I sit on the grassy bank at the top of a cliff, overlooking a steep drop to rocks and the sea below. Behind me are the whitewash walls of a fish factory. Stretching out ahead is the gently rolling blue green of the ocean, small dark wavelets catching the eye and the occasional ray of warm sunshine that appears and disappears behind banks of clouds. The horizon is hazy, the waves disappearing into the opaque mist while most of the coastline on either side of me is shrouded. Below me fishermen cast their line far into the water, the lures glittering briefly in the air before disappearing beneath the waves. In the clear blue green directly below the rocks you can see the fish swarming. Tiny whitebait swirl in dark shoals are followed by larger and darker shoals of mackerel. A little further beyond and the animals I wanted to see most of all, those that I long to see even once one has disappeared from view, animals I never tire of and which seem entwined with my very soul, surface with a breath that always sends a shiver down my spine and lightens my heart. Dolphins. The irrational disappointment of the boat trip that blanked only moments before is wiped away and replaced with a joy and feeling of elation that no other wildlife can bring.
Searching for dolphins at New Quay
Brilliantly white seabirds swirl over the balls of fish, dipping down to the waters surface, chasing each other and then settling on the water as the shoals move, only to lift again as they spot the next group of fish. The dolphins have followed the mackerel which have followed the whitebait. For a couple of hours, two dolphins work the water off the headland and small bay just round the corner from the harbour wall of New Quay. At times they move a little further away, circling back in to shore, coming within 50 m of the rocks. As the afternoon progresses more dolphins have joined the feeding party, with over eight individuals within view including young calves surfacing close to their mothers. At one moment the group is spread out, surfacing in pairs, threes or on their own. The next moment the group comes together, surfacing close to, leaping high out of the rippling water, breaching synchronously. My heart leaps as I watch one dolphin breach three times in a row, another swings in close to the rocks, swimming underwater on its side flicking a fish from its mouth before grabbing it again and disappearing. Mum and baby pass close by the rocks too, the youngster hugging its mother’s side, swimming in her slip stream. Tail slapping, breaching, spy hopping, I see it all from my lofty view point. It is one of my best encounters with bottlenose dolphins and I am not even on a boat!
Four hours pass and evening draws on, the light is fading turning the water silvery grey as clouds and that misty haze creeps closer. The wavelets smooth out as the wind disappears completely. Still the dolphins are there. Out past a fishing buoy the group continues to feed and play. I hang on as long as possible, not wanting the moment to end but it is soon time for me to leave. But the sighting remains in my heart, in my memories and in my dreams.