Friday, 21 August 2009

Strumble shocker!

In a remarkable half hour at Strumble Head in the company of some of Wales most experienced Birdwatchers, I recorded a Sunfish , an Atlantic Grey Seal and a Harbour Porpoise. Not bad in itself but the remarkable and rather shocking aspect was the fact of how the latter two species were linked in one rather gory sighting.

Richard Davies commented on a seal below us eating "a big fish". We have seen them eat big congers, Wrasse, Pollock, rays and even once an octopus. I strained to make out exactly what kind of fish it was tearing chunks out of and remarked on what was a copious amount of blood.

As the seal maneuvered the "big fish" to tear another big chunk of flesh from its silvery belly, I noticed a flipper. Momentarily confused, I thought it might be the Sunfish we had seen minutes before but then I saw the small but obvious hortizontal tail flukes. It was a baby porpoise not more than about 2 feet (60 cm) long.

No wonder there was so much blood, the seal was devouring another warm blooded mammal. "Its eating a baby porpoise" I called, as we watched on in fascinated horror. To add to the pathos of the scene an adult porpoise surfaced a couple of times close by , (presumably its mother) before dissapearing again. We are a gnarly old mob not much prone to sentimentality but I think I can honestly say we were all a bit shocked by this "red in tooth and claw" episiode. with many thousands of hours seawatching experience between us , nonee of us had witnessed such a grisly event involving two of our commonly seen resident species.

Interestingly there was a huge tide ripping through, which may well have caused the seemingly new born porp to be swept inshore to be pounced on by the seal, Female porpoises also tend to leave very young calves bobbling around whilst they forage briefly usually returning to the calf within a minute or two. Perhaps this had created an opportunity for the seal to pounce.
One thing is for sure , you never know whats going to happen next at Strumble!