On the 31st of August, Sea Watch and Countryside Council for Wales (CCW) conducted a bottlenose dolphin survey in Northern Cardigan Bay onboard the CCW research vessel ‘Pedryn’. This area known as Pen Llŷn a’r Sarnau, has been dedicated as a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) for the bottlenose dolphins.
All marine mammal sightings were recorded in the area but with the specific aim to encounter bottlenose dolphins in order to photograph their fins to match with our photo ID catalogue. This species was recorded however, the team were also lucky enough to spot a group of Risso’s dolphins close to Bardsey Island, off the Llŷn Peninsula.
Daphna Feingold, Cardigan Bay Monitoring Officer, spotted the animals leaping out of the waters almost two kilometres away from the boat. Slowly the boat approached the animals so that photos could be taken since Risso’s dolphins can also be individually recognised by nicks and markings on the fin and body. This species can be easily identified due to their rounded bulbous head, relatively tall sickle shaped fin and grey colour. The scars that appear like light-coloured pencil-like scratches never fade in this species. And as the dolphins grow older, they generally gain more scars and can eventually appear almost white.
The relatively large group composed of seven adults and three juveniles put on a spectacular performance leaping out of the water and tail slapping. The dolphins soon became at ease with the boat and began to approach them until at the end of the encounter one dolphin was so comfortable with the boats presence it was simply resting on the surface.
Risso’s dolphins are a widely distributed species and are common in the Irish Sea particularly around the Isle of Man and extending up to north-west and north Scotland. These animals are occasionally seen in the waters surrounding Bardsey Island where they were spotted on this occasion and in the past few years in late summer they have been spotted off north Anglesey.