Cardigan Bay Monitoring Project – The Blog

NWDW continues

Not many dolphins seen today but it is all fun and games on New Quay Pier as the National Whale and Dolphin Watch continues. One of our interns, Kiran, made cool Sea Watch and dolphin themed badges with the eager young dolphin spotters enjoying the sun and cool waters of New Quay.

Emilia Benavente/Sea Watch Foundation

Emilia Benavente/Sea Watch Foundation

Emilia Benavente/Sea Watch Foundation

Emilia Benavente/Sea Watch Foundation

Photo: Emilia Benavente/Sea Watch Foundation

Photo: Emilia Benavente/Sea Watch Foundation

The hunt for 007 dolphin (A.K.A Bond), our lovable adoptee, is well under way, where contestants pick a square in the hopes of winning a cuddly dolphin soft toy.

Photo: Gemma Veneruso/Sea Watch Foundation

Photo: Gemma Veneruso/Sea Watch Foundation

If that doesn´t float your inflatable dolphin, then take a trip around town and enjoy Topnotch´s Treasure Hunt while taking in the sights of New Quay (and ice cream). And rumor has it there is even an edible prize if you get more than 8 questions right.

So if you are close to New Quay, Ceredigion, come and join us on the pier, every day between 11 am-5 pm.

This Saturday marked the start of the week long National Whale and Dolphin Watch. Around the UK hundreds of volunteers are making to the cliffs and headlands hoping to get a glimpse of these mesmerising animals.

Today in New Quay the week got off to a flying start, this cheeky little shag was spotted chilling out in the harbour waiting for its next meal and earlier in the day a bottlenose dolphn and it’s calf were also spotted splashing around.

(C) Seawatch Foundation/ John Pye

(C) SeaWatch Foundation/ John Pye

If you are out and about in New Quay this week why not come and join the Sea Watch scientists on the Pier and help with some land observations. Feel free to pop down anytime between 11:00 and 17:00. We will also be running lots of little games and activities to keep all the little ones happy.



A splash, bubble and a fin!

A splash, a bubble and a fin and another, oh it’s a mother and her calf again, dancing around the boats.

I arrived on the pier just before twelve on the 1st of July and was treated to a spectacular sight; a mother and calf pair were happily socialising in the harbour area, casually surfacing in between the moored boats. Many curious members of the public watched on from the pier and boats alike. Both cameras and binoculars were out to steal a sight and a memory of these fantastic creatures and such a treat to have them so close! The mother didn’t seem too fazed by the numerous vessels encircling around the pair, which included a range of dolphin tour boats, yachts, kayaks and speedboats. However, when a swimmer got a little bit too close she did what any sensible mother would; veered off to give the swimmer a wide birth and undertook a series of long dives, until the pair eventually popped up on the other side of the pier. The pair then proceeded to play around a big orange buoy for approximately five minutes. However, as with all good things the encounter came to an end when the mother and calf pair decided to undertake a series of long dives and exited the area via the headland as the sea state increased along with the concentration of vessels.

U1_R_140515_001_land_ICA_001 copyright 140627_land_ICU copyright 140627_land_AVE copyright

A selection of mother and calf pairs photographed from the pier in New Quay over the past few months.

A selection of mother and calf pairs photographed from the pier in New Quay over the past few months.

So why am I here watching these dolphins? Well I’m a masters student studying at Bangor University, currently collecting data for my thesis. The main aim of my research is to see if dolphins change their behaviour in response to vessel presence and activity. I will also be monitoring to see if dolphins behave differently to different types of vessel and try to determine the cause of each response. For example, a dolphin may respond negatively to kayaks but respond in a positive manor to tour boats and cetacean research vessels. Cardigan Bay is a great place to carry out this research as it has a semi-resident bottlenose dolphin population which can be easily seen at New Quay for the the majority of the summer. It is believed that the semi-resident population have become used to particular boats, while the dolphins which only occasionally visit the bay are not and may respond more negatively to vessels. My task is to see if this is the case!

Tess Hudson

Student at Bangor University



Acrobatic dolphins galore!

The ‘Pier Watch’ on 16th June was a little unusual, in that the equipment was taken up the cliff above the Shellfish Factory here in New Quay. Here, Tess one of our visiting masters students from Bangor University was stationed to collect data for her project and managed to capture some fantastic images of bottlenose dolphins!

IMG_4646 IMG_4435

Assisted by Cateline, Tess spotted a group of three bottlenose dolphins, including one calf, with two individuals close by. These quickly joined the others, with the group periodically dispersing and coming back together. They displayed a range of spectacular behaviours including several breaches, flips, spy-hopping and suspected feeding behaviours. A very dramatic and exciting display!

 IMG_4408 IMG_4393 IMG_4391 IMG_4380 IMG_4891

Luckily one of the tourist boats from our friends Dolphin Spotting Trips happened to enter the scene during this incredible display. One of our Interns, Toby was onboard collecting data at the time. He also managed to get some fantastic shots of these spectacular behaviours which, combined with the digiscope images, allowed us to confirm identification of some of the individual dolphins. We can confirm that one of the dolphins was Bond, one of our adoptable dolphins, a very regular visitor to New Quay this season!

Bond's Distinctive Dorsal Fin

Bond’s Distinctive Dorsal Fin

It was fantastic to get such amazing pictures from our equipment, and great to have more evidence of some of our adoptable dolphins being active in the area. Once again we must thank the residents of New Quay for supporting us in making this project possible and Environment Wales for providing the majority of the funding.

Please adopt one of our magnificent dolphins to help us continue our work in protecting and monitoring these incredible animals. Visit to become an adoptee and to receive lots of goodies as a thank you!


Imogen Cavadino & Cateline Landry

Sea Watch Foundation Interns


Note: All photos (c) Sea Watch Foundation/Cateline Landry/Tess Hudson

An exciting day out on the pier!

I have been a Sea Watch intern for five weeks now and I’ve grown to realise that you never know what your day will be like. Some days can have little to no dolphin sightings, but other days you can be treated to many wonderful encounters. Saturday 17th May was one of those days!

It looked like it was going to be a fairly routine Saturday Pier Watch and land watch for Emilia and I, but one look out the window and a quick check of the forecast told us that the weather was going to be nice and sunny. As we were getting ready to leave, Emilia received a call from Toby (who was just about to go on a boat trip) saying that a mother and calf had been spotted close to the pier. Without hesitation, Emilia grabbed all her things and rushed down to the office to get the camera and other land watch equipment.

We arrived on the pier around 11:00 where there were about 30 people crowded at the far end trying to catch a glimpse of the dolphin pair. Seeing the dolphins surface we realised that there were in fact 3 dolphins in the harbour: one mother and calf pair, with one juvenile.

The mother and calf pair near the pier

The mother and calf pair near the pier

We got some wonderful photos, but we were unable to ID this pair due to their dorsal fins being clean; having no noticeable notches or permanent marks to distinguish them. Nevertheless it was a lovely sight and great to hear people enjoy seeing the young calf so close to the pier.

There was a lot of boat activity in the bay, which was hardly surprising as it was a Saturday and the weather was fabulous. At about 11:30 the RNLI lifeboat people came out in their RIB and they were soon followed by the big rescue boat, in preparation for a helicopter drill advertised on the blackboard outside the launch station. This soon diverted most peoples attention away from the dolphins, as the drill was very exciting to watch.

The mother-calf pair stayed around in the bay for about an hour before heading out towards the stone reef and cardinal buoy, where they remained until  we finished our watches at 17:00. But the excitement wasn’t to end there! We had many other dolphin sightings as the day went on, giving us lots of great data to use. We were also treated to an inquisitive female grey seal taking a curious look right in front of us.

At around 14:00 another lone adult bottlenose dolphin appeared about 100m from the pier, seemingly out of nowhere. From the photos we took this dolphin was later identified as Bond, one of our adoptable dolphins. He gradually made his way right around the pier toward the moored boats in the harbour.

meet Bond!

meet Bond!

Here in New Quay we have a Marine Code of Conduct which applies to all recreational vessels, to try and minimise the disruption or harm they can cause to our marine mammals. There is no reason why boats and dolphins should not be able to coexist if boat users follow this code. Unfortunately in this case we had an instance of poor boating etiquette, with two RIBs passing straight over the dolphin’s location, seemingly oblivious to its presence. Luckily Bond was unharmed and remained in the harbour for a while.

When we thought we had seen plenty of action around the pier for one day, next came the icing on the cake. At around 14:45 a group of around 4-5 adults appeared north of our position and everyone on the pier was treated to some memorable acrobatics and leaping behaviour. There were lots of excited people on the pier, some exclaiming “Wow I didn’t know dolphins could do that!”. It’s always amazing to see dolphins being so acrobatic, but to see it on a day with perfect visibility and lots of other people around in the pier to witness the show makes the experience even more incredible.

Some acrobatic dolphins

Some acrobatic dolphins

Dolphin activity eventually began to peter out at around 15:30 and it gave some relief to Emilia and I who had had so much action to record for that day! All in all it was a lovely sunny day that was capped off by some great dolphin encounters. I’m sure the people who were witness to this natural show have gained a deeper appreciation of the Cardigan Bay bottlenose dolphin population.

Kiran Bhandari

Sea Watch Intern

Excitement on the pier!

Yesterday morning at around 10am Sea Watch Research Assistant Emilia Benavente spotted one of New Quay’s most frequently visiting female dolphins swimming about 10m from the pier. At first it just appeared as though this dolphin, known by locals and Sea Watch staff as “Smoothy” was just milling around like any other dolphin would be early in the morning and it seemed like there was nothing out of the ordinary about this encounter.


The surfacing dorsal fin of one of Sea Watch’s most beloved dolphins known as “Smoothy”

The surfacing dorsal fin of one of Sea Watch’s most beloved dolphins known as “Smoothy”

However, closer inspection revealed that Smoothy was not alone and in fact she had a companion with her. The companion  turned out to be a calf, indicating that Smoothy’s calf from last year is still with us!

A sneak peek at our newest arrival in Cardigan Bay.

A sneak peek at our young calf in Cardigan Bay.

Notice the light colouration of this young bottlenose dolphin compared to it's mother.

Notice the light colouration of this young bottlenose dolphin compared to it’s mother.

Calf mortality is high in the first three years of life, but this is the third time that Smoothy has had a calf so we’re hoping she knows the drill by now.  We’re thrilled that Smoothy’s calf is going from strength to strength and that Smoothy is happy to bring her youngster right up to the pier.

Smoothy is one of the dolphins in our Adopt A Dolphinn scheme and we can’t wait to share the good news of this sighting with our  adoptees!

Onlookers were certainly excited to see Smoothy and her new arrival close to the shore and Smoothy didn’t seem to be too fazed by all the attention as the pair stayed around the pier for a good 17 minutes.

The excitement doesn’t end there! A mother and calf pair was also spotted during the 11am-1pm landwatch, frolicking and leaping out of the water and this time the youngster had very visible foetal folds indicating that it was a new born calf!

These pictures were taken using our Pier Watch equipment from the pier in New Quay.

These pictures were taken using our Pier Watch equipment from the pier in New Quay.

Be sure to keep an eye out for the pair if you visit New Quay!

Be sure to keep an eye out for the pair if you visit New Quay!

Sea Watch staff and interns will be trying to identify the mother of this new born calf and will let you know when we do! We also very much look forward to seeing more adorable dolphin calves as the season progresses and will share our stories with you.

To adopt a Cardigan Bay dolphin and support the work of Sea Watch please visit: Adopt A Dolphin.