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.
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.
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.
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.
Sea Watch Intern