Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Sighted: a dolphin…..nope a Minke Whale!

As the second Sea Watch volunteer period finishes the volunteers were treated to 2 spectacular final surveys. Last Monday on Dunbar Castle II we saw 60 bottlenose dolphins in total- it was the first time we had seen so many dolphins in New Quay on one survey! As well as this, we had a great surprise when we saw a Sunfish, the first sighting of the season. As you can see in the pictures below, a Sunfish can be recognized by its flattened body shape and two dorsal and anal fins, which often make it as long as it is tall. We first noticed the fish by the tall dorsal fin coming out of the water and flapping. This individual was a small fish, only about 40 cm long, but some can reach 3m in length and can weigh 2000 kg! 

Our amazing week continued when, on Wednesday, we were very lucky to see two Minke Whales (one adult and one juvenile) during our boat survey up in Anglesey. This sighting is quite exceptional because their presence is not normally recorded in this area. Adult Minke Whales can reach 8 meters long and can be identified by a tall and sickled-shaped dorsal fin situated two-thirds along the back. This species can be also recognised by a diagonal white band found on each of its pectoral fins; unfortunately we were not close enough to see these marks, but we thoroughly enjoyed the rare sight anyway.

Sea Watch held a charity pub quiz and raffle in our local pub The Dolau on Thursday night, which was a real success. We were very happy to raise £90 to support our research and would like to thank everyone who participated in this accomplishment.
In the end our volunteers had a great last week at Sea Watch, and although we are sad to see them go, we are equally happy to welcome 3 new volunteers for the next period! Hopefully we will still be lucky with all our amazing sightings :-)

The Sea Watch Team

Friday, 15 June 2012

Warm Working Weekends

While rain fell over most of Great Britain for the Queen's Jubilee weekend, New Quay was lucky to have a warm and sunny bank holiday Monday which encouraged tourists and locals on to the harbour wall for some dolphin watching! The holiday atmosphere was making everyone smile, the dolphin-spotting boat trips were busy and the town was buzzing! Whilst looking forward to an evening of a barbeque and music festival in town, Sea Watch volunteers did their usual land-watch shifts – recording cetaceans and seals seen from New Quay harbour wall – which provides a great opportunity to answer visitor's questions about the mammals, as well as collecting valuable data. Three dolphins were seen leaping in the bay most of Monday, to the delight of many satisfied dolphin-spotters!

The eighth of June every year is designated World Oceans Day by the United Nations to build awareness that we must do more for our world’s oceans, which are threatened by pollution, depleted fishery resources, the impacts of climate change and the deterioration of the marine environment. With this message in mind we took the opportunity to promote Sea Watch's important conservation work in New Quay. On Saturday we took our usual place on the sunny harbour wall and set up our information stand including publications, dolphin toys and postcards to purchase as well as face painting for children. We were modestly proud of our artistic attempts and the resulting sea creatures on little happy faces! It was encouraging to have so many interested people asking about our work and generously filling our donation box with very much appreciated funds! Unfortunately the dolphins didn't show this time for the crowds, as is the unpredictable nature of wild animals. Happily we know they are never far away and can appear at any time, as they often do, reassuring us that all is well and healthy in the waters of Cardigan Bay. But if we fail to listen to the World Oceans Day message, the absence of these fascinating creatures in their natural environment could become reality; what a tragic day that would be! If we all do our best to care responsibly for our environment, we and future generations will continue to enjoy its many blessings.

The Sea Watch Team.

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Summertime Surveys

The summer has finally arrived in west Wales and last week we took full advantage of the beautiful sunny weather and conducted one photo ID survey and three line-transect surveys. On Monday our rib, the Gallois conducted its first survey of the season, while at Ynys Lochtyn the crew encountered a group of 14 feeding bottlenose dolphins, this group included two familiar fins in the form of Bond and Spot. Later on, during low tide at Birds rock the crew photographed 3 grey seals, a female and juvenile male hauled out on the rocks and a female swimming in the water nearby. These photographs will be used by Aurore Sage, a French master’s student, working with SWF, who is building a photo ID catalogue of grey seals in Cardigan Bay.

On Tuesday we sailed out of Aberystwyth on board the Machipe to survey the Pen Llyn a’r Sarmu SAC. With calm seas and sunny weather on our side, we had a very productive survey, with numerous sighting of grey seals and harbour porpoises. Just before lunch while surveying the waters offshore of Tywyn we encountered a group of 6 bottlenose dolphins, the group was composed of 4 adults, 1 juvenile and 1 calf. Altogether we encountered 6 bottlenose dolphins, 10 grey seals and 16 harbour porpoises.

On Wednesday we once again returned to the familiar territory of New Quay and ventured out onboard the Dunbar Castle II. As often happens in New Quay, a group of 6 dolphins joined us just outside the harbour at the very beginning of survey. The group including Bond, Chris and her calf were seen socialising, leaping, bowriding and were even seen playing with large barrel jellyfish (Rhizostoma octopus), slapping the jellyfish with their tails as they swam past.   Another successful survey with sightings of 24 bottlenose dolphins, 6 harbour porpoises and 6 seals.    

Thursday’s survey on the Morgan James II out of Caernarfon was not as successful, due to foggy conditions and a lack of dolphins in the area. We did however manage to spot a total of 4 harbour porpoises. Despite the lack of sea life we had a very pleasant first trip on board the Morgan James, with beautiful views of Caernarfon bay, South Stack lighthouse and a flyby by the RAF Red Arrows.

Sea Watch Team

Friday, 18 May 2012

Welsh Wonders

It’s the beginning of the second volunteer period for SWF staff members, and with several line-transect surveys and dolphin sightings under our belt the 2012 season has been a success so far!
This week saw the arrival of two new volunteers; Marta a general volunteer has joined us from Spain, and Heidi, a master’s student from University College London is working with SWF studying how recreational boat disturbance affects social cohesion in bottlenose dolphin groups.

On Thursday SWF volunteers and staff were treated to an amazing display of bottlenose dolphin behaviour on a line-transect survey from Aberystwyth, heading north towards Pwllheli. A group of 18 bottlenose dolphins was sighted near Llanystumdwy; as we travelled towards them they started to socialise and play around our research boat, the Ma Chipe. A wide variety of behaviour was seen including tail-slapping (shown in the photograph), leaping, bow riding, chin-slapping and some percussive behaviour. Whilst the dolphins were swimming and diving alongside us we heard whistling coming from some adult individuals. Out of the 18 dolphins sighted, we had a total of 4 calves and 2 juveniles.

During the survey we also saw 4 harbour porpoises and 4 grey seals that were bobbing around in open water. At one point we crossed a cold water reef, where we saw several types of jellyfish through the water, including moon jellyfish (Aurelia aurita) and the barrel or root mouth jellyfish (Rhizostoma octopus). Needless to say all the SWF team were extremely happy with the day’s survey, particularly after the incredible encounter with the bottlenose dolphins and the variety of marine life seen- who knew Welsh waters were so diverse!

Sea Watch Team

Friday, 11 May 2012

SWF AGM 2012

During the past bank holiday weekend, Sea Watch Foundation held its Annual General Meeting (AGM) in New Quay, which was a great success. The weekend consisted of various meetings and interesting talks presented by Sea Watch staff, regional and volunteer coordinators:

Peter Evans
 – discussed the wide variety of work that Sea Watch Foundation carries out across the UK.
Daphna Feingold
– talked about the Cardigan Bay bottlenose dolphin research project and some of the important project outcomes.
Danielle Gibas
– spoke about the Sea Watch sightings database for the UK and its advances.
Colin Bird
– talked about Orca Watch planned for the 19th- 27 th May in the Pentland Firth, NE Scotland (see http://www.caithness-sea-watching.co.uk/6.html for more details).
Colin Speedy
– discussed his interesting work with basking sharks in the Hebrides.
Robin Petch
– spoke about sightings, especially around Whitby and the initiation of a photo identification catalogue of minke whales.
Katrin Lohrengel
– talked about her Vodaphone World of a Difference sponsorship and volunteer recruitment in North West England.
Rachel Lambert
– discussed the role of Sea Watch volunteers and their work carried out here in New Quay.

On Sunday morning we jumped on board the Dunbar Castle II for a boat trip along the beautiful West Wales coast line to Ynys-lochyn and back, carried out in line-transect mode. Thank you to Danielle for arranging such beautiful weather and the numerous bottlenose dolphin sightings for us!  Four adult bottlenose dolphins were sighted and photographed before leaving the harbour, followed by three additional sightings during the trip (four adults and two calves, followed by three adults and one calf, followed by two adults). A grey seal was also sighted during the trip. Later four bottlenose dolphins were identified to be Ghost, Floppy, Vitally and Comb.

After an eventful weekend the Sea Watch volunteers have started another busy week in the office in an attempt to dodge the rainy Welsh weather. On Wednesday afternoon we had the pleasure of hearing another fascinating   and gory talk given by Rod Penrose from the UK Cetacean Strandings Investigation Programme (CSIP), which aims to record information on the cause of cetacean, marine turtle and basking shark strandings along the UK's coastlines using post-mortem examinations (see www.ukstrandings.org for further information).

On Friday Rod Penrose brough a stranded sub-adult harbour porpoise found at Pwllheli to show Sea Watch volunteers. The suspected cause of death was from a bottlenose dolphin attack due to broken ribs, although further post-mortem examination is required to confirm this 
Sea Watch Team

Friday, 4 May 2012

Artistic Dolphins Sighted!

Another eventful week has passed for the Sea Watch Volunteers! We managed to complete two line-transect surveys this week on Wednesday and Thursday with Dunbar Castle II. Wednesday was a beautiful day with nice weather and calm seas. We started our day with an encounter just outside the pier at New Quay Harbour, we followed the animal for about 15 minutes before continuing our line-transect.  In total we encountered 17 dolphins(!) during our line-transect which took us from outside Aberearon to the outskirts of Cames Head close to Cardigan. 

One of the groups we encountered consisted of 10 animals with adults, playful juveniles and calves, giving us a show of some aerial and percussive behaviour. Thursday started the same way as Wednesday with an encounter just outside the pier. We headed towards Cames Head and finished the last part of the line-transect from Wednesday, but due to rainy weather we had to cancel the line-transect and head back, giving us time to enjoy the splendid view of the coastline in Cardigan Bay. 

Now it’s Friday and we are all preparing for the annual general meeting (AGM) of Sea Watch Foundation, which will take place this weekend in New Quay. 

Sea Watch Team

Monday, 30 April 2012

Dolphin Spotting on the Dunbar Castle II....

Last week was an eventful week for the Sea Watch Volunteers! On Tuesday, we had our very first line transect survey of the season on the Dunbar Castle II. Despite some choppy seas and rainy weather we had a very successful survey. We gathered lots of useful data and in total sighted 13 dolphins, including 3 calves which caused a photographing frenzy! Two of the dolphins spotted included Bond and Chris, both of whom are old friends of Sea Watch and members of the Adopt a Dolphin scheme.

Later in the week Hanna, a former member of the Sea Watch Foundation, gave a very interesting talk on the C-CATS Project, in which she is now involved. C-CATS or the Cardigan bay Cetacean Acoustic Tracking Study is a unique approach to acoustic monitoring that will be the first of it's kind to be conducted. Hanna is part of an interdisciplinary team of research scientists working in collaboration with the German Oceanographic museum and the University of Wales, Bangor, to conduct a unique acoustic cetacean monitoring project utilising both passive acoustic monitoring systems and a mobile hydrophone array to track cetacean movements through the water column. This project will be conducted in the waters off target rock, New Quay over the next few months. 
For more information on the C-CATS project or to follow the C-CAT blog, check out: http://www.ccats-ccats.blogspot.co.uk/ 

Sea Watch Team