Harbour Porpoise off Worm's Head

Monday, March 26, 2018 Adam Tilt 0 Comments


Harbour Porpoise, Gower
Just two days prior to our first Wheatear sighting of the spring we'd been down at Rhossili looking for the very same thing. Conditions were blustery and a tad on the chilly side but find a sheltered spot and it was very pleasant indeed. Even so it didn't look that promising and so it proved to be, the crashing waves over on Worm's Head however providing more than enough entertainment.

P1130863 - Worm's Head, Gower

Things though were about to get a whole lot better. Settling down for some lunch above the old fishing hut we immediately spotted a shape in the water just off shore, views too brief to be confident of any firm ID. Fortunately we didn't have to ponder for long as a few seconds later it was back, a superb Harbour Porpoise feeding avidly barely twenty or thirty metres out. If I'd had a blog way back when we first moved down here over a decade ago I would at this point link to a post detailing our last cetacean encounter here, that time a Bottle-nosed Dolphin feeding again close in to the cliffs but in water so crystal clear that we could see everything going on beneath. No chance of a repeat spectacle with the sea state like it was today but even so we got fabulous views.

Porpoise, Rhossili

The small central dorsal fin with its triangular shape is classic Porpoise and thanks to those distinctive notches this should be a relatively easy individual to track should it be recorded anywhere else. To help with that we've submitted our record to the Sea Watch Foundation and would encourage anyone else observing sea creatures to do the same (http://www.seawatchfoundation.org.uk/sightingsform/).

As we watched on a pattern soon began to emerge. The Porpoise would make four or five very shallow dives, often with only a few seconds between, before rising slightly higher out of the water and disappearing for several minutes at a time. Having watched whale species behave in a similar manner we knew this to be a deeper dive although given the low tide deep probably wasn't all that deep after all. Fantastic to watch and let's hope it's not another ten years before our next sighting here.

Elsewhere on the headland birds were proving rather difficult to find. Too early it seems for Fulmars, possibly too busy for any Chough and thanks to that offshore wind unlikely to provide a migrant bonanza. There were plenty of Oystercatchers down on the causeway however and it was nice to see a Kestrel on one of its traditional perches.

P1130866 - Kestrel, Rhossili

Down beneath the lookout station though it was clear that not everyone had been so lucky. The grass was littered with bird corpses, many picked over thoroughly for carrion, including species which you'd not normally expect to find. In just a quarter of a mile we counted at least ten Golden Plover, six Lapwing, two Dunlin and two Redwing. Such a sad sight and testament to quite how severe our recent weather has been.

P1130878 - Worm's Head, Gower

It would have been nice to have finished on a high after that sorry discovery but alas the weather again had different ideas. Throughout our stay a distinctly angry looking dark cloud had been developing and with its arrival seemingly imminent we chose the sensible option and retreated. Not a moment too soon either as the heavens opened soon after.

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