Cardigan Bay Monitoring Project – The Blog

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

Just my Luck

Its been a while since my  last blog. Unfortunately the weather has been starting to change  and during the odd sunny spell the dolphins haven’t been playing ball.  However last Friday the sun came out and i set off for an early morning Pier watch, i arrived at the pier just after 7.00am and  set up my equipment. My confidence was  bolstered  by the fact that the dolphins had been spotted around 8.00am the previous 2 mornings. So all i had to do was wait……… and wait….7.30am nothing……..8.00am nothing…….. and wait. By 9.00 i was a defeated man and began to call it a day, i had all my equipment packed up and was heading off the pier. Then out of the corner of my eye i saw the splash i had been waiting for. Not 1 but a group of 6 dolphins appeared. I rushed to unpack and began to set the equipment back up. The group displayed signs of suspecting feeding and impressive aerial behavior. By the time i had set up they had calmed down a bit but i still managed to get a few impressive pictures.


(C) SWF/ John Pye


(C)SWF/ JohnPye


(C) SWF/John Pye


Camera Practice

After a weekend of watching digiscope tutorials online and reading web page after web page I feel I have finally begun to get to grips with the basics.If you, like myself are new to the digiscope world check out this great blog. . Knowing how good this equipment and seeing some of the amazing pictures people have taken has really inspired me.

So this morning I finally set off down to New Quay Pier, the water was choppy but the sun was shining and my enthusiasm was sky high.  I began by changing the settings to Av mode and having a play with the ISO and aperture. I was pretty please with the initial results, the sharpness and focus has definitely improved from my last attempt IMG_0489


With my confidence growing i decided to take some pictures of moving images, the boys  from Dolphin Spotting Boats trips made a perfect target. The weather may have been to rough for the main boat to go out but that sure looks a lot of fun!!  This was probably my best shot of the day and the change to Av mode certainly helped.


Shortly after i managed to snap a flying gull. This was significantly further out  than the boat and tested my skills even more, having to sort the camera out and keep the bird in the field of vision was certainly  a challenge but i feel i managed a decent job. IMG_0526

With all this practicing i felt it was about time for some dolphins to show themselves and within about 15 minutes they surely did. The conditions weren’t ideal and the dolphins where a long way out but excuses aside i feel the picture below is an improvement on last week and hopefully a sign of things to come.   IMG_0533


I just cant wait to get back out on the pier and take some more fantastic shots, bring on tomorrow……..