I spent Easter having the most amazing wildlife adventure in Llangrannog, Wales
I did so much, saw so much that I’ve had to split it over 2 blogs. Here’s the first and it’s all about, the sea !
I’ve been going to the Ocean Lab at Goodwick, Fishguard for 7 years now and last year was my first trip to Strumble Head, which is just a couple of miles further up the Pembrokeshire coast. I’ve kept in touch with the Sea Trust since last year’s visit. After a quick Facebook chat I found out that they were doing a porpoise ‘click count survey’ that morning, so we set off as quick as we could – I was WELL EXCITED!
When we arrived at the ‘wildlife lookout’ I met up with Cliff Benson from the Sea Trust and 2 European students, Rens and Laura, who explained how the porpoise survey worked. Every 10 minutes they do a 5 minute survey to log how many porpoise they see in that time. Therefore over 3 hours of surveying you would have 1 whole hour of results. I got stuck in straight away. It took a while to focus in with the binoculars and you are covering this vast amount of sea, but bingo on my second count I spotted a porpoise.
Here’s the results of our 1 hour survey:
- 1 porpoise
- 4 porpoises
- 2 porpoises
Cliff explained the important reasons why they do the surveys; in particular this year as it’s the Year of the Welsh Porpoise. It’s all about building up evidence, to prove that Strumble Head is a unique conservation area and requires all year round protection. Currently porpoises are not protected, unlike the bottlenose dolphin with which they share the coastline. Sea Trust are hoping to raise awareness so that porpoises and Strumble Head can both be recognised as they should be and to ensure their future conservation.
Cliff explained the ‘topography’ of Strumble’s unique landscape (a new term for me – it means – The ocean surface has highs and lows, similar to the hills and valleys of the Earth’s land surface) Cliff said the ebb of the tide acts like a natural fishing net, as the current brings in fish into the open water, allowing the porpoise (and other mammals and birds from all around the area) to just pick off the fish and have full bellies! A great tip from Cliff was – when looking for cetacea (a marine mammal of the order Cetacea; a whale, dolphin, or porpoise), look for where gannets are circling as it usually indicates a small shoal of fish.
We also saw seals, which were bottling (this is another new term for me – it means – seals sleep at the surface and often assume a posture known as bottling – their entire bodies remain submerged with just their heads exposed).
Birds we saw – linnets, fulmars, shag, cormorants, oyster catchers, gannets and gulls.
Later Ken Barnett and his lovely dog Leo joined us. Ken helps to photograph the porpoise to help with the fin ID project (Ken took the picture of the porpoise above). I loved talking to Ken, what an interesting man; he told us tales of a seal that battled to catch and eat an eel, of thresher sharks, of a New Year’s Day spotting of orcas, of otters and basking sharks. He puts in the hours, but is hugely rewarded!
Later Cliff showed us around the Ocean Lab Aquarium, which has lots of information and of course marine life including – octopus, conger eel, goby & blennies, blue clawed lobster, jellyfish and some terrapins, which were new to the exhibition.
They wrote this about me on their Facebook page:
“Every now and again in the often depressing mission to try and protect our marine wildlife there is a ray of sunshine that makes you realise its not entirely a waste of time. Young “Green fingered George” and his mum and dad made the effort to hook up with us and our amazing volunteers again. This time at Strumble for a survey He took part in one of our “Click Count Surveys” and saw his first Porpoises. He then joined us later on at the Ocean Lab. It was great to meet up again and see his enthusiasm”
I would encourage anyone to visit Sea Trust’s website, Twitter & Facebook page, donate or better still visit Strumble Head – trust me you won’t be disappointed! Thanks to Cliff and Ken and the other hard working volunteers, who give up their time to protect the wildlife in our sea.
New Quay is a lovely seaside town and is one of the best places to see dolphins close up. It has a harbour which is great for crabbing and fishing too. When we went to New Quay me and my Dad went fishing and 2 dolphins appeared really close to us and we watched them and loads of others for the reminder of the time we were there. They jumped, leapt and performed for us – it was an incredible sight!
We did not catch any fish, but we were still satisfield watching the dolphin spectacle. Later we spoke to volunteers from the Cardigan Bay Marine Wildlife Centre who estimated that there were 3 pods of 5 dolphins swimming in the bay. So, we bought some lunch sat on a bench and watched them for hours and hours – it was wonderful !
A visit to the beach at Cwmtydu is a must whenever we stay in this area. In fact I love the place that much a daily visit isn’t enough! Whatever the weather I usually go and swim in the river that leads to the sea. It’s quite cold, but very refreshing once you get used to it. The beach includes very large boulders, cliffs and sand and of course a river, which I like to dam. At some point in the holiday, we usually have a BBQ and a fire on the beach. We love to cook on the fire as it feels like you are doing proper bush craft.
I’d spotted a huge jellyfish (I think they were barrel jellyfish) in New Quay a few days earlier and unfortunately 2 washed up on the incoming tide at Cwmtydu; I tried desperately to push it back out to sea, but I’m not sure if it was already dead – it was an incredible size and shape; absolutely fascinating and a privilege to see
The coastal walk starts from where we were staying at Penlon Farm, Pontgarreg and ended in Llangrannog along the cliffs. We saw a range of wildlife such as (the rare) choughs, stonechats, seabirds and my favourite, peregrine falcons. What is great about the coastal walk is that it is very quiet and peaceful and the gorse looked particularly yellow and vibrant. We saw this skeleton and couldn’t make out what it was
So, that’s my Wonderful Wild Wales – By The Sea Blog; next week will be my ‘Wonderful Wild Wales On Land’ Blog.
I’ve been really busy in the garden since getting back from my holiday, I’ve rescued a racing pigeon and been getting ready for my visit to RHS Chelsea Flower Show – all updates are on my Facebook and Twitter page.