Thursday, 21 July 2011

Celtic Wildcat today (Thursday 21stJuly)

All in all it was a day when we did not expect a lot. The weather forcasts were conflicting and changing day by day as Thursday approached but still appeared marginal from the point view of it being worthwhile as a good survey day. And it wasn't really. A northerly breeze had set in overnight chopping things up with an opposing tide in the morning. No problem for the Wildcat but anyone trying to survey from the bow was always in danger of getting a soaking (and I did) None the lesss we had a plan to let the paying passengers get some nice pictures of puffins and seabirds around Skomer and then belt out to Grassholm's fantastic Gannet colony. We could then wander southwards with the waves coming from behind gently pushing us along rather than smashing into us.
Puffins and Gannets obliged and then (against the forcast) things gentled down and we cruised out from Grassholm with the odd ray of sunshine favouring us. As I scanned the waves some slanting raked fins appeared in my bin's "Risso's I yelled and signalled to Nick to cut the engines. Although we have seen them regularly from the ferry, this was only our third small boat encounter and I did not want to scare them off. We spent about twenty minutes gently stalking them but they insisted on keeping a distance of around 100yds and so we took as many pictures as we could and hoped that they would be of some use. Difficult to tell in the swell but we reckoned on 6 animals and one pic (top left) showed a quite well grown calf amongst them.
We are a conservation organisation and so as much as we wanted some good quality images we made the decision to leave them in peace. I am pleased to say all the keen photographers aboard agreed with this decision.
By now we were dawdling south in the sunshine and feeling pretty pleased with ourselves and the world in general. Some dark splashy specks appeared away to portside moving fast in a convergant course. I asked Nick to put on a little speed and soon we had a pod of around twenty Common Dolphins running parrallel with us, we throttled back so as not to cut across their course counting dolphins in such conditions is difficult but there was clearly a couple of calves with them. They were obviously on a mission and held off for a few minutes before crossing our bow and dissapearing into the west. A brief but extremely satisfying encounter. We cruised on contentedly in a wide ark , as we had some time left as we came inshore we decided to have a look at Skolkholm on the way back in newly fledged Peregrines provided the next episode of our wildlife extraviganza two of them feinting at gulls and then sparring over our heads, a gentle look as some seals in south bay completed the dream day and Nick brought us back through the Milford Haven to Neyland, a boat load of extremely contented wildlife enthusiasts!