Author: CBMWC Officer

Documenting coastal species through photography

This new and exciting course is being run by Simon Tune in conjunction with Aberystwyth University’s School of Lifelong Learning (SELL).

The course looks at the wealth of different habitats and species to be found along the Ceredigion coastline and explores how photography can be used to look into and document these different worlds.

Dates: Starts 12th April and runs for three days (Saturday, Sunday and Monday) 9am to 4pm daily. Please note that the start and finish times may vary dependent on the weather and tides.

Course fee: £90 (£80 concessions)

Please note: Students will need to have their own digital camera, either a high-end digital compact with manual over-ride or a Compact System Camera or a Digital SLR.

For all enquiries and bookings go to or for further information contact Simon Please note when looking on SELL’s webpages this course is under the Ecology section

Download a SELL enrolment form here

Irish Sea Conference

Cumbria Wildlife Trust are hosting the Irish Sea Conference on 8th April 2014 at the Netherwood Hotel, Grange-over-Sands. Tickets cost £25.

The conference will cover a variety of topics including the diversity of life that can be found on our shores, an update on Marine Conservation Zones and the impacts and benefits of offshore wind farms. The conference will also explore methods for engaging and inspiring people about the Irish Sea. There will also be a range of guest speakers.

For more information visit

Lifelong Learning Opportunities

The School of Education and Lifelong Learning (SELL) at Aberystwyth University are offering a short course on Understanding British Marine Mammals and a Certificate in Conservation and Field Ecology. The courses offered through the Certificate are designed to provide a part-time pathway to study ecology. The knowledge and skills gained are those essential for any job in the environmental field, providing hands-on experience and developing identification skills that are often neglected in other Higher Education courses. All the courses are accredited by Aberystwyth University and can be built up to give a Certificate leading onto a Diploma. The courses are specifically tailored for people who cannot contemplate full-time study due to other commitments and are ideal for professional development to broaden your knowledge and skills base.

For more details, please download the fliers or contact SELL on 01970 621 580, email or

Understanding British Marine Mammals

Field conservation and ecology (English flier)

Field conservation and ecology (Welsh flier)


Arran Dunn, Hampton Boys School, 19th-23rd August 2013

By the time it came to my last day at the CBMWC it seemed like a lifetime since I had I arrived on the Monday morning thinking that I would be lucky to spot one dolphin during my week of work experience. From the moment I arrived I immediately felt part of the team because everyone was very friendly and quickly allowed me to be involved. In only a few days I did so many new things and learnt so much. I carried out five land watches, which involved sitting on the harbour wall with binoculars at the ready, and I saw at least one dolphin almost every day, including a mother and calf. In fact on the first day alone I saw seven! On one day a dolphin jumped clear of the water not far from the rocks below and I also saw diving gannets and a seal that appeared only a metre from the sea wall. It was fantastic!

At the centre it was no less interesting: I inputted the data from our watches into various databases, including writing up notes which I posted onto the CBMWC website and facebook page; I also went down to the beach with another volunteer to collect mussels and a shore crab to put inside the rockpool tank then spent an hour weaving through hundreds of sunbathers to pick up over four hundred pieces of litter!

Friday arrived too quickly and there was still one thing I had not done: I had not gone out on a boat to see the dolphins in the bay and this would only be possible if the boat was not fully booked. I was worried though, because the Dolphin Survey Boat Trips are very popular and my final day was almost coming to an end with the final trip booking up quickly. I waited patiently in the visitor centre hoping that there would be enough space for me, although it wasn’t looking likely as customers kept on arriving to book their places. In fact I had almost given up hope. Then 3.30pm arrived and suddenly my wish was granted. I managed to get a place and this proved to be the finale of my week and something that I will always remember. Out in the bay I spotted several dolphins and then two dolphins dived directly under the boat as we made our way back to the harbour. They were beautiful and they came so close that I could see them perfectly from above as they swam through the clear water.

Thank you to everyone at the CBMWC for making my week with you amazing and probably the best work experience ever.

The possible reasons for bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) participating in non-predatory aggressive interactions with harbour porpoises (Phocoena phocoena) in Cardigan Bay, Wales

Leonora Neale BSc (Hons) Zoology, University of Nottingham


Between 1991 and 2011, 137 harbour porpoises (Phocoena phocoena) died as a result of attacks by bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) in Cardigan Bay. The suggested reasons for these non-predatory aggressive interactions include: aberrant behaviour, geographic overlap, dietary overlap, object-oriented play for infanticide practice or for fighting practice, elevated testosterone levels during the breeding season of bottlenose dolphins or skewed operational sex ratio of the bottlenose dolphins (the number of sexually available males relative to sexually available females).

Geographic overlap and object-oriented play for infanticide practice and fighting practice were investigated using boat survey data (2005-2011) from the Cardigan Bay Marine Wildlife Centre and strandings data (1994-2011) from the Cetacean Strandings Investigation Program. Dietary overlap was examined by reviewing literature based on stomach samples taken from the two study species located in the British Isles. The remaining factors were not investigated due to time and equipment constraints, and aberrant behaviour was dismissed, as there is widespread documentation of non-predatory aggressive behaviour between bottlenose dolphins and harbour porpoises.

Results showed that there was a minor geographic overlap; under a fifth of each species’ area coverage, and thus it was unlikely to cause the attacks. There was a dietary overlap; although the extent of the overlap is uncertain, so dietary overlap remains a possible cause of the non-predatory aggression. Object-oriented play for infanticide practice seems to be unlikely, as only three bottlenose dolphin calves died
(with unknown cause of death) over 18 years, indicating that either infanticide is not occurring or it is extremely rare. Object-oriented play for fighting practice was supported by literature but the results were inconclusive, therefore, it is also considered a possible reason for the attacks on harbour porpoises. Further investigation is required to determine which of these possible reasons is the definitive cause of the non-predatory aggression.

Download the full dissertation here

Cornwall Seal Group extend ID into Cardigan Bay

Girlie the Atlantic grey seal is no longer just another grey seal among the many that delight locals and visitors to Cardigan Bay – she’s now one of a select group who, it’s hoped, will reveal their traveling habits over their lifetimes. Girlie, along with almost a hundred other Atlantic grey seals from Cardigan Bay are now the stars of their own photo identification catalogue – a sort of seals’ family album.

Girlie was first snapped by Cornish couple Dave and Lesley Jarvis in 2009 while out on a survey with researchers from CBMWC. Dave and Lesley have taken thousands of photos of seals on the last four of their annual holidays to New Quay. Thoroughly organised on their return home, they have carefully sorted their photos and with help from Sue Sayer – a seal identification expert who set up the Cornwall Seal Group and established the seal photo-ID catalogue along with Dave and Lesley -these have been worked up into an extensive seal photo ID catalogue for Cardigan Bay, alongside a spreadsheet of sightings.

During a recent boat survey, CBMWC’s science officer Sarah Perry tagged one of the seal photos she had taken with Sue’s name on facebook. The beautiful adult female seal – CBF10 ‘Plus plus girlie’ was quickly identified by Sue as one previously sighted by Dave and Lesley in 2009. Incredibly CBF10 had previously been identified on 28/06/09 and re-sighted on 26/06/13 – almost exactly four years later. The next step will be to find out if Girlie features in photographs taken in Cornwall, or further afield.
But how exactly do you recognise a seal? With dolphins we use on their dorsal fins but with seals we use pelage markings – the patterns on their fur – so even if you can just see its head you can match the markings with photographs.
In Cornwall, Sue has been poring over photographs of seals taken locally for 14 years, and has already identified nearly 40 animals that split their time between Cornwall and the Pembrokeshire islands of Ramsay and Skomer and even Brittany. “It’s pretty hard to match the markings but I’m used to it now, my brain computes it pretty well and I can recognise hundreds of seals by eye”, said Sue. “And yes, I do give them names – although I’m a scientist – to ‘tag’ them in my head. The full name of the seal in the photograph for example is Plus-Plus-Girlie, because she has two marks like plus signs and the symbol for female on her neck”.
Back in New Quay researchers at CBMWC are hoping that Girlie’s photograph will turn up among those taken in Cornwall. “We know that seals are highly mobile animals so we’ll continue collaborating with Cornwall Seal Group to build up a Cardigan Bay seal photo ID album, and it will be interesting to see how many animals can be identified” commented Sarah.

Special thanks go to Sue Sayer for her help in identifying Girlie and Dave and Lesley Jarvis for persistently taking and organising their thousands of seal photos taken on their annual holidays.

About the Cornwall Seal Group
Initially the group was set up to monitor the presence (or absence) of seals in one north coast colony. A digital identification photo album for seals at this site has been built up since June 2000. Since 2008, monitoring and identification work has spread across Cornwall and Devon and many local volunteer surveyors record seals in their own patch on a regular basis. This work requires considerable patience and a commitment to regular (and often lengthy) visits to the local clifftops! The group first met in February 2004, has over 200 members and meetings are now held once a month.

For more information visit

Environment Wales project grant awarded to CBMWC

We have just received the fantastic news that we have been successful in our small project grant application to Environment Wales. The grant – worth over £900 – will be used to purchase a 500mm lens for use with our land watch camera.

For the past eight years researchers from CBMWC have been photographing dolphins whilst out at sea on research surveys, in order to identify animals, usually by unique nicks, notches and scratches on the dorsal fin. In order to approach the animals close enough to photograph their fins, we need an official licence, the terms of which prohibit us from doing this in the harbour area because it’s felt this would set a bad example to recreational boaters and result in disturbance.

However, it’s important to identify animals using the harbour area to build up a useful picture of how they use the site. Bottlenose dolphins have what are called home ranges and are frequently seen at specific sites each year. We are keen to discover how many of the same individuals revisit the New Quay harbour area and which other areas in Cardigan Bay are important to them.

Last year with grant aid from Natural Resources Wales we bought a camera to use during our land watch surveys to photograph the animals in the bay without disturbing them, but we’ve found we need a more powerful lens so the photographs are detailed enough to analyse. Unfortunately these are very expensive but thanks to this project grant from Environment Wales we can now extend our photo-ID work and find out if the same animals visit the harbour every day and whether they return year after year.

CBMWC would like to say a huge thank you to Environment Wales for this grant and their continued support of our project.

BDMLR Marine Mammal Medic Course

Just a few days left to book your place on British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR) Marine Mammal Rescue Course being held on Saturday 31st August at CBMWC.

You will receive training in how to rescue whales, dolphins and seals provided by British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR).

This is a full day’s course. The fee of £90 includes a year’s subscription to BDMLR, a year’s 3rd party rescue medic insurance, cloth medic badge, car stickers, Medic ID card, a certificate and a copy of their internationally accredited Marine Mammal Medic Handbook.

To book your place and for more information please contact BDMLR directly (not CBMWC).

Book via their website or call 01825 765 546 (Mon-Fri 9am-5pm). Download the course poster here.

Please note that you will need your own drysuit or wetsuit with boots for this course. Practicals will be held in the water in the afternoon. CBMWC and BDMLR unfortunately do not have this equipment to hire.

Amy Chambers, Westonbirt School Gloucestershire, 19th-23rd August 2013

As I am going into my last year of 6th form working at the Cardigan Bay Marine Wildlife Centre has been a wonderful experiencethat has helped me get closer to a decision on what I would like to do in the future which is to work in animal conservation.
It was great shadowing the volunteers who were welcoming and friendly. My jobs ranged from litter collecting on the local beaches and writing up and inputting the previous day’s data from the boat and land surveys. I participated in many land surveys myself in which I learned how much work and effort is put in and the importance of conserving marine life around Cardigan Bay. I was fortunate to see many dolphins from the vantage point of the harbour wall and also a grey seal!
To end an enjoyable week I was able to go on a boat trip on the Anna Lloyd with skipper Steve, where I saw seals basking on the rocks and dolphins which came very close to the boat.
Thank you to Laura and the volunteers for my fantastic and memorable week

The Wildlife Trusts’ National Marine Fortnight

To celebrate The Wildlife Trusts’ National Marine Fortnight from Saturday 27th July to Sunday 11th August we have organised a number of events, so come and join in!

Saturday 27th July
Activity morning at Quay West Holiday Park, New Quay. From 10:30am

Sunday 28th July
• Get creative on the beach in our sand sculpture competition, 2-3pm on New Quay beach.
• Drop in and check out our marine animal skull and bone collection and see if you can identify the animals they came from *
• Make your own sea creature mask and other craft activities*
*Depending on the weather we’ll either be in our ground floor education room or outside the visitor centre on the grass.

Saturday 3rd August
• Beach clean on Traeth Gwyn, 10am-12pm. Meet at the steps. Equipment provided

Sunday 4th August
• As 28th July

Saturday 10th August
• Marine-themed story telling sessions at 11am, 12pm and 2pm. In English and Welsh

Sunday 11th August
• As 27th July

Activities are free of charge but donations are greatly appreciated to help cover the cost of materials.

Throughout the week we’ll also be running a name a dolphin raffle. Tickets cost £1 and all proceeds go to supporting our work.

Our education and activity room will be open during the fortnight so you can come in and learn more about our marvellous marine wildlife. Phone or check or facebook page for daily opening times.

Poppy Wilson, Ysgol Dyffryn Teifi, 8th-12th July 2013

My week at Cardigan Bay Marine Wildlife Centre was fantastic, it was truly amazing.

I arranged for my work experience to be done in Cardigan Bay Marine Wildlife during my first year of GCSEs to provide the experience of marine wildlife as in the future I would like to become a marine biologist. Throughout my week in New Quay I was lucky enough to have the weather on my side as it was a lovely sunny week. I gained a lot of experience through participating in a wide range of the activities like completing a survey on the boat which helped me understand why the sea state and wind direction was needed. Also throughout every day I was able to help take bookings for boat trips and help sell the merchandise in the visitor centre. I also did office work on the computers which included noting down the sightings that were seen the day before and publishing them on the website and on the CBMWC Facebook page. Although I didn’t get to see any harbour porpoises or any Atlantic grey seals, I was lucky enough to see bottlenose dolphins every day of my week and even witnessed a dolphin swim under a boat and forage for fish while I sat on the pier doing land watch. Everyone was friendly and willing to answer my questions.

I loved this week and I am considering volunteering in a few years. I would like to say a big thank you to Laura and the volunteers for such an amazing time.