Saturday, 26 September 2009

Resplendant Risso's !

Another misleading weather forcast had us on the ferry yesterday wondering why the sea was choppy and covered in white horses! We copped some Common Dolphins and some Porpoises but halfway across the sea state was being whipped up by a stiff SW breeze and we saw little else. We woke up back in Rosslare this morning and were grateful that the wind had died to a gentle NNW and the sea was pretty smooth. None the less we saw no cetaceans and little birdwise for the first hour despite perfect conditions. We had just invited another birder to join us when I noted a very distant big splash. We strained our eyes untill some specks became obvious and then slowly resolved themselves into a pod of 16-20 Risso's They muddled around and then went down the starboard side of the ship giving great views. Some common Dolphins added to the score and then a distant trio of two very dark and one white Risso's passed by again on our starboard beam. As we came in towards Strumble Porpoises were appearing in ones and twos and then pods of 6 and 7 inc porplets. Seven Common Dolphins came in to ride our bow and then a dozen or so were half glimpsed, dissapearing behind the bridge but were later confirmed By Graham Rees and Richard Stonier as around 20 CD's. They had been seeing them all morning and it seems from various reports and sightings that we have had a semi resident pod of about 60 hanging between St Davids and Fishguard for the past couple of years. They had also seen a "very big single Rissos heading east into Cardigan Bay which had pale front and rear with a dark saddle remeniscent of a Belted Galloway bull (acording to GRH).
The previous report from Aberystwyth from Ian Lycett and Rachel Davies was really nice, one of very very few of Risso's in the depths of Cardigan Bay. Most are either from the Lleyn/Anglesey area or Strumble/Rosslare area but their observasions are reliable and extremely welcome.
Risso's are commonly seen off the Stena Europe and reasonaby regularly from Strumble, often heading into the bay. There has beeen huge (albiet mainly summer) cetacean recording effort in the area north of the Teifi up to Aberporth cntered around Newquay but almost no sightings of Risso's I can remember. Perhaps they cut across from Strumble to Aberystwith and on to the the Lleyn avoiding the Sarns (stone ridges ) which might obstruct them? Either way, well done and thanks Ian and Rachel. The more people adding their observations on "Whales in Wales", the more we will learn!