Monday, September 21, 2009

Sea Trust Pelagic

Whilst on the Pembrokeshire Bird Club sightings blog early last week I noticed Richard Crossen's post of a few available spaces on the Celtic Wildcat for the last couple of Sea Trust (West Wales) cetacean survey pelagics one of which was going out of Neyland Marina on Sat 19th Sept.
Teresa didn't take much persuading for a day out dolphin watching and a positive resply to my e-mail to Richard meant an early start.
We left Maesteg at 07.00 and quiet roads soon had us arriving at Neyland at 08.30 in time for a cuppa at the marina cafe before meeting up with Richard and his lovely wife Sarah and our fellow participants at 09.00 ready to sail at 09.30.
Unfortunately Cliff Benson was a little "under the weather" and not able to make the trip.
I'd been on several of the GBC Celtic Bird Tours pelagics on the Sabre Tooth before from Neyland so new what to expect although with no chumming and cetaceans being the main target any quality birds would be a real bonus
We were soon underway and once outside the speed restriction area the boats twin 300hp motors kicked in and in just over a half an hour we were out of the sheltered haven and into open water.
Just offshore passing Freshwater West we spotted 3 unidentified cetaceans which I think were Harbour Porpoises but they were a long way off and only gave brief views.
We headed out to survey an area heading into the Bristol Channel towards Lundy Island.
The first couple of hours were quiet and pretty uneventful,we came across a trawler with a host of seabirds gathered around it and hoped that maybe a skua was amongst the throng,sadly they were mostly gulls and gannets.
At between 11.30-12.00 a shout went up and a small party of Common Dolphins were heading towards the boat to "bow-ride",everyone grabbed their cameras and jostled for position as these enigmatic mammals treated us to an amazing display.

This was to be the first of several pods that came to visit our boat that afternoon and it wasn't so much a case of us finding them ,but them finding us !!

About half an hour later another pod of about 20 animals came in and they stayed with us riding the bow-wave for up to 15 minutes giving everyone a really good photographic opportunity.

We steamed on towards Lundy and the weather really opened up into a fine sunny day and soon it was time for the hardier souls amongst us to discard the fleeces and big jackets.

Lundy came into view and although it looked only a couple of miles away I was reliably informed by Nick our skipper (what a great guy !!) that the closest we reached was 11 miles.

Apologies for the sloping horizon but our boat was listing to and fro in the slight swell.

More pods came into the boat at regular intervals and although they brought immense pleasure I think that deep down we were all hoping that the large pod of Fin Whales that had been seen by the lucky few from the boat on 13th August were still in Pembrokeshire waters.

I guess that really was a "once in a lifetime experience" and something that the passengers on that day will never forget.

At mid afternoon we changed course and started to head back slowly to Milford Haven,the weather was truly glorious and the sea probably as calm as it gets,I think even Wayne would have survived this one !!

We started to pick up a couple of good birds and several Manxies were followed by singles of Bonxie and Arctic Skua.

Unfortunately my super-slow focusing Fuji "bridge" camera wasn't allowing me to get the best of shots and I was secretly well envious of the serious photographers on board with their super-fast digital SLRs and big lenses.

A chat with Janet Baxter on the way back to port who was taking some fantastic photos confirmed that I should be looking to invest in a Canon 40D with a 100-400 IS lens,I know I'm going to have to indulge and it's only a matter of when,I'll just have to work my way around Teresa !!

By 17.45 we had docked back at Neyland and a fantastic day had come to an end,okay we "only" saw Common Dolphins but to see them in such numbers and so close to the boat that you could hear them "blow" when bow-riding was unforgetable,I believe the final tally was approx 122 !!

Both myself and especially Teresa thoroughly enjoyed the day and would really like to repeat it next year if places are available.

Huge thanks to Richard and Sarah,Nick our skipper and our fellow passengers for making us so welcome and giving us both a day to remember.


walrus said...

Hi Jeff, great blog report!
allthingsgood, cliff

Anonymous said...

Thanks Cliff,it was a fantastic day out

Steve Hinton said...

I have a 100-400 canon for sale Jeff great condition. £650.00
Steve Hinton 07990597779