Thursday, 24 September 2009

Last Survey of the Season

The last scheduled Sea Trust small boat Cetacean survey took place yesterday. After some strong winds on Tuesday it was touch and go whether we would get out but in the end we went for it and it turned out to be another great trip.
The weather started out dull and drizzly and there was a big swell still running as we headed out of Milford Haven. The day brightened up later but the swell remained. We ended up a pretty long way out, some 25 miles west of St. Anne's Head, hoping to catch up with a huge number of Dolphins which we had heard was in the area a few days ago. We didn't find a "Superpod" but did find really good numbers of Common Dolphins including a number of pods of 20 or more which were feeding intensly - herding fish in a compact team formation. The photo shows one such group in the shadow of a tanker (click on photo for larger image).
Several groups of Dolphins also came to investigate the boat and rode the bow wave and amongst these were many mothers with very small calfs.
A group of diving Gannets turned out to be feeding near a Minke Whale which surfaced only very briefly. Also of great interest was a raft of 12 Sooty Shearwaters resting on the surface and we also saw 3 more of these visitors from the southern hemisphere as well as 1 Storm Petrel, plenty of auks and Manx Shearwaters. The day ended in wonderful sunshine as, on the way back in, we watched a group of Grey Seals basking on the rocks of Skokholm Island.
Thanks again to Cliff Benson for organising the trip, to Nick O'Sullivan, skipper of the Celtic Wildcat and to all the people who have joined the surveys this year and with their donations have made it possible to survey the cetacean rich waters of the Pembrokeshire coast.
Click here for more photos of the trip.