Day of the dolphin

Some time before my first encounter with a dolphin on the water, a friend told how he had spent an hour watching a small pod from the cliffs at South Stack on Anglesey. For what seemed an age he had watched half a dozen bottlenose dolphins cavorting beneath the lighthouse until eventually, though it seemed wrong somehow to leave the scene, he turned and left them to work the tides. Since then, I have been fortunate enough to see dolphins (as well as orcas and minkie whales), off the Pembroke coast, around the Isle of Mull as well as Skye, from Shetland Mainland, the Coigach coastline and in the Moray Firth. A brief sighting of Risso's dolphins was perhaps the most special of these, a huge pod (approx. 100) of common dolphins in the Sound of Raasay arguably the most impressive, while the bottlenose dolphins Brian and I saw while paddling in Pembroke were by far and away the most playful. But I have never seen them while paddling around Anglesey. Until today.
It began beneath a strong sun and deep blue skies, crossing to Rhoscolyn Beacon where we played a while in the gently ebbing tide...
...moving out into the main flow between the skerries, I spotted a large fin, causing momentary confusion so unexpected was the sighting. The solitary dolphin* moved leisurely back and forth across the tide, at times very close, fish leaping clear of the surface as we tracked his movements for the best part of half an hour.
Moving on eventually we followed the low cliffs north around Rhoscolyn Head, exploring various gullies and caves before passing through the White Arch - obvious from the cliff top above, approaching by sea from the south it is hidden at the back of what appears to be a dead end gully which opens as the last corner is turned. Weaving amongst the skerries that follow we soon crossed Trearddur Bay and continued on past Porth Dafarch to rest in a small cove, soaking in the sun, waiting for the flood tide to build before heading out to the race off Penrhyn Mawr.
With no wind to speak of, the first hour or so was quiet but we had some fun in the outer race before the flow began to pick up.
Moving across the eddies and working back up the race to the leading waves...
...around the fangs for a final fling before heading in beneath the setting sun. A remarkable day's paddling which I suspect I will remember as the day of the dolphin.
*I had initially assumed this to be a solitary bottlenose, but having seen reports of a large pod of Risso's dolphins in the area at the time, I think it is actually one of that group. I remember seeing scaring which along with the way it was moving would fit with Risso's dolphins. Closer examination of the image above also shows the very top of the blunt head that is characteristic of the species, its darker colouring indicating that it is a younger individual or female or maybe both. Whatever, it was beautiful to watch, moving so leisurely among the islands off Rhoscolyn Head.

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