A SERIES of unusual whale sightings caught the attention of scientists at marine mammal research facility, Sea Watch Foundation, this past week.
Members of the public are encouraged by the organisation to report any sightings of dolphins, porpoises and whales across the UK. This usually leads to patterns of species being found in areas where they are expected, but there are occasionally exceptions to the rule, thanks to the nature of water-bound species. The recent sightings around Wales serve as an example of that.
The long-finned pilot whale is the species in question, well known due to the exploitation of the mammals during organised drives in the Faroe Islands. These ‘subsidence’ hunts take place annually, and many activists would like to see an end to them. Pilot whales observed in the Faroes may travel along the shelf edge to waters west of the British Isles and beyond, radio-tracking studies have shown.
Despite the fact that there are past records of pilot whales spotted around Wales, it remains an rather unusual occurrence, especially with sightings taking place at four different locations on four separate occasions.
The first sighting was made in the Central Irish Sea, 47 miles out from Aberdyfi in Gwynedd. On August 17, five pilot whales were spotted at this location by Charlie Bartlett, who has been venturing out to sea for 45 years. On Sunday, August 21, the second sighting was made off Eynon Point, Swansea, where a lone pilot whale was reported. On that very same day, a third sighting was reported. Two days later, near between Southerndown and Ogmore-by-Sea in Glamorgan, the final sighting was made. This time, eight animals were spotted by Sea Watch volunteer Keith Burgess. Keith couldn’t be certain of what he was watching at the time of the sighting (11am, Tuesday, August 23). The Sea Watch Foundation team discussed the matter, becoming confident that the animals were indeed long-finned pilot whales.
With so many similar reports from the same time – two of which have been verified – it is certainly plausible that a pod of these whales is moving around the Welsh coast at the moment.
Sightings Officer for Sea Watch Foundation, Kathy James, said: “We’d love people to get out there to look for these enigmatic whales and report any sightings to us. We encourage these ‘casual sightings’ through our website and also welcome people to take part in dedicated watches for whales, dolphins and porpoises around our coast.”
Dr Peter Evans, Director of Sea Watch Foundation, said: “Long-finned pilot whales typically live in large groups in deep waters beyond the edge of the continental shelf. Here they feed largely upon oceanic squid. However, occasionally they come into shelf waters around the British Isles from the Atlantic, either in pursuit of squid or shoaling fish. It is likely that an abundance of a particular prey species brought them into Welsh coastal waters on this occasion.”
How to monitor whales around Wales:
- Report your sightings at www.seawatchfoundation.org.uk/sightingsform.
- Stage a dedicated watch at www.seawatchfoundation.org.uk/recording-and-submitting-sightings.
- Get in touch! Email kathy.james@seawatchfoundation. org.uk.
Long-finned pilot whale facts:
- Length: Adult females are 4-5.5m. Males grow to 5.5- 6m in length.
- Head: Bulbous head, short, almost imperceptible, beak.
- Fins and coloration: A dark back, a low-swept back fin and long flippers.
- Lifespan: Around 50 years
- Diet: Pilot whales seem to feed exclusively on Todarodes (a genera of cephalopods) whereever possible, but if it is unavailable, the diet is supplemented with a range of other prey items including fish and shrimps. In winter, prey species diversity increases whereas fish become more important in summer, especially in the diet of males, although squid still continue to make up the bulk of the food.
New Quay RNLI crew members pass out as ILB helms
NEW QUAY RNLI crew members Huw Williams and Dylan Price recently passed out as inshore lifeboat helms.
They were put through their paces by an RNLI Assessor on Monday (Aug 13) with a written exam ashore and a practical assessment afloat on the D class inshore lifeboat.
Roger Couch, Lifeboat Operation Manager of New Quay RNLI said: “As well as responding to emergencies our volunteer crew members spend a lot of time training in order to maintain their knowledge and skills.
“Both crew members have worked very hard over the past 12 months to complete all the training units needed and have now passed the final stage.
“Our lifeboats are on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, all year round and having seven qualified helms for our inshore lifeboat provides us with additional flexibility.”
Huw Williams added:“Dylan and I would like to thank all the crew here at New Quay lifeboat station for their help over the last 12 months. We could not have done it without their support.”
Schools succeed in A-Level results
A-LEVEL examination results published yesterday(16 August) by the WJEC indicate that high standards are being achieved in Ceredigion schools.
Councillor Catrin Miles, Cabinet member with responsibility for Learning Services said: “Our sincere congratulations are extended to Ceredigion sixth form students who, once again have excelled in their A Levels. Thank you to all school staff, Governors and parents who have supported our young people to fulfil their potential.
“Their successes are a testament to our pupils’ efforts and hard work, in addition to the quality of education provided by teachers in Ceredigion. We are proud of the well-deserved achievements of our young people and wish them well in the future.”
Nearly 27% of Ceredigion entries achieved A* – A grades and 77% of entries achieved A*- C grades. A pass rate of 98% was achieved by Ceredigion students.
|Grade A* – A||26.8%||26.3%|
|Grade A* – B||56.7%||n/a|
|Grade A* – C||77.1%||n/a|
|Grade A* – E||97.8%||97.4%|
Compared with last year, 6% more of Ceredigion entries achieved A*-A grades. The number of entries that have achieved A*-A, and A*-E in Ceredigion is higher than the Welsh average.
Man assaulted nurses while being restrained
A PRE-SENTENCE report will be prepared on a Ceredigion man who assaulted two nurses and destroyed an extractor fan.
Lewis Hill, aged 24, of Brynhoffnant, appeared before Haverfordwest Magistrates Court on Tuesday (Aug 14) to plead guilty to the three charges.
Prosecuting, Mr Vaughan Pritchard-Jones told the Court: “At 11pm in the evening on January 30, the defendant was on the roof of Bronglais Hospital threatening to jump off. Police and medical personnel attended and were able to talk him down.
“He was taken to the Cwm Seren ward in St Davids Park, Carmarthen, where they arrived at 1:03am the following morning. During the course of being assessed he became aggressive and had to be restrained by staff. He kicked out at the first nurse and was then put on the floor.
“Whilst on the floor he was throwing his head back and forth and the staff nurse, who was concerned for him, tried to hold his head but he continued to throw his head and because of the force he was using he trapped her finger onto the floor.
“The charge did originally read as common assault but the nurse went to get her finger x-rayed which revealed the fracture.
“After that incident he got free and he started damaging an extractor fan which he completely destroyed.
“I am not sure why the case has taken so long to come here but at the time of the offence he was on a suspended prison sentence, the period for which has now elapsed.”
Defending, Mrs Katie Hanson added: “He is extremely sorry for his actions on that night. He was on the roof of Bronglais Hospital trying to commit suicide. There are serious mental health issues but he accepts he was struggling on the floor but he did not intentionally hurt anyone and he apologises for his actions.”
Magistrates ordered that a pre-sentence report be prepared and Hill was released on unconditional bail and must return to court on Wednesday, August 29 for sentencing.
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