Thursday, 13 August 2009

Fin......Tastic!!!



Last week on a Sea Trust pelagic aboard the Celtic Wildcat we were lucky enough to glimpse 3 Fin Whales. Today our luck got even better.................
12 of us set out from Neyland on a calm, sunny morning hoping to see some Dolphins and seabirds on one of Sea Trust's regular small boat surveys. First stop was Grassholm, some 2 hours out of Neyland, where the Gannet breeding season was in full swing with many near full grown young amongst the 32,000 pairs that breed there - the first spectacle of the day.

We then motored to some 8 miles west of the Smalls Lighthouse where we saw a pod of around 80 Common Dolphins, some 20 of which stayed with the boat for 20 minutes or more as we motored along at about 7 Knots. They were in a really playful mood and rode the bow wave, leapt, tail slapped and squeaked. Spectacle number 2.

And so onto spectacle number 3! Skipper, Nick O'Sullivan heard from a nearby boat on a private fishing charter that they had seen 3 or 4 Fin Whales some way to the west. We made our way in that direction and were soon seeing large, spectacular Whale spouts or blows some way off. As we neared the area where the whales were (some 26 miles WSW off St Anne's Head) we could see there were at least 4 individuals. Closer still that number increased to a minimum of 6 with, perhaps, as many as 10. We then proceeded to get incredibly close views of several animals including one which was lunge feeding so close we could see the fish leaping out of the water as it broke the surface. All this with the accompaniment of 100's of Manx Shearwaters and 10's of Common Dolphins staying close to the Whale to share in the pickings. The finale was for the Whale to pass under the boat (!) and come up the other side where it continued feeding for a few minutes before diving and disapearing from view. Phew!

Fin Whales are the second largest Whale (after the Blue Whale) and can grow up to 27 metres long and weigh up to 80 Tons. To see such magnificent animals in our own waters just off Pembrokeshire was a wonderful, once in a lifetime experience, but it demonstrates so well just how rich the seas off West Wales are.
Many thanks to Cliff Benson and Sea Trust for organising such a marvellous trip.