Here is the latest update from Bardsey Island. Project leader Pine Eisfeld reporting.
Being on Bardsey has the strangest effect, as time seems only to exist in terms of meal times, but events that people think have happened days ago, actually happened just that same morning or the day before.
I call this phenomenon BOT - Bardsey Other Time.
So, every day, lots of stuff happens here on this little island.
Last week, Wednesday, we suddenly had a spell of calm weather after all the ex-hurricanes and there was a quick changeover on the island. Mark, Vicki and Rob got off and Roger and a car load of food that could feed an army came on. I got moved with all the kit from the Bardsey Island Trust house, Nant, in to the Bird Observatory where Roger joined me.
I quickly trained him up in our protocol to spot whales and dolphins from our site on the North End, explaining why and how we do 10 min. scans with special binoculars, how to record the data, etc. We even saw a couple of Risso's in the distance!
On Thursday morning we rose bright and early to a flat sea and while we were just getting our gear ready, Steve, the Bird Obs warden, shouted "Rissos!". He had spotted them through his scope from the terrace in front of the Bird Obs. We radioed farmer Steve to see if he could take us out in his boat and about 1 hour later, myself, warden Steve and assistant warden Richard were on our way towards the dolphins guided by Roger and Giselle from the terrace.
The first group we met was made up of five adults and a tiny calf. They were very elusive and hard to photograph, but we tried our best and then moved on to another group of three juveniles who were frolicking around the boat. Looking around, there were more Risso's in in the distance leaping out of the water and when we got closer to them, we were met by a group of about ten older adults, all with really white heads surfacing in two by two in perfect synchronicity! This was a stunning sight and everyone on the boat was oohing and aahing and shooting lots of pictures.
The dolphins didn't seem to be going in a particular direction as we saw them constantly changing direction, doubling back on themselves, zig zaging back and forth between the horizon and our boat. We observed some surface rushes and breaching and fast swimming which indicates they were foraging and feeding. Following them, we were about half way to Anglesey and realised we would need to get back as otherwise we would run out of fuel. All in all, we met four subgroups of at least 25 Risso's, but the photo-identification pictures we have taken still need to be analysed to confirm this estimate.
I couldn't stop grinning for the rest of the day!
Roger got to see Risso's in the afternoon from our observation platform at North End. Again they were zig zaging back and forth, going off towards Ireland, then coming back in our direction, but always staying at least 500m off the coast of Bardsey. As we realised this, we stopped our scans, as we were recording the same animals over and over again and just kept watching them and directed the Pedryn, the Countryside Council for Wales' boat which was on the water to get some ID photographs, towards the dolphins.
What a fantastic day!
Here is the latest update from Bardsey Island. Project leader Pine Eisfeld reporting.
The weather has allowed us out on the sea only briefly but there is plenty of wildlife around. These clips feature basking sharks, herring shoaling at the surface and harbour porpoises and gannets feeding on the herring.
Bardsey Blog 01 – 11 September 2011
Here starts the report from the other UK field work ongoing this year by the WDCS team – the study of cetaceans around Bardsey Island off the North Coast of Wales.
After a 24 hour delay due to stormy seas, the notorious Bardsey Sound fell calm for a few hours and allowed us to cross over to our home for the next month, Bardsey or Ynys Enlli - the Island of the Currents! We quickly settled into our cottage, Ty Nant, or Brook House amid reports that another storm was brewing out in the Atlantic. Ty Nant occupies a stunning position on the north of the island with views across the hay meadows and then west out across the Irish Sea.
There are about forty people on the island at the moment; WDCS Science Team, an environmental Christian group on a pilgrimage, the island’s resident farming family and the staff at the Bird Observatory.
Living on an island, especially one as sparsely populated and as small (just 3 km long) as Bardsey, comes with its own challenges. Our cottage has no electricity just gas to power the heating, stove, refrigerator and lighting. Luckily, our vast array of electronic equipment can be charged at the Observatory just down the track or by our latest very exciting piece of kit, the Power Gorilla!
Safety here is paramount as the island is regularly cut off from the rest of the world for days, sometimes weeks, when the weather turns in. If, however, you were injured and needed helicopter assistance, there’s a very good chance that the future King of England, aka HRH Prince William, would come to your rescue, as he’s stationed nearby on Anglesey.
The resident Bird Observatory warden gives all visitors a presentation early on during their stay highlighting the amazing variety of birds that come through Bardsey underlining its important location as a prime migration route. It’s not just the birds that the Observatory collects data on. It also records moths, butterflies and marine mammals – primarily the Grey seals and dolphins that frequent its waters. There are an estimated 400 Grey seals here at the moment and now, in early September, we are starting to see the first of the seal pups with a current count of four.
By the end of the season about 30 seal pups will have been born on the rocky beaches and sheltered coves of Bardsey. Link here to see what the WDCS Director of Science has to say about his encounter with the seals.
The weather is particularly challenging at the moment with wind speeds of 50+ mph screaming across the sea. The weather has no obvious effect on the reason we are here on this island paradise – the Risso’s dolphin. This mysterious and elusive dolphin is frequently encountered around the island and the neighbouring mainland peninsular. They are often spotted with young and Sunday was no exception, as we witnessed a group of six adults with two calves breaching and surfing in high seas just a hundred metres offshore at the north end of the island. This appears to be a typical travel pattern, as from our previous land-based surveys we observed the dolphins arriving from the north east coming very close along the north west shore before heading west back out to sea again. Even with hurricanes Jack, Irene and Katia turning the waters around Bardsey to a bubble bath of froth, the Risso’s have still been spotted frolicking in the waves on six out of the last eight days.
Hopefully, as this current weather systems blows through we’ll be able to establish our two land based viewing platforms and set a schedule for our boat surveys……..
We've managed to capture some of our marine friends on film this time. Here's a small taster of what we have been seeing:
A couple of harbour porpoises from a big pod of 12 foraging in Loch Erisort.
A basking shark feeding.
Bottlenose dolphins off Tiumpan Head.
Common dolphins from the research boat, outside Stornoway Harbour.
A mixed group of Risso’s and bottlenose dolphins off Tiumpan Head near Stornoway.
In a matter of weeks the Australian government will make one of the largest conservation decisions in history when it considers the creation of the biggest network of marine protected areas (MPAs) in the world.
But the precise level of protection for marine life still hangs in the balance and with it a 'once in a generation' opportunity to set an international standard for a secure future for this region where over 50% of the different species of whale and dolphin are found. Facing growing threats from activities such as oil and gas exploration, the fishing industry, pollution and the effects of climate change, this protection can't come soon enough.
The Australian government, and in particular the Hon Tony Burke MP, Minister for the Environment will make his first and crucial decision for the western region of Australia within weeks, a move that will define the level of protection that will then be applied to the rest of Australia's waters for the next 10 to 20 years.
Australia has one of the largest marine territories in the world. A huge variety of fish, sharks, whales and seals live in the continent's spectacular submerged mountain ranges, deep sea canyons and both cool and tropical coral reefs. These waters provide refuge for the magnificent blue, humpback, and southern right whales, as well as bottlenose, spotted and striped dolphins, to name a few.
However, right now they are unprotected, and with oil and fishing industries undermining moves to increase protection, the international community needs to take what action it can to ensure that the government does not loose sight of its obligations to the wider environment. Together, we need to make sure it seizes this golden opportunity to make a truly global contribution to whale and dolphin conservation before it is too late.
Crunch time - it's not too late to be a part of conservation history
WHAT CAN YOU DO? You can make a difference and WDCS encourages everyone to remind the Australian government of why it is so important that protection levels in these areas are set high. Be part of a historic decision.
Please send an email to the Hon. Tony Burke MP, Australia's Minister for the Environment today. It will only take you a few seconds and could make a world of difference for whales and dolphins. Thank you.