Friday, 7 September 2012

Dolphin-Othon 2012

Earlier this year I attended Pembrokeshire College in Haverfordwest for the OCN level 3 Seabird identification and Cetacean courses. These are two of the four courses on offer in the Wildlife Observer Wales series supported by SeaTrust.

Each individual course mixes classroom theory sessions with practical field trips to local locations to observe the wildlife being studied. Despite the horrendous wet weather I brought with me each time I came, we managed to get out and find our target species. Even as a person with some experience in these subjects, I found the courses very beneficial and have been invaluable this summer with the survey work I have undertaken.

I was very pleased to be invited to take part in four Cetacean surveys as part of SeaTrust’s 2012 Dolphin-othon aboard the Stena Europe sailing between Fishguard and Rosslare.

Arriving at FishguardHarbour on Sunday morning (02.09.12) I feared I was about to curse the venture with bad weather! Fog was preventing the sight of the end of the breakwater and it was very gloomy and damp. Fortunately a clear blue sky appeared with the arrival of the Stena Europe and by the time we set sail it was a beautiful summer afternoon.

Over the next two days we made eight crossings, completing four surveys on the daylight legs. We were very lucky with regards to the weather, with the only disruption being a foggy departure from Rosslare on Monday morning which meant we couldn’t start monitoring until half way across. The sea states varied between one and three, which made for good conditions for spotting Cetaceans. We certainly weren’t disappointed.

There were several sightings of Harbour Porpoise and Common Dolphins on each of all of the four surveys and Risso’s Dolphins were recorded on three of the four. It was nice to see the guests’ reactions to clearly seeing Common Dolphins breaching close to the front of ship. We were also rewarded with good views with large numbers of seabirds and a solitary Grey Seal. The highlights of the bird sightings were large numbers of Gannets, Kittiwakes, Fulmars, Manx Shearwaters, Guillemots, Common and a few Arctic Terns, Great, Arctic and a single Pomarine Skua. The most noteworthy record however was of a Balearic Shearwater spotted by Cliff.

The Dolphin-othon is an amazing and very worthwhile event and which perfectly showcases SeaTrust’s objectives of surveying the marine life in the Irish Sea whilst at the same time promoting and encouraging the local community to take an interest in the natural world.

I would like to thank Cliff and Christine for arranging the Dolphin-othon and making a place available for me. It was a very enjoyable experience and extremely educational. Also, I would also like to express my appreciation to Stena for their generosity for allowing us access to the bridge and use of the ship’s facilities. I can honestly say that is by far the most helpfully and friendly crew I have encountered during my time surveying.

I urge everyone who has an interest in anything connected with marine life to support SeaTrustand their activities, you will not regret it. Thank you all again and roll on Dolphin-othon 2013!

Ian Coote