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Unusual whale species spotted

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screen-shot-2016-09-12-at-14-31-24A 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.
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Overall ‘excellent’ performance at Mynach Primary School

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A RECENT Estyn report on the primary school in Mynach has given the ‘Excellent’ status to each of the five inspection areas.

It was noted in the report that the school had attained ‘Excellent’ status in standards; wellbeing and attitudes to learning; teaching and learning experiences; care, support and guidance; and leadership and management.

The report notes, ‘A particular feature is the opportunities for Key Stage 2 pupils to plan and deliver lessons for the rest of the class, focusing on specific skills.’

Joyce George is headteacher at Ysgol y Mynach. She is also headteacher at Pontrhydfendigaid Primary School and Sir John Rhys Primary School. She said, “As a headteacher, I am extremely proud of the results of the survey and very grateful to the staff, governors and those who work effectively together as a team to ensure a first class education for all pupils. I am proud of the fact that the inspectors identified pupils’ literacy, numeracy and information and communication technology skills as excellent.

It was also noted that a pioneering feature of Ysgol Mynach is the way in which teachers adapt and develop the curriculum in order to raise pupils’ independence. Working together as a wider partnership with Ysgol Pontrhydfendigaid and Ysgol Sir John Rhys, Ponterwyd is a great advantage and an opportunity to share expertise, co-design and share ideas which extend and widen the experiences of pupils across the schools.”

Councillor Catrin Miles is the Cabinet member for Learning services. She said: “The Estyn report shows that Ysgol Gynradd Mynach has achieved exceptionally high standards. The hard work and dedication of the headteacher, staff, governors and of course the children is very evident. The school shows that a way of working together with neighbouring schools in a progressive way can produce excellent results. Everyone in the school deserves congratulations.”

The report notes that the school is an extremely close community. It also notes that the head teacher has a progressive vision that is continually focused on maintaining and raising standards of pupils’ achievement and wellbeing.

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Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn visits Machynlleth

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ON Thursday 15 August Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn addressed around 200 local Labour Party members from Mid, West and North Wales at Machynlleth Bowling Club. Tickets for the event had all been taken within 24 hours, and an additional video link was live streamed into the club bar to allow those who could not get into the packed venue the opportunity to hear him speak.

Mr Corbyn was joined by Christina Rees, Shadow Secretary of State for Wales, and West Wales Regional AMs Joyce Watson and Eluned Morgan, Welsh Labour Minister for International Relations and the Welsh Language.

Eluned Morgan AM’s passionate introductory remarks highlighted Welsh Labour’s ongoing commitment to improving outcomes in education, health, housing, jobs and the environment. She urged immediate action from international UK and international governments on the climate crisis, declaring ‘The emergency is now!’

Mr Corbyn made clear that he is expecting a general election to be likely very soon and proceeded to outlined the scale of the current crisis the UK is facing, with 14 million now in poverty in the world’s 5th richest economy, and child poverty predicted by some to rise as high as 40%.

He went on to congratulate Welsh Labour on the great work that has been possible in Wales to insulate the Welsh people from the worst of the effects of Tory austerity, protecting vital NHS services and preventing the worst of school cuts, but he explained that there was only so much that could be done without the full support of a Labour government in Westminster.

“Things will be very different under a Labour government” Mr Corbyn added, saying that Labour will invest in people, with principles of equality and social justice and to demonstrate his state of readiness, with great vigour declared: “I’m up for an election anytime”.

He expressed grave concern over the effects that a reckless No Deal Brexit would have on the UK economy with particular reference to the devastating effects on Welsh industry and agriculture. He promised that Labour will do everything they can to prevent a no-deal, including the offer of a second referendum with Remain as an option, and the formation of a national unity government to prevent further political chaos.

Outlining his commitment to green industrial development Jeremy Corbyn stated that a Labour government would support the creation of the Swansea Tidal Lagoon which would bring valuable new green transitional jobs to Wales which would lead the world on renewables technology.

Mr Corby thanked everyone present for their efforts in Wales and reaffirmed his commitment to core Labour values of equality and social justice. He received a standing ovation and stayed after the event to chat and have photos taken with supporters.

A Ceredigion Labour spokesperson commented: “Jeremy Corbyn spoke passionately and inspiringly. He was full of praise for our outstanding efforts in the 2017 election and said he would be visiting Ceredigion during the next General Election campaign.”

The following day Mr Corbyn visited the Centre for Alternative Technology in Machynlleth to see new renewable energy technology in action and learn about pioneering methods of sustainable building and farming. He also confirmed that he would not stand in the way of any future discussion of a Welsh Independence referendum, and that he was open to considering all options for Wales’future.

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Gypsy Traveller Accommodation Assessment 2019

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CEREDIGION County Council are currently trying to contact as many members of the community as possible to take part in a survey on accommodation for Gypsy Traveller communities. Information collected from the survey will be used to understand how many pitches may be needed in Ceredigion now and in the future.

The Housing (Wales) Act 2014 requires all local authorities in Wales to undertake a Gypsy and Traveller Accommodation Assessment (GTAA) at least every five years to ensure that appropriate sites are provided where an unmet need is identified.

Councillor Dafydd Edwards, Cabinet member with responsibility for Housing said: “An understanding of Gypsy and Traveller accommodation is essential for us as a Council to make properly planned provision. We need to speak to as many families and individuals as possible in order to produce a robust evaluation of need for a gypsy/traveller or showmen site, or sites, in the county. If you have any contacts in the gypsy or traveller community, let the Council know how to contact them or encourage them to contact the Council directly.”

Any personal data gathered will be held under the Council’s privacy notice which is available here: http://www.ceredigion.gov.uk/your-council/data-protection-freedom-of-information/data-protection/privacy-notice/.

Contact the Council directly using gt@ceredigion.gov.uk or phone Clic, the Council’s Customer Contact Centre on 01545 570881.

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