6 Jul 2018

6 Jul 18 - Welsh Cetaceans

After seeing the Pied Crow at St David's Head, I quickly sorted out a place on a rib out to Grassholm & the Smalls Lighthouse looking for Cetaceans, Grey Seals & Seabirds with Voyages of Discovery. It wasn't cheap at £60 for 2.5 hours, but it was a good trip. Another 30 minutes would have made it a bit less rushed. I parked the car in a car park in St David's & caught the minibus down to the lifeboat station. There is a small car park at the lifeboat station, but it had been full when I had a wider look for the Pied Crow on the headland & it was still full when the minibus dropped me off. Therefore, taking the minibus from St David's was the right decision.
Ramsey Island: Ramsey Island was the site of the UK's first Indigo Bunting. After the Wells individual was rejected as an escape, I didn't get too excited about the Ramsey Indigo Bunting in 1996. I should have shown a bit more interest
Ruined chapel: In the grounds of a private house by the lifeboat stations
The old lifeboat station
The new lifeboat station
The old lifeboat station
The new lifeboat station which houses the new Tamar class, Norah Wortley lifeboat
The Norah Wortley Lifeboat
The Voyages of Discovery ribs are study vessels
Another photo of the rib before we got to board it
It was a hot, sunny day & I was about the best prepared of the ten or so of us on the boat as I had my windproof Rohan jacket. Several of the others were surprised when we were given heavy jackets to wear & were told we had put them on once on the boat. They clearly didn't appreciate it would be cold at sea. Good to see we were also issued with life jackets. After the safety briefings, we set off. We had been told that if we saw any Cetaceans to raise a hand whilst pointing them out with the other hand. It took me about ten minutes before I picked up the first pod of Short-beaked Common Dolphins which were closer inshore than they were normally seen. All my time Cetacean watching on the Plancius had clearly paid off.
Short-beaked Common Dolphin: The initial views with the mainland in the background
Short-beaked Common Dolphin: They briefly came close, but were feeding & as they didn't seem to want to play, we left soon afterwards
Short-beaked Common Dolphin: Another close pass
Short-beaked Common Dolphin: Individual Dolphins can be told by markings & nicks in their dorsal fin, so this nick in the rear of the dorsal fin will probably make this individual easy to identify
Short-beaked Common Dolphin: a different individual
Short-beaked Common Dolphin: The black V is diagnostic of Short-beaked Common Dolphin (apart from Long-beaked Common Dolphins which do not occur anywhere close to UK waters)
Puffin: I saw quite good numbers on the crossing, but the rib was too bouncy to stand a chance of any photos. This photo was snatched when we stopped to look for the Short-beaked Common Dolphins. There were few Puffins around Grassholm as the island is bare & there is no suitable breeding habitat for them to burrow into. They do breed on Ramsey Island
Moon Jellyfish: It is easy to see how marine animals mistake plastic bags & balloons for Jellyfish
Thousand Islands Rib: There was also a rib from Thousand Islands which only seemed to be on an inshore route as we didn't see them out by Grassholm. I'm glad I didn't go out with them given the subtle coloured jackets & apparent lack of life jackets
Due to the time spent with the Short-beaked Common Dolphins & at Grassholm, we never made it as far as the Smalls Lighthouse. The Smalls Lighthouse is infamous in lighthouse history. In 1801, a two man crew, Thomas Howell & Thomas Griffith, were sent out to man the original lighthouse. Neither man got on with the other. When Griffith died in a freak accident, Howell placed the body in a makeshift wooden coffin & attached it to the outside of the lighthouse to ensure that he was not charged with murder when he was finally relieved. The bad weather partially broke the coffin & resulted in the dead man's arm waving around & banging against the window for weeks. When Howell was finally relieved, although he had kept the light running, his friends found he had gone mad. After that date Trinity House changed their rules & only sent teams of three to man the lighthouses.
The Smalls Lighthouse: The lighthouse is approximately 20 miles offshore & eight miles West of Grassholm. It was erected in 1861 to replace the original wooden lighthouse build in 1776
The South Bishop Lighthouse: This is one of the lighthouses that mark out Ramsey Island & the St David's Head coastline
As we got close to Ramsey Island, the boatman slowed the rib & pointed out a couple of Harbour Porpoise feeding in a patch of choppy water between Ramsey Island & the mainland. I had a few nice, close views, but failed to get any photos. We didn't linger too long as we were running a little bit late & the boatman said the Harbour Porpoises don't appreciate the close approach of the ribs.