Saturday, 11 June 2011

If its June it must be Minke time! and Risso's and Porp's and Common Dolphins...

Verena, Steve Rosser and the Walrus, boarded the Stena Europe on Friday afternoon after an absence of over a month. May 2011 was the first month we had failed to manage a survey in reasonable conditions since April 2004 when we first started the Sea Trust-Stena Europe surveys.

Conditions were now pretty good and we sailed out of Fishguard Harbour equipped with our new GIS mobile recording equipment set up on the bridge wing. Almost immediately we ran into Porpoises from Pen Anglas and around Strumble with four sightings of six animals including a mother and calf, in the first 20 minutes.
The sea state was 2-1 and we had a couple of unidentified sightings and a porp as we crossed mid channel but it was only when we could clearly see the Irish coast about ten miles off the Tusker that things really started kicking off...

A distant Minke, but in the crystal clear air and flat calm sea, easily seen and identified, began a remarkable sequence of sightings. This one surfaced several times and everyone saw it well.
Soon after another much closer Minke surfaced and we cursed ourselves for not having a camera ready. Two different Minke's is something I had only seen once before on our very first Survey back in April 2004!

We were pretty chuffed but then Steve spotted some tall fins off our port bow, a pod of six Risso's (our first of the year). The pod split with one animal continueing east on its own, the others began leaping and splashing around in what looked like some kind of group interaction. Sadly the ferry dosen't stop and soon this playful mob were left behind and we were passing the Tusker. Not long after we saw another tall fin with a very small one next to it, a female with what looked like a very small calf. 12 sightingsa in all, including 19 individuals of three species! in just over threee hours. That has to be world class cetacean watching!

But that was not the end of the days excitement as having had some food in Rosslare, it was still light enough for an hour mores watching. on the evening leg back to Fishguard. It was a superb sunset although a breeze had created some ripple and as the light faded, Verena manged to bag our third Minke of the day!

The morning return trip was a little bit of an anti climax but we still managed six more sightings of seven Porpoise and also bagged a small pod of distant but acrobatic Common Dolphins, adding another species, totalling four for the combined total!

Better still, all were recorded both on paper and on our new mobile recording system, ready to be sent off electronically to the Colin and Kate at the West Wales Biodiversity Information Centre.
Really enjoyed Iolo's contributions to Spring Watch from Skomer but its a shame they didnt have any cetaceans!