A dedication to conservation is a founding principle of the Sea Watch Foundation. There are many components of effective conservation, and one of the most important ones is simply awareness of what is out there. You cannot effectively conserve what you do not know you have. For some scientists this often means heading out on lengthy surveys, trying to catalog everything detectable. It extends further however: public participation is a necessary component of sustainable conservation (something that we as a charity greatly reliant on citizen science know well). Something cannot be valued if it is unknown.
People are often unaware of wildlife that can be seen in their local area, right on their doorsteps! This is not a fault, everyone does it. People often do not see what they are not looking for. An example is going on a walk: If you go intending to see wildlife, you will see far more than if you are more focused directly on hiking, even on the same route. Much of our public awareness work at Sea Watch is focused on informing people of the cetaceans that can be found around British coasts, to counteract the widespread idea that they can only be seen in exotic locations and on ocean cruises.
I will refrain in this post from going on about our dolphins, and the other cetaceans of our coast, important and interesting though they are, we have written plenty about them already! Anyway, we, of course, focus on looking for dolphins, so we expect so see them. However, there is more for us to see if we’re lucky and keep a sharp eye out! A few examples below:
Seals can be surprisingly hard to see, especially from a distance. (© Thomas Bell)
Even when looking for gull chicks, it takes a while to pick them out from the rocks behind them! (© Sea Watch Foundation / Thomas Bell)
Although they look similar, one of these birds is not like the others! (© Sea Watch Foundation / Katrin Lohrengal)
This week for the first time this year some sunfish were seen here in New Quay! (© Marta Gil Molinero / Dolphin Spotting Boat Trips / Sea Watch Foundation)
The pictures may make the animals seem obvious, but that’s because they’re the focus of the images, and taken at great zoom. If you’re distracted, they’re easy to miss against everything else in sight! I am as culpable as anyone. Although I was on a boat that saw the sunfish, I was fully focused on scanning for dolphins and so didn’t see it rise up besides the boat myself! I will however be on the lookout for it in the future. I hope you all will too.
Author: Thomas Bell (Sea Watch research intern 2016)