Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Fishguard Harbour Breakwater Dolphin Watches..normal service resumed!

Its always a worry when you are trying to show people wildlife. I started doing it nearly forty years ago as a partner in Cambrian Bird Holidays and you always feel under pressure to deliver the goods.
Wild animals are just that, free to move as they please. What happens one day is not necessarily what happens another. In the case of apex predators such as cetaceans, much depends on where the fish are and that is complicated by season and tide. Oh yes and the fact that they are invisible below the waves as well!

For two years now, or at least two summers, a mother and calf  Bottlenose Dolphin whom we have named Apache because of a pale patch on the leading edge of her dorsal fin and Ringo,  her well grown (maybe three year old+)  calf, have been semi resident outside  Fishguard Harbour.
Its not just Ringo and Apache, there are sometimes others, maybe 20+ but that is sporadic . There are two others, a mother and calf pair that Ken Barnett named Notch and Scratch which seem to hang around as well but less often. Also other strangers we have not managed to give identities to.

Porpoises also put in an appearance occasionally and although there is a certain amount of evidence to prove some incidences of dolphins attacking porpoises with fatal  results, it is not an incidence we have recorded here in North Pembrokeshire. None the less if I were a porpoise I would not want to be within a mile of a Bottlenose Dolphin!

So Mick and Jo' from Kent signed up for our Dolphin Watch on Tuesday, which although porpoise and Bottles were briefly seen by Ruben Uno and myself,  the sightings were too brief and distant for our Kentish couple to get on to. This morning was choppy and even so, I saw a mother and calf Porpoise, but could not get M&J onto them, So we tried again this evening (Wednesday).

On arrival at the breakwater I scanned the sea for cetaceans but hardly even a bird was spotted. Mick and Jo' were amazingly patient  and I was  grateful for their support. Having moved up to the lighthouse end I scanned the sea for tell tale gannets circling but there were none. Conditions for spotting had improved on the morning making the lack of any signs of life obvious  On a bit of a low I walked around to the absolute end facing the harbour entrance but saw no indication of life nor any Gannets.

I was just about to go when I heard a "Ppffeeww!!! kind of sound of a dolphin blowing  and was exceedingly happy to see Apache and  Ringo doing a bit of a pattern. no more than twenty metres away! I  yelled for M&J who came running, Finally I had  managed to show M& J some dolphins and at close range, they were delighted! As I said its always a pressure situation when people pay good money to see wildlife with you even though with wild animals there  can be no guarantee.

I was massively reassured, as I was wondering if our dolphins were changing their habits with the onset of more holidaymaker pleasure boat traffic and with high tide times, making it easier to launch. A pair of jet-ski's had been screaming around the harbour and quite a few fast boats going out and coming back in, during the middle part of the day around the high tide.

Of course I had left my memory stick in my laptop  so no photo's but in the bright sunshine it was easy to identify Apache and Ringo. Less easy were another mother and calf pair but I suspect it was Notch and Scratch. All four animals seemed to tentatively  join  in a loose group together and circle each other as if they were not exactly sure of each other. I have noted that Apache and Ringo tend to be wary of other dolphins as if they were avoiding contact with other dolphins, Perhaps this is why they have moved out here becoming seemingly  resident in Fishguard  Bay over the past two summers.

Either way if you would like to join us on the outer breakwater to try and see them with us, give us a bell on 01348 874737 between 10 am and 4 pm for our Dolphin Watch times, £5 per person (all donations go towards helping us at Sea Trust  to continue our work studying them).