Saturday, 8 September 2012

Wildcat - Dolphins & Divers

We had an exciting Sea Trust Dolphin survey on the Celtic Wildcat yesterday which turned out to be a day of two halves. Once out of the Haven we found a choppy, gnarly sea being whipped up by a fresh breeze. Nevertheless we ploughed on out to Grassholm to start the trip off to a good start with the spectacle of 35,000 pairs of Gannets on and wheeling around the island. There were a few fledged young on the sea and many chicks still on nests in various stages of plumage - some still in down and some in their juvenile plumage.

We then went on out to the Smalls seeing a group of 5 Common Dolphins which joined the boat briefly. At the Smalls lighthouse a high tide enabled a very close approach with great views of Grey Seals hauled out on the rocks and popping their heads up from the water. We carried on out to the Celtic Deep with the choppy sea calming down a little but there were no Dolphins here and very few seabirds too so we headed back towards the Pembrokeshire coast.

Around 15 miles south of the Turbot Bank we came across a pod of 50 or so Common Dolphins, many of them young calves, which came in to join the boat and ride in the bow wave. They stayed with us for 10 minutes or more before peeling off but for the next 10 miles we were joined by a number of pods of between 4 and 20 Dolphins which came to join the boat for varying lengths of time. With over 100 Dolphins altogether there was quite a variety in the pods - some made up entirely of adults, others with young calves or juveniles. So, after a long day far out in the Celtic Deep, it all came good nearer to shore with great displays from the Dolphins enjoyed by all on board. We had also seen some good birds during the trip with 2 Sooty Shearwaters, 1 Great Skua and, on the way out to Grassholm, plenty of feeding flocks of Manx Shearwaters and Auks .

The day had not ended, however, as when were just off the Turbot Bank at around half past 5 p.m. a May Day was heard on Channel 16 and skipper Nick O'Sullivan leapt in to action. Dive boat Gromit (which wasn't sure if he was off Grassholm or Skokholm !) reported two missing divers and Nick poured on the speed to head for the islands and join the search. As we approached Skomer we saw the two divers waving their Surface Marker Bouys on the south side of the island and went over to assist. As we had them alongside the Dive Boat appeared and was able to get the divers on board who were, thankfully, fine and no worse for their ordeal. The Angle Lifeboat came on scene as we departed to ensure that all was well. Great to see an experienced skipper like Nick answer the call for help and offer assistance without pause for thought.
Click on the Dolphins for more photos from the trip.
Richard Crossen