Marine Mammals of North Wales

The chances are you have spotted some marine mammals at the coast in north Wales, during your stay here in the summer months. Whether it’s porpoises or seals, the coastline here is abundant with marine species and can provide great viewing for visitors. They are one of the apex predators of the marine ecosystem and are one of the most beautiful creatures to observe. The rich waters of north Wales, draw these mammals to our shores each year to feed on the abundance of bait fish. You can sometimes see acrobatic displays by the porpoises in the Menai strait, whilst out playing with their young. It’s a spectacle to observe. We’ve put together a comprehensive blog on the Marine mammals of north Wales, so you can get out spotting them on your next visit.

 

Where to see porpoises in north Wales 

There are a few locations to spot porpoises in and around Anglesey. The first would be Bull bay, they can be found here quite often. Bullbay is on the road to Amlwch, its a little seaside town with a golf course. Point Lynas is another spot to find porpoises too, head out for a walk there along the coastal path route around the light house, you can often see them on calm days. Another place I see them a lot is Ty Cross, Rhosneigr and Porth Trecastell on the West coast of Anglesey. The coast around the west coast of Anglesey has rich cool waters which bring in the fish and then the bigger marine life. LLandudno, the Menai strait and also south stack we tend to see a lot of marine mammals in the strong tidal currents during the summer months.

 

Boat trips in north Wales to spot porpoises dolphins and Marin life 

These are a few of the boat trips which run seasonally to take trips out to see the wild life and marine life in and around north Wales.

 

Rib Ride 

Seacoast Safaris 

Menai Cruises 

Llandudno boat trips

Stradia puffin island 

Conwy sight seeing cruises 

Seawake 

 

Top tips for spotting Porpoises around north Wales.

The biggest tip I can give you is to pick a flat calm day. You can only see marine life in the water when it’s calm. June to October at the best months to choose. Best seen in boat, but if your on the foreshore, the coastal path around the areas mentioned above. Take binoculars, take a flask of tea. As mentioned, I see loads of species in June, they are feeding on mackerel in and around the bays of Rhosneigr and towards Ty Cross way.

 

Questions I get asked here a lot :

 

Where I can spot seals in north Wales ?

North stack, South Stack on holyhead, Llandudno area around the Great Orme. Porth dinllaen on the LLyn peninsular is also good.

 

Whats the best time to see porpoises and dolphins in north Wales ?

June through to late September in my findings here.

 

Where is the best places to see Porpoises, Dolphins and marine life in north Wales?

See the points above and at the top of the article.

 

What are the best places to launch my boat to view Porpoises and other marine life?

West coast of Anglesey – Trearddur bay.

Menai Straits – The slip way near the Liverpool arms pub.

Ill create a map of this soon for you all.

 

Where can I do some whale watching on Anglesey 

This is a tricky one! Whales come and go pretty quickly on their migratory routes through Celtic waters, I hear they are often spotted along South stack on the migration up north to Scotland. Orcas are often seen migrating that way. The Celtic deeps which lie half way between Wales and Ireland are also good spots, where the rich cold Atlantic waters provide a great fast stream of tide and good food for the mammals as they transit between one place and another.

 

Below is a list of mammal species that visit our north Wales waters, some albeit intermittently, but its not uncommon to see a good few of these in a season .. Good luck on your Porpoise, Dolphin and Seal spotting trips in north Wales.

 

So I’ve complied a list of 11 species of mammals that can be seen in welsh waters. Some we not see for a couple of years, others we might

                               

  1. Risso’s Dolphin

 

About Risso’s Dolphin

Risso’s Dolphins are marine mammals that prefer the deeper offshore waters. They usually appears in pods and they have the ability to dive up to 1,000 feet. Since they are very active on the ocean surface, they can be identified quite easily.

How to identify Risso’s Dolphin?

Risso’s Dolphins are medium-sized mammals that have large body and dorsal fin. In addition, they are approximately 10 feet in size. Scarring is a common feature of Risso’s Dolphins that can weigh 300- 500 kilograms.

Where is their habitat

Risso’s Dolphins are marine mammals which live generally  in deep water.

Distribution

Visitors can see Risso’s Dolphins in North Wales, UK.

Did you know?

Risso’s Dolphins are the largest species of dolphin and their migrations get affected with the oceanographic conditions.

 

Rissos Dolphin – image by hdwt.org

 

 

  1. Common seals

 

About common seals

Common seals are marine mammals found on beaches and sandbanks along the uk coastline. They can dive to quite deep depths when they are feeding.

How to identify common seals?

The fur colour of common seals may vary depending on the geographic condition. They are usually smaller in size when compared to grey seals. They usually have spots across their body which are unique and don’t possess an outer ear structure.

Where is their habitat?

Common seals also called as harbor seals usually live in coastal and marine areas.

Distribution

It is possible to find common seas in the North Wales beaches in the UK.

Did you know?

There are about 300,000 and 500,000 common seals in the UK at present.

 

Common seal – image by wildscotland.org

 

  1. Grey seal

 

About Grey seals

Grey seals are large mammals and they can dive to depths up to 230 feet average for feeding fish and other creatures. Furthermore, they have the ability to hold their breath for more than an hour.

 

How to identify Grey seals?

Grey seals usually have a longer head and less curved profiles than common seals. The male grey seals are generally darker than female seals with lighter patches while female seals are silver grey to brown that have dark patches.

Where is their habitat?

Coastal and marine areas

Distribution

Grey seals breed in several colonies around North Wales beaches.

Did you know?

Grey seals live for 25 to 35 years.

 

Grey Seal – Image by wildlifetrust.org

 

 

  1. Bottlenose Dolphin

 

About the Bottlenose Dolphin

Bottlenose Dolphins are social creatures that live in tropical and temperate oceans. They are acrobats and often flip out of the ocean water up to five meters. Besides that, these marine mammals hold their breath under water for up to seven minutes.

 

How to identify Bottlenose Dolphin?

Bottlenose Dolphins usually have a curved mouth with a short thick beck. They are grey in colour that has two to four meters length. In addition, they have a curved dorsal fin on their back that aids in super swimming.

 

Where is their habitat?

The dolphins usually live under marine salt water but they can also live in freshwater.

 

Distribution

Visitors can find Bottlenose Dolphins all around the UK especially in North Wales.

 

Did you know?

The Bottlenose Dolphins can reach the water surface at a speed of 30km/hour.

Common bottle nose dolphin – image by noaa.org

 

5) Harbour Porpoise

 

About the Harbour Porpoise

Harbour Porpoise is one of the most common marine mammals of north Wales because visitors can spot them easily out at sea. They are smaller in size than other Porpoises.

 

How to identify Harbour Porpoise?

Harbour Porpoises have a robust body with maximum girth. They have a dark grey back with tall dorsal fins followed by flippers. The mammals don’t have a beak and usually possess a round face.

 

Where is their habitat?

They are marine mammals.

Distribution

Found all over the harbours and bays of North Wales in UK.

Did you know?

They can dive more than 655 feet but surface every 25 minutes.

Harbour porpoise -image by wildwhales.org

 

6) Common Dolphin

 

About the Common Dolphins

Common Dolphins are highly intelligent mammals that are friendly to human beings. They are a part of the family of whales and usually live in groups. Furthermore, they have accurate eye-sight when in and out of water.

How to identify common dolphins?

Common dolphins are medium-sized marine mammals which usually have a white belly and dark back. The male dolphins are larger and heavier than female dolphins.

Where is their habitat?

The common dolphins usually are found all across the Celtic sea.

Distribution

Visitors can find common dolphins all round UK oceans especially in North Wales.

Did you know?

There are nearly 40 species of dolphins that live under ocean water.

Common dolphin – image by firmm.org

 

7) Orca

 

About the Orca

Orca is often referred as a killer whale which is highly social in nature. It has the ability to travel long distances under ocean water and don’t stay in one area. Killer whales are often spotted in family groups.

 

How to identify orca?

Orcas usually have a white chest followed by a black back and sides. They even possess white patches above and behind the eyes. In addition, they also have a robust and heavy body and the teeth are very strong.

 

Where is their habitat?

Orcas are marine mammals that live under deep ocean water.

 

Distribution

A resident group of Orcas are usually found on the coasts of North Wales, that pass through on their way to Scotland and beyond.

 

Did you know?

They can survive in most water temperatures.

 

Orca – image by phys.org

 

 

8) White-beaked Dolphins

 

About the white-beaked Dolphins

White-beaked dolphins are active swimmers and they usually live in pods up to 1,500. They hunt for the food near water’s surface and also at the bottom of ocean. Moreover, they are acrobatic which are known to bow-ride and swim at high-speeds.

 

How to identify white-beaked dolphins?

White-beaked dolphins usually have a rotund body with a light belly. The mammal has a greyish white-spot on its back which distinguishes the animal from other dolphins. Also, the mammals have dark flippers, fin, and flukes.

 

Where is their habitat?

White-beaked dolphins are marine mammals that live under deep ocean water.

 

Distribution

They are usually found on the coasts of North Wales, in small pods of upto 10.

 

Did you know?

The dolphins have unique tonal range of clicks and whistles.

White beaked dolphin – whallingmuseum.org

 

9) Humpback whale

 

About the Humpback whale

Humpback whale is a large whale that can travel to long-distances under sea water. In fact, they migrate farther than any other mammals and often propel themselves effortlessly through the water the water. They even have the ability to communicate through series of clicks and high frequency noises in the water column.

 

How to identify Humpback whale?

Humpback whales usually have an enormous body that can raise straight out of the water and slap on the surface. The body is black or dark grey in colour and have elongated pectoral fins. Apart from that, they are up to 18m  long in size and weigh up to 40 tons.

 

Where is their habitat?

Humpback whales are marine mammals that live under deep ocean water.

Distribution

They can be seen every now and again off Cardigan bay, but it is a rarity.

Did you know?

The mammals have a life span up to 50 years.

Humpback whale – Image by

 

10) Minke Whale

 

About the Minke whales

Minke Whales are filter feeders that are generally spotted alone or with small groups. They gestate for 10 to 11 months and have the ability to travel around 40km/hour. These mammals can migrate to warmer waters when they conditions become cold.

How to identify Minke whales?

Minke whales usually have a length from 7 to 9 m and possess colours such as black, grey, purple, etc. Another thing is that they have a tall sickle shaped fin along with a sleek and dark grey body.

Where is their habitat?

Minke whales are marine mammals that live under deep ocean water.

Distribution

They can be found on the coasts of North Wales.

Did you know?

The mammals live typically for 40-50 years.

Minke whale – Image by orcaweb.org.uk

 

11) Leatherback turtle

 

About the  Leatherback turtle

It is one of the largest turtle species in the world that have a tough skin which resemble rubbery leather. Leatherback turtles have the ability to live at the higher latitudes due to their specialized circulatory system. Besides that, the turtles are expert drivers that can dive up to 4000 feet.

How to identify leatherback turtle?

Leatherback turtles have a hard shell and flattened forelimbs adopted for swimming. In addition to that, they possess different characteristics which distinguish them from other turtles. They have white dots all over the body with a light underbelly.

Where is their habitat?

The turtles are marine mammals that live under deep ocean water.

Distribution

They can be found on the coasts of North Wales.

Did you know?

Leatherback turtles can swim over 10,000 miles a year.

 

leatherback turtle – image by sea turtle status.org

 

 

 

 

 

 

Front Cover image : Photo by Hanson Lu on Unsplash

 

Tan Y Tro Nesaf  / Until the next time,

Nick

 

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