Sunday, 18 September 2011

Wales in Wales just tops 50,000 visits!

Fin Whale Blows off the Pembrokeshire Coast, August 2011. (Rich Crossen)
When Rich Crossen , (originator of the fantastically successful Pembrokeshire Birds Blogspot)  first suggested we start a cetacean blog to raise awareness of our incredibly rich marine megafauna (big sea creatures!) I wondered just how many people would be interested. I dreamt up the slightly cheezy name "Whales in Wales" which at the time seemed a bit ambitious as hardly anyone believed or knew there were ever whales in Welsh waters .  
Our first posting was in February 2009 and since then posts have kept coming in on a weekly, sometimes daily basis from many contributors, over 580 posts from all over the principality! 
Not only that but the sightings are year round giving a marvellous insight into what is actually happening around the Welsh Coast in terms of  marine animals sightings. These have  included : Whales (Minke, Fin and recently Humpback), Dolphins (Common Risso's and Bottlenose) , Porpoises, Sharks (Basking, Blue and Porbeagle), Seals, Sunfish and even a couple of incredibly rare Leatherback Turtles.

So much of our coast and seas are underwatched that such records can never be considered comprehensive.We can also see by the way the amount of sightings increase during those rare but profitable periods of calm conditions that theres probably a lot more going on than we are ever likely to be able to record. None the less these sightings have significance, forming a valuable perspective on the seasonality, presence and to some degree abundance of these creatures in Welsh Waters.

People often ask me if there are more sightings than there used to be? but before Sea Trust started their monthly ferry surveys back in 2004 there were very few year round studies to compare them with  certainly nothing as comprehensive as ours. (although some single observer sightings over sevceral years kindly donated by Ian Hotchin from his time working on Irish Ferries are a useful resource)

Since the blog began it appears that Common Dolphins have been recorded right through the winter months and Rosso's are much more common than we ever would have believed with Risso's having been recorded on at least every second crossing on average from June to November with several sightings being quite normal on many surveys. This year in the months of June and July we had twenty one Minke Whale sightings wheras we had only thirty three for the whole of the previous seven years. Bottlenose Dolphins have been commonly reported from Fishguard right up to The Lleyn and Anglesey but are hardly ever seen from the Stena Europe between Fishguard to Rosslare.

The reasons behind  these anomalies and discoveries are not particularly obvious but with more and more sightings and observations we can hopefully begin to form the right kind of questions that might begin to lead to some sensible answers!