Monday, 27 September 2010

Risso's as far as the eye can see...

Steve Rosser
Another short weather window in this most unsettled of autumns. We owed Sarah Graham and Ed' Parrot a day out as prize winners of Cardiff Universities, Wildlife and Conservation Group, photographic competition, so gave them the opportunity to join Verena and myself on the ferry for a survey, Sun /Mon.

It was sea state 3 briefly, on leaving Fishguard but things settled down and we saw odd porps and distant feeding flocks of Gannets with Common Dolphins beneath, eventually confirming them through the telescope.

I began to dispair that we might see anything "up close and personal" but as we approached the "Risso's Triangle" in almost perfect conditions, a row of Risso's appeared in the distance in front directly on course. Eventually we got closer and they were just milling ahead and did not move until we were almost on top of them! They then dived arching their backs and fluking appearing back in our wake a few minutes later. Half an hour later , and closer to the Tusker, another similar sized pod gave a repeat performance I hope Ed's photo's are OK, my film aint bad! So on leg one, three species including some really stonking close Risso's!

The return leg was again pretty calm as we left Rosslare, although a bright low sun created some glare. We picked up odd porpoises and more horribly distant gannnets with dolphin's beneath but too far to call. About this time we were joined by Liz and Brian Snell who were on their way back from Ireland in their campervan, two more pairs of sharp eyes were a welcome addition! It was all getting a bit frustrating when Verena saw some long distance splashing, they at least promised to be on our track, with some hope of getting a half decent view.

By the time we closed with them they were still a mile away or so on our port beam. I got the scope to get a better view and then found another pod and another and another, the furthest were probably five or more miles away the nearest a mile. Pod sizes seemed to vary from half a dozen to a dozen but could well have been twice that number. There was a lot of Risso's out there and probably more... About half way across the wind and sea increased to three and the sun dissapeared closing down long range observation's... so we will never know how many Risso's were out there...
Two thirds across and the sea calmed again and we picked up occasional porpoises. Three more Risso's not far off Strumble and odd porpoises almost into the Harbour!

An epic trip which again shows that the southern Irish Sea must be one of the best places in the UK to spot Risso's!