Sunday, September 02, 2012

"Magic Pelagic"

Yesterday I travelled to West Bay,Bridport in Dorset with fellow "toggers" Steve Hinton,Richard Smith and Alex Bevan to join a pelagic led by Dr Tom Brereton of Marine Life who monitors the small population  in Lyme Bay of the most southerly colony of White-beaked Dolphins in British waters.
We met up at Llantrisant at 05.00 and with the roads quiet we arrived in West Bay at 07.30 ready for the 08.30 start.
We assembled on the quay and eventually departed at 08.45 steaming out on Huntress II for two solid hours to the dolphins' feeding grounds.
It was generally quiet to start with few birds,but a small flock of 5 Common Scoter flew over and we started to pick up Gannets,Manxies,Kittiwakes and a single Arctic Skua of which I only managed to get a poor record shot.
We got out to the feeding area and started to zig-zag in an attempt to find the dolphins,we struggled and it's surprising how quickly your initial high expectations dwindle away !!
At about 12.45 Alex spotted some tall dorsel fins above the surface of the water which we thought initially belonged to Risso's but on getting closer and with better views were quickly confirmed as those of White-beaked.
I've only seen the species once before on a whale watching trip out of Reykjevic,Iceland with Teresa whilst on holiday so to see them close to home in UK waters was a huge thrill and we watched them for about 45mins taking the opportunity to get some photographs as they came in close to the boat.
They disappeared from view and despite a further search around the "zone" we were unable to reconnect.
We headed back to West Bay mid-afternoon at a leisuerly pace and made diversions to a few trawlers where good numbers of seabirds were congregating in the hope of a free meal.
There were lots of birds sat on the water and we "flushed" a single Sooty Shearwater and I managed to get a "record" shot as it made off from the wake of our boat.
There were also several Great Skuas around bullying the gulls and I managed to get some shots that I was quite pleased with.
We had also hoped to connect with Minke Whale which had been seen on previous trips but we were unlucky this time,there's always next year !!
The weather had improved as the day went on and by the time we arrived back at the quay it was a beautiful warm late summer evening.
Four tired but hugely contented souls piled into the Jeep and with no hold-ups I eventually got home at 9.00pm at the end of a long 17 hour but very satisfying day out and one I would like to repeat next year.