Above: Bottlenose Dolphin © Harry Hogg, Wildnet Gallery
Below: Mackerel fry shoal © Chris Roberts, Compass Jellyfish © Julie Hatcher, Little Cuttlefish © Jess Mead
‘Whitebait’ and Dolphins
The bottlenose dolphins finally showed up in August, following the Mackerel which in turn were feeding on the large shoals of tiny, silver ‘white-bait’ that suddenly arrived. Previously it had been a poor year for dolphin sightings but with the exceptionally calm weather in early September it made an excellent few weeks of sightings.
‘White-bait’ is a generic term for several species of small, silvery, shoaling fish, including Herring, Sprat, Sand Smelt and Sand Eels. It is quite difficult to identify them to species level as they look very similar as young fish, or fry. Shoals are often herded to the surface or into the shallows along the seashore by larger predatory fish such as Bass and Mackerel, and they even sometimes leap out of the water onto the beach to escape. Unfortunately this can result in hundreds of tiny dead fish along the tide-line a phenomenon that was witnessed this year at West Bay, Worbarrow Bay and other places along the coast.
Seal sightings are continuing to come in from along the Dorset coast, including sightings of Grey Seals at Portland Bill and Kimmeridge. Common Seals have also been reported at Poole, but unfortunately a dead common seal pup was found on Chesil Beach. Another unfortunate find was a dead grey seal which was tagged. This turned out to be a juvenile which had been rescued as a pup in France and released back in February but then washed up here dead in July. It just showed how far these animals can travel, especially as pups when they tend to explore the coast looking for suitable feeding grounds. This one has swum right across the Channel!
Our new Seal Recording Project is showing some interesting results. If you spot a seal in Dorset or know of a regular ‘haul out’ then please let us know at
Following months of sightings of the large Barrel Jellyfish both in the water and washing ashore on beaches all along the coast, in August we had some reports of Compass Jellyfish. These are much smaller, and unlike the Barrel Jellyfish, have stinging tentacles. Several were recorded washed up at Kimmeridge. All our jellyfish records are reported to the Marine Conservation Society who monitor these animals which are important food for Leatherback Turtles, our only native marine reptile.
Little Cuttlefish, Sepiola atlantica
Little Cuttlefish are related to the Common Cuttlefish whose bones litter the strandlines of beaches all around the country. The Litte Cuttle is much smaller, the plump, rounded body growing to only 2cm in length, and lives buried in sand on the seabed, emerging to ambush tiny crustaceans. It does not have a cuttlebone. Although this animal is rarely, if ever, seen by divers at Kimmeridge, we have caught it twice in our Nocturnal Light Trap which we put out in the sea on occasion to sample nocturnal life in the bay.