Cardigan Bay Monitoring Project – The Blog

Something’s fishy!

We have been fairly lucky with the weather here the past week or so and we’ve had some lovely sunny days – great dolphin spotting weather! So last week was the first chance that I’ve had to practice with the pier watch equipment whilst there have been dolphins close to the harbour wall. I am relatively new to using DSLR camera equipment but am familiar with all the various settings but this was a whole new experience as I have not had much practice with manual focus. It is hard enough to get decent photos of such a mobile animal when you have a fast autofocus let alone when you have to use manual. As you can see below I have some room to improve!

(C) Louise Russell, Sea Watch Foundation

This particular mother and calf pair were spotted at 15:50 about 100m from New Quay pier. They were in the area for around 45 minutes and were displaying feeding behaviour. Feeding behaviour often involves swimming in various directions, some splashes and long dives as well as the occasional leap or tail slap among other behaviours.

(C) Louise Russell, Sea Watch Foundation

There were certainly lots of fish around to attract the dolphins along with the abundant local sea bird population. Several schools of fish were seen jumping over the surface of the water and some were washed onto the rocks by the waves. As you can imagine it was something of an all you can buffet for the seagulls

(C) Louise Russell, Sea Watch Foundation

The mother and calf stayed a fair bit out from the pier for a while so to practice with the manual focus and moving animals I tried taking some shots of flying birds which I think worked out well for a beginner with the digiscope.

(C) Louise Russell, Sea Watch Foundation

(C) Louise Russell, Sea Watch Foundation

The photo below shows what can be achieved when you have a bit more practice with the digiscope and when the dolphins come in closer

(C) John Pye, Sea Watch Foundation

By Louise Russell


How high can a dolphin leap?


Tuesday saw some real aerial acrobatics from the dolphins of Cardigan Bay starting with a mother and calf putting on a show for the tour boats. A solid ten minutes of half body breaches and full on leaps in the early evening off the fish factory made the last few trips of the day something to remember. If that wasn’t enough an hour later a group of no less than 6 adult bottlenoses dolphins put in an appearance at the same spot and proceeded to leap spectacularly into the air, one explosive jump reaching over 2 meters out of the water. Leaping by dolphins is thought to be an energy saving tool while fast swimming but may also be part of social interaction or simply having fun.  Bottlenose dolphins can breach up to 4.9 meters into the air and spinner dolphins have been seen to breach up to 5.4 meters

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By John Ball

Exciting day on the Pier!

Yesterday was a very eventful day on the pier here in New Quay. The morning weather was grey and rainy and the fog laid thick across the horizon, but the dolphins didn´t seem to mind. A group of four dolphins where leaping and swimming in circles just by the cardinal buoy outside New Quay Harbour. They were feeding using a technique called herding where a group of dolphins will surround a school of fish to pack them as tightly as possible. When they have succeeded they will take turns feeding on the school. Above the water you can usually only see the dolphins swimming back and forth splashing around.

(C) Emilia Benavente/Sea Watch Foundation

(C) Emilia Benavente/Sea Watch Foundation

We could identify two of the dolphins with our photo-identification catalogue. One was Bond, one of our adoptable dolphins and the other one was Lumpy, the calf to Smoothy (another adoptable dolphin) that was born in 2006. The other dolphins in this encounter didn´t have marked dorsal fins so we cannot identify them.

8 year old dolphin Lumpy. (C) Emilia Benavente/Sea Watch Foundation

8 year old dolphin Lumpy.
(C) Emilia Benavente/Sea Watch Foundation


Shot of Baileys

Last week i took our new intern James Bailey out to the pier so he could try his magic on the Pier Watch camera. James is a camera man of some repute and has been taking pictures since the age of 6. Since starting at Sea Watch he has managed to capture some great pictures for Photo ID from the boat and i was hoping he would recreate this form down on the pier.


James Bailey

After setting up the equipment, we waited patiently for what seem an eternity until two dolphins finally showed up. We spotted a mother and a calf out by the cardinal buoy, unfortunately out of range for Photo ID  but James and I still managed to get some nice shots of the pair.


(c) SWF/James Bailey/ John Pye


(c) SWF/ John Pye/ James Bailey


(c) SWF, James Bailey, John Pye

True to form Bailey managed to get some great shots, lets hope next time the dolphins come a little closer in!


What a Fluke!

Three Oystercatchers made a welcome appearance at the pier. Although called Oystercatchers they actually prefer to eat mussels and cockles and use that bright orange bill  to break into the shells. Each individual inherits a distinctive technique to do this and as such the feeding habits can vary.


(C) SWF/John Pye

After the birds left, all went quite until i spotted a dolphin  by the fish factory. The solitary animal was showing signs of feeding behavior, with long dives in and around the same area. This made it quite hard to get a picture but i just about managed to get this lucky shot.  If this where a humpback whale the picture would have been perfect as they use the markings on the tail fin for identification purposes however when working with Bottlenose dolphins we need a side view of the dorsal fin to identify individuals.


(C) SWF/John Pye


Training Weekend

Last weekend Seawatch Foundation held one of its brilliant training courses. The morning was filled with excellent lectures from Dr Dussan-Duque and in the afternoon the participants headed down to the pier to put into practice their newly gained skills. As luck would have it the dolphins appeared right on cue. Through the Pierwatch camera i managed to get this picture of two dolphins about 700m offshore.

(c) John Pye/ Sea Watch Foundation

(c) John Pye/ Sea Watch Foundation