard to photograph and I kept losing them. A few minutes after they passed out of sight I started looking for the porpoises again hoping that they would have moved in closer with the tide. I searched in vain though added to the Skua list with another close-ish Jv' Pom and a dark Arctic as well three more distant Skua Sp. A pair of Chough passed by at speed calling before diving down out of sight below me. Whilst I scanned around I noticed more distant tall raked fins but these were heading off in the opposite direction three or four, that soon disappeared beyond the lighthouse. The light was fading so I packed up and headed home, another good day at the office!

Strumble Diary 17/10/2017

A frustrating session today with a good swell running against the ebb tide and reasonable light. However the porpoise were not showing well at all. Although I saw perhaps 15-20 I failed to get a single shot. The water was well coloured after yesterdays storm so I couldn't track them in the water and when they did come up it was one breath and gone again. The bird life on the other hand was very active with several Skua types and various other birds being avidly followed by the several bird watchers in the lookout. This meant I was pointing my lens skyward as much as at the water mostly catching the variety of Skuas as they passed by. If you would like to see the results here's a link to the Strumble birding blog I've posted them too.


Monday, 16 October 2017

What Storm?

Call me mad if you like but while storm Ophelia creates havok on land life in the sea carries on regardless. So to a rather stormy Strumble Head then with the wind strengthening from the south and whipping up sea devils as it took the tops off the swells. Despite this our little porps were there as always coping with whatever nature throws at them. It was coming to the bottom of the ebb tide and I settled in for  the session. Also present was Elfyn, a good frind of Cliff's and a keen watcher. We scanned the scene together him mostly for birds and I for cetaceans. As the session went on I was building a steady group of images and was delighted to capture another marked Porpoise. Elfyn spotted a small turtle about 80Mtrs off  but it only came up for two breaths and had gone under by the time I managed to get the camera pointing in it's direction. Elfyn then left and I had an hour or so alone but with no further sightings and the sea now turned white with spray and foam I decided to pack up myself.

Friday, 13 October 2017

Strumble Diary 12/10/2017

A belated entry for yesterday's session. My visit coincided with the topping of the flood tide so I was not expecting a great deal of action as this is normally a quiet period. However, it was and interesting session. Adrian was in situ when I arrived and informed me of some 85 Common Dolphin that had been showing all be it too distant for even my long lens. At first I concentrated on what porpoise were there and still showing in the tide race. As time went by several Commom Dolphin came in just beyond the tide race at about 3/4 mile or so and I was able to capture some record shots. My attention was then taken by what at first I thought was a Cormorant close in but on closer inspection turned out to be a late season Ocean Sunfish and a rather large one at that. I certainly have not seen one so late in the year and could this be another sign of our warming seas. Normal service resumed after that and as I was joined by Holly, Adrian and Anthony we caught the start of the action on the turn to the ebb tide before I had to pack up and leave.

Jupiter is back with her calf and a new marked porpoise!

After the rain, the skies cleared around three o clock  on Wednesday afternoon. Cliff and Brad took a look out on the breakwater to see if there was anything out there and were rewarded with some pretty special porpoise sightings which included Jupiter and her calf and at least one new identifiable porpoise.

New identifiable porpoise with damage to the front and sides of fin

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Team Sea Trust Risso's re-examined!

Mondays Risso's encounter was very interesting. Cetaceans are enigmatic creatures, mysterious because we see only glimpses of their lives when they are on they surface. Risso's are particularly mysterious and rarely venture close to the shore.for long enough to be studied in any detail.

So when instead of just passing by, a small pod of about ten adults and accompanying juveniles approached from the north east and then started dithering about we were wondering what was occurring. I got Ken onto them and he began snapping away. They were at least half a mile away the light was dull and only just visible in among the choppy edge of the main tide race. It was difficult to make out exactly what was happening as they were mainly just muddling about.

Having got his shots, Ken was chatting to Anthony, another onlooker . Meanwhile I was trying to figure out what was going on with what appeared to be a mainly maternal group. Suddenly there was some splashing.

I alerted Ken and then one individual breached which happily we both caught on our cameras. We were expecting more breaching as once they start they usually follow up with a few more breaching's. But unusually all we got were more surface splashing I mentioned to Ken that I thought we might be witnessing a birth! Easy to say but difficult to prove!
But on re-examination, what Ken caught on his memory card, comes as close to proof as we are ever likely to get without actually being close enough to see it with the naked eye!
I have managed to magnify Kens images and the first one shows a tiny head just in front of of the dark fin to the rear of the other two individuals. The second image taken a fraction of a second later shows this more clearly.
Fig: 1

Fig: 2

The third image, I first thought to be the first picture of the sequence but ken assures me it was taken a full nine minutes after the first. Having blown it up there appears to be a faint pink smudge around the front of the head. If it had been closer in the time frame it might have been some debris from the birthing. As it is, it may just some aberration in the image. If anyone has any Ideas we are open to suggestions!
Fig: 3
The fourth image is just seconds after the third and shows, if examined closely, the mother with the what we are pretty sure was the new born calf alongside, its tiny fin just in front of the mothers fin! At this point the pod were moving off and although we looked hard we failed to relocate them.
Fig: 4

Fig: 5
Just another great day at the office with Sea Trust volunteers delivering the goods as usual!

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Strumble Diary 10/10/2017

Not a great session today really. The weather was overcast most of the time with poor light and in the strong tides at the moment there's never as many porps around as on quieter tides. I spent most of the early part of the session seeing just fin tips as in the first image below as they streaked through the troughs in a choppy sea. A few did show well later but as the tide topped out the action died away completely and it was over an hour before I saw another porpoise just passing through. Always hoping for another Rissos sighting but not to be this time. As I was about to leave Team Seatrust rolled up so hopefully they had better luck than I had.