What lives in
the water?

 

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Last month, a group of volunteers, led by Chris and Sharron Blackmore, set out to find out just what large sea creatures are our neighbours. The results may suprise you!

 

As part of the Sea Watch National Whale and Dolphin Watch, Chris, Sharron and other volunteers watched the sea from their vantage point of Capstone every day for a week. This is an important monitoring exercise nationally to help us understand what is in our waters.

 

They monitored precisely what sea creatures they saw each day.

 

Dolphin sightings are not unusual on our coast - this lovely footage is from Chris Crow who was out kayaking from the Harbour last month.

 

 

Porpoises are often seen from from Ilfracombe.

 

Erik Christensen This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

 

One of the most common sightings on the coast around Ilfracombe is Harbour Porpoise (pictured above). They are about 1.5 metres in length. Often on a walk around Capstone, you can see them surfacing out of the water in the distance. Chris and Sharron Blackmore, Regional Co-ordinators of Sea Watch say "Our porpoise sightings were down on previous years with only 6 seen over the week and a distinct lack of feeding gannets. This was possibly due partly to the unusual appearance of Storm Evert and, more likely, the severe lack of mackerel this year." 

 

A porpoise seen from Capstone that volunteers nicknamed 'Blackfin'.

Photo: Chris Blackmore

 

 

WHAT TO LOOK FOR
OUT TO SEA

 

 

 

A Harbour Porpoise appears quickly at the surface of the water. Note the 'Dairylea' cheese shaped fin.

 

 

Dolphins are bigger than Harbour Porpoise and often leap out of the water completely. Their fins are taller and thinner.

 

 

Seals stick their heads out of the water to breathe for a few moments before diving back underwater to fish. Atlantic Great seals have heads which are a little like a dog's head.

 

 

Sunfish have tall fins which flap about on the surface of the water.

 

 

Added to the porpoise sightings, SeaWatch on Capstone recorded grey seals and also two sunfish. Sunfish are remarkable fish which are pretty much round. All you might see is their dorsal fin flapping about in the water.

 

They are seen sometimes in the summer months around Ilfracombe where they feed on small fish, and jellyfish.

 

Photo credit: Per-Ola Norman

 

Ocean Sunfish, above, can grow to be an impressive 1.5 metres to 2 metres long!

 

Seals are a common sight around Ilfracombe with a large colony based in Lundy.

 

Spearmint is a young seal that has been coming ashore recently. Read his seal pupdate here.

 

"The best of the week," say Chris and Sharron, "was an extremely rare sighting of five common dolphins feeding just 500m out with gannets circling and diving in. This was our first sighting of common dolphins so close inshore in the 16 years we've been watching from Capstone!"

 

This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

Phot by Mike Pennington, licensed for reuse under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 license.

 

Gannets, pictured above, are slightly larger than Herring Gulls (known as seagulls) but are characterised by the incredibly fast dives they make into the sea. If you see gannets, it can be a good sign that dolphins are around too as the gannets pick off fish from those being 'rounded up' by dolphins.

 

Details of what was recorded during the SeaWatch week from Capstone and nationally can be found on the Sea Watch Foundation website.

 

Chris and the other local volunteers will be back out at Capstone doing watches at least weekly during the summer and also during the SeaIlfracombe Festival. 

 

If you see them at Capstone with their binoculars, you are very welcome to say hello and find out what they have seen.

 

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