Living Seas volunteer Andy usually spends his time conducting Dolphin Watch surveys for Cardigan Bay Marine Wildlife Centre however, due to COVID-19 all our research work from CBMWC has been put on hold. He is lucky enough to live in a flat overlooking New Quay Bay and has spent lockdown wildlife watching from his home.
Hello folks, hope this finds everyone well and in good spirits despite current circumstances. It occurred to me that some people might be getting withdrawal symptoms from the lack of dolphin activity you can view in your back garden and that, along with an obvious desire to get back into the pub, a bit of an update entitled, 'a View of the Bay' might slake the marine wildlife thirst, if nothing else.
Luckily, as I relax on my stool at the bar in my living room, I have a great view of New Quay bay so can I give you an update of what's been 'occurrin' since the lockdown began.
Not surprisingly, bottlenose dolphin activity has accelerated since late March/early April. At about that time, just before the lockdown, I saw my last harbour porpoise, interestingly, at the same time there was a dolphin in the bay. Since then, dolphin numbers have increased...as has the frequency of sightings. I'm being contacted by several other local folks and know that the epicentre of activity is the Cardinal Buoy and reef, whereas the evening hang-out seems to be near the fish factory. On one day last week there were about 30 dolphins in the bay...a friend took a photo (whilst on their daily walk) and past ShoreFin volunteer, Gemma identified regular visitor Jacky. This just goes to show that once a Shorefin volunteer, always a Shorefin volunteer!
In birdy news....as the only vehicles I see in the village are the bin lorry and Postman Pat on his round (apparently, he's struggling to get Jess's fave cat food) the place is incredibly quiet and this has made birding a lot easier. Early April brought the first chiffchaff call, then blackcap to be followed a week or so later by willow warbler, swallow and house martin.
Gannet activity has sky-rocketed this week from only a few birds in early April to literally hundreds in the bay, great for me to watch but pretty tough on the fish. There were several days with good numbers of sandwich terns but they've now continued north to breed. I can't get round to Bird Rock of course but it’s clear the auks are back with loads in the bay now. So far none of the Skomer manxies have wandered past but I expect that’s next.
As I have been sitting outside the flat gazing wistfully at my kayak, rapidly gaining cobwebs, I've also seen some pretty uncommon birds....a honey buzzard last week and a grasshopper warbler the week before. I say spotted but grasshopper warblers are the shyest of birds but give themselves away by their reeling, rising and falling call. Lovely.
For butterfly and moth fans the past month has been excellent. My first butterfly at the start of April was the small tortoiseshell followed closely by speckled wood. Since then, the pace has quickened with holly blue, lots of whites, orange-tip and peacock. 'Lockdown learning' has been required for me to ID the moths that appear in my hallway attracted by the overnight light. The amazingly named brindled beauty has been here lots of mornings, you should look it up to see why brown may not be a boring colour after all!
And lastly, land mammal news! I'm used to lots of rabbits outside the flat on our lawn but it’s been so quiet they've bred like, well, rabbits and there's more than usual. So imagine how surprised, and delighted, I was last week when across the lawn trotted a sprightly fox! Perfect views 20m from my front window as it hunted and chased several frightened bunnies, once again, tough on them but made my day.
I wanted to end with this - there’s a spot where I sit outside my flat to wildlife spot and during lockdown I've followed the progress of a tree as it's emerged from its winter, leafless form into full bloom. I know it may not sound like riveting spectator viewing but the chance to observe the opening of the leaves (and the community of birds and animals living on it) has been truly fascinating. I've found out as well that it’s a sessile oak and a friend tell me that 'sessile' means 'fixed in one place, immobile' so presumably it’s called that to distinguish it from all the other oaks that are constantly running about!
We look forward to more wildlife updates from Andy next week.