Dolphins. A whole load of them today: over a hundred (could have been twice that number) including a pod of over sixty. Estimating numbers is very tricky.
It’s no wonder they are everyone’s favourite animal…they are energetic, acrobatic and charismatic, and most of all they are SPLASHY:
Intelligent too, of course.
I was on the water paddling out of Brixham before seven. Early is always good for wildlife, and because Torbay is a very busy place at this time of year, it gave me an opportunity to be well offshore by the time the jetski(ers)s got out of bed.
My plan was to paddle out around the huge cruise ship, Marella Explorer, anchored three miles beyond Berry Head.
As I drew level with the headland half-a-dozen circling Gannets caught my attention, and sure enough a dolphin cleared the water directly beneath them.
I approached the pod of about twenty-five cautiously. I can’t believe that my kayak, with my cruising speed of moderate walking pace, and completely silent and unsplashy, and projecting about two inches beneath the surface, could ever cause concern to a creature of the open sea, but it is not right (and not legal) to paddle too close.
However, they decided to come over and see me, and do a bit of bow-riding.
Of course I had to boost the pace a bit to give them something to get excited about. This one seemed to appreciate my efforts (although not as much as I appreciated it’s leap).
Then the whole lot came over and did their splashy thing.
A good start to the morning.
The wind actually died down as I paddled out to sea, enabling me to hear the splashing of the next dolphin pod before I saw it. This is one of the (many) benefits of cetacean watching from a kayak, and I would guess that two thirds of the porpoises, whales and dolphins I see, I hear first. In fact several whales I have frustratingly only heard. One big blow, and that’s it.
Nice image of a mother and calf…..
As I approached the Marella Explorer I passed another small pod, and then had a bit of an ornithological interlude before the main performance.
A couple of hundred Manx Shearwaters were chilling out in a large scattered flock, with a single Balearic Shearwater in amongst them.
I stopped for breakfast about a mile past the cruise ship, and soaked up the silence. And then heard a sound like a dishwasher, far away to the east. No individual splashes, but I couldn’t resist paddling over for an investigation. Fifteen minutes later I came upon the scene, and a LOAD of fins broke the surface….Common Dolphin SUPERPOD. Maybe not a superpod on a global scale, but certainly one on the lonekayaker’s scale.
At least sixty individuals, it could well have been over a hundred.
They were cruising around slowly and circling about, so I just sat and watched….
here’s part of the pod:
They eventually drifted away so I reluctantly headed back towards land, and towards the drone and howl of speedboat engines. I was precisely 4.89 miles out from Berry Head (according to my GPS), but I could hear the whine of each individual jetski coming out of Brixham. If it was irritating to me, what do the dolphins think about it? If it was loud above the water, it’s even worse under the surface. I could hear the clicks and whistles of the dolphins as they communicated with each other, but it must be a struggle for them with the noise pollution of a score of boat engines within the surrounding few miles.
The other smaller pods of dolphins seemed to have moved offshore as I paddled back in. Good Move.
The only fins appearing were the inconspicuous small black triangles of the resident porpoises as they rolled silently at the surface. They will be looking forward to windier days, and the end of the summer season, when recreational boat traffic coming out of Torbay is less. Their home, in the swirly water just off the end of Berry Head, is a focal point for all boats coming out of Torbay heading south (and coming into Torbay FROM the south, for that matter).
The porpoises today were very much eclipsed by their larger cousins.
The Day of the Dolphin.