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Strumble Head: Sea Watch Foundation reports ‘killer whale’ sighting

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Impressive sight: Killer whale (Stock photo)

Impressive sight: Killer whale (Stock photo)

LAST SATURDAY, an unusual marine mammal was spotted off Strumble Head in Pembrokeshire, according to the Sea Watch Foundation. According to their website, one of their observers, Caroline Webb, reported her sighting to the organisation, which holds the UK database for sightings of whales, dolphins and porpoises.

Initially thought to be a squid-eating Risso’s dolphin, there was something about the description of the animal that didn’t ring true; it was seen devouring a seal pup!

Caroline Webb said: “There was a struggle going on and a pool of blood was spreading on the surface of the water. It had the rounded blunt head of a Risso’s dolphin but the whole thing appeared to be dark and not pale. We saw the head clearly when it came out of the water to go for the seagulls. It was near a bay where a baby seal was known to have been lying, about half a mile east of Strumble Head.”

According to the SWF,  killer whales are known to visit the Irish Sea occasionally and have been seen off the coast of Wales on a number of occasions although sighting reports attributed to the species are often unconfirmed. Those that were confirmed include four killer whales seen off Bardsey Island in June 2013, a solitary animal recorded from the ferry between Dublin and Holyhead in May 2012, and six killer whales seen travelling north off South Stack, Anglesey in August 2011. There was also an unverified report of a killer whale off nearby Mwnt, in Ceredigion, back in July. However, most Welsh sightings have been west of Pembrokeshire in the waters referred to as the Celtic Deep.

Dr Peter Evans, Sea Watch’s Director, told The Herald: “Essentially, the size of the whale, the shape of its head and description of its fin, along with the observation of an actual seal attack make it difficult to attribute the sighting to anything else other than killer whale.”

Dr Evans added: “One might have expected the white oval patch behind the eye to have been seen but at a distance in dull light, this can easily go unnoticed. Since the fin was described as recurved rather than erect and triangular, it was probably either an immature male or adult female.”

“We don’t know very much about the movements of killer whales (or orcas as we prefer to call them) on the west coast of Britain. Members of a pod that has numbered up to fourteen can be seen annually around the Hebrides of west Scotland, mainly in summer. The most famous of these is a mature male nicknamed “John Coe” that we have observed since at least 1980.  It has a distinct nick towards the base of the dorsal fin making it instantly recognisable (and recently gained a chunk out of its tail, possibly a shark bite). Sightings of John Coe have ranged from the Hebrides over to East Scotland, south to the northwest coast of Ireland and well  into the Irish Sea off West Wales – a true wanderer,”

Kathy explained that the sighting could not be verified. She explained: “So although we couldn’t give Caroline a 100% definite ID for the animal she witnessed, everything she told us leads us to believe it was a killer whale feeding off Strumble Head.”

Kathy added: “This is really exciting news for wildlife enthusiasts and I would urge them to take to the headlands of West Wales these coming days to see if they can catch up with the animal. If people do see this or any other whale, dolphin or porpoise, they should report them to Sea Watch. All the information we can gather about these majestic animals allows us to protect and conserve them gong forwards”

 

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Communities and staff thanked for flood support

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COMMUNITIES and staff have been thanked for their work during the Storm Callum Floods. The October floods caused great damage to homes, businesses, roads and bridges in the south of Ceredigion. The floods were the biggest flood event in the last 31 years in Ceredigion.

During the flooding, the council supported the emergency services to prioritise the saving of lives. This included making sure that roads and bridges made dangerous by floodwater were closed. The council’s emergency response and recovery procedures were carried out during the event. Multi-agency emergency procedures were also carried out.

Ceredigion County Council Chief Executive, Mr Eifion Evans said, “Council staff went above and beyond their duties over the weekend of the floods. I saw their efforts with my own eyes; staff who weren’t on duty were offering to come in to help our residents. We had to send some staff home as they wanted to work longer than the 12 hour maximum that staff are allowed to work in one shift.

I have also been impressed by the huge efforts made by communities to help each other during, and in the aftermath of the flooding.”

After water levels dropped, council staff from Community Wellbeing, Housing and Highways Teams immediately went to the affected areas to offer practical support and advice. They also saw the extent of the damage that had been caused.

Everyone who has been in touch with the council has been offered help with housing, including being offered emergency temporary accommodation where needed. The Housing Team have worked with local landlords and B&B owners to provide additional accommodation, and to provide ongoing support for people who have been affected by the flood.

The Community Wellbeing Team have also provided advice and specialist equipment to residents to help to begin to dry out their homes. This support is ongoing.

The council organised drop-in sessions in Lampeter, Newcastle Emlyn, Llandysul and Llechryd. The sessions were attended by many organisations that can offer support and advice. The sessions gave residents the chance to ask the organisations any questions they had about recovering from the flood.

The Highways Team have arranged a free service to pick-up and dispose of flood damaged materials and have put skips in local household waste sites for flood damaged possessions. The team also cleared 100 tons of earth from the B4459 near Capel Dewi after a landslide covered the road. The Highways Team also repaired damaged roads and bridges.

Mr Evans continued, “The council is dedicated to helping our residents recover from the devastating effects of the recent floods. I understand that the impact is still very raw for people who have been affected, especially those who have been made homeless. I want to reassure every resident that our committed staff are working hard to help you. Despite severe pressure on council budgets, we will do everything in our power to continue to offer practical help to residents.”

A flood recovery group has met regularly to look at how the Council can target help in the most effective way. A further flood newsletter will be published in the near future. The Council will also be hosting flood advice surgeries and building on the work of developing emergency support groups for flooding.

More information about the help the council can offer is available on the website on www.ceredigion.gov.uk/stormcallumfloods

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Training company enjoy successful open evening

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HYFFORDDIANT CEREDIGION TRAINING (HCT) enjoyed a successful open evening on November 7 as it opened its doors to the public.

Opening HCT’s doors gave people the opportunity to see the fantastic range of training opportunities available for them. This included opportunities for young people who are interested in seeing what apprenticeships HCT has to offer.

Mark Gleeson, Manager for Post 14 Vocational Learning said, “It is important that HCT holds open evenings to showcase different learning opportunities that are available to all learners. HCT offers a large number of apprenticeships which ensures that the next generation of skilled workforce is being trained and employed by local companies. This is very important to the economy of Ceredigion.”

There was an opportunity to have a tour of the building, to speak to tutors, to have a look at the workshops, and to see trainees and apprentices in action. This gave a flavour of the kind of work that is done daily at the training centre.

Traineeships and apprenticeships, but also evening classes, are taught at HCT, as Councillor Catrin Miles, Cabinet Member for Learning Service and Lifelong Learning explains, “If studying towards a full qualification in a given trade is not what you are after, but you want to gain some of the basic skills in the various routes HCT specialises in, why not join an evening class? The next round of evening courses are beginning now. So, what are you waiting for? Contact HCT to see what it has to offer you.”

Evening classes run for six weeks and HCT offers these 2-3 times per year. HCT offers a range of vocational courses for people of all ages, including Hairdressing, Childcare, Business Administration, Information Technology, Carpentry, Plumbing, Electrics, Blacksmithing, Agriculture, Motor Mechanics and Welding.

For more information, find ‘Hyfforddiant Ceredigion Training’ on Facebook, or visit the website, http://www.ceredigion.gov.uk/public-it/hct/index.html

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Vandalism at coastguard lookout point

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POLICE are investigating vandalism at the old coastguard lookout point at Bird’s Rock.

A council spokesperson said: “We’re very sad to see vandalism to the old coastguard look out at Bird’s Rock on the coastal path a mile to the west of New Quay last week.

“All five windows was smashed – some even had their wooden frames ripped out.”

Melanie Heath, Ceredigion County Council’s Marine Protected Area Officer, added: “This act of vandalism is so distressing to see. The look-out was restored thanks to a special grant from the Crown Estate. It is used by our Dolphin and Porpoise Watch volunteers throughout the monitoring season. It is also a special place for many local people and visitors alike to sit for a while and take in the spectacular views of Cardigan Bay.”

If anyone has any information, contact Heddlu Dyfed Powys Police on 101

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