Despite fine conditions, no takers for the wildlife walk so checked the bay from the beach slipway before returning to the office. Scanned the entire blue sea horizon left to right; almost completing a return scan when a black arc and white splash broke the dark chop at the trailing edge of vision. Using binoculars for wider view, several black backs and dorsal fins worked right to left: difficult to distinguish Dolphin or Porpoise.
Whilst tracking the pod right, one individual broke from the group, shiny grey back and dorsal fin slicing the water directly towards the beach. Several visitors gathered, so between setting the telescope and directing observers, despite the animal making leisurely progress just 30 yards offshore, it was difficult to concentrate on emerging head to check beak length: Porpoise, called ‘sea pig’ in Welsh, have blunt heads with short beak; Common Dolphin profiles are well known.
Making space to track course and speed, it became clear that the animal was short beaked, seeming at first to hold a fish. Tracking further, it became evident: too long for Porpoise; the ‘fish’ a pale pointed snout. The animal maintained course just offshore and out of sight, giving time to check the field guide: White-Beaked Dolphin the obvious conclusion.
Several other people arrived on the beach, alerted to news of Dolphins, so we moved forward to follow last seen trajectory. Finding the animal now sweeping wide into the bay, it was exciting to find it heading back at the beach, with a repeat performance just off the beach in the opposite direction before working its way out of sight beyond the point.
Checking later, White-Beaked Dolphin range does not include the Irish Sea and Bottle-Nosed Dolphins often show a pale lower jaw, so more likely to have been the latter species.
Wildlife Wales Activities: www.wildlife-wales.co.uk