Chris McCully

Fishing Diary

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Dolphins and jellyfish 2

Wednesday, 5 April 2017 at 19:52

Shearwaters We were told that the bottlenose dolphins were feeding on sardines, or anchovies, or mackerel. My hunch was that they were predating on smaller fish than mackerel - I think we'd have seen plenty of signs of mackerel hunting anchovies, if any mackerel had been present - and so anchovies were my guess. It was spectacular: the dolphins would cruise through the shoals of prey fish, sometimes in pairs, and as they drove the prey to the surface the birds would move in. These hunting birds were Cory's shearwaters, and it wasn't uncommon to see a dolphin snout and a shearwater meet at the surface in the same shoal of prey. For an hour, all was noise, activity and intent, and we had some very close encounters with hunting dolphins.

Dolphins and jellyfish 3

Wednesday, 5 April 2017 at 19:36

Sailing jellyfish This species of jellyfish can sail. The Latin name, Velella velella, captures something of that - think e.g. of French voile (sail, n.). The creatures erect their sail in order to traverse large tracts of ocean, and below the sail is the body and a set of trailing, highly poisonous tentacles. (You can actually glimpse the tentacles in this shot, at a high resolution.) The species is related to the Portuguese man o'war. V. velella has certainly been recorded in the Canary Islands, so the creatures we saw last week off La Gomera weren't some sort of freak occurrence: they'd simply drifted inshore, feeding on plankton, in relatively warm spring temperatures.

   On our trip we were trying to watch for dolphins and whales, though only one of us - not I - got the merest glimpse of a whale (a certain sighting of a Bryde's whale), while another also caught a glimpse of a young hammerhead shark. Hammerheads breed each spring in the waters off La Gomera. Bottlenose dolphins, however, we did see, and it was fascinating to watch the co-operation - more truly, the parasitism - that existed between the mammals and the birds.


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