I’ve always been drawn to the sea; for dog walks that refresh my spirit; body boarding with my son to bring out my inner child; my first wild swim at Jacobs Ladder; snorkelling at Wembury Marine Conservation Area; fossil hunting; and searching for Sidmouth’s Sammy Seal.

Since childhood I’ve been fascinated by marine animals; simply awestruck by documentaries that provide a glimpse of their lives. I’ve been lucky enough to see Humpbacks breach, and sail past common dolphins playfully guiding our boat. 

Though I became a terrestrial ecologist, I’m always slightly amused that my married name became Dolphin…maybe I’m destined to do something with water….Things certainly seem to be slipping into place. The increasing variety of sea life visiting our local shores; regular summer sightings of dolphins around Sidmouth; Common dolphins in Ladram Bay and this year a Bluefin Tuna around Budleigh Salterton. 

Last year Tom Mustill’s book How to Speak Whale, inspired me to help our marine life. I listened to talks by the South Coast Bottlenose Dolphin consortium whose research is improving our understanding of this dolphin population that regularly travel from Sussex through to Cornwall. 

I also met the lovely Coral Smith, Marine Awareness and Engagement Officer for Devon Wildlife Trust who has set up monthly Sea Watch events at beautiful Wembury Point. These sessions are run with the help of Paul Burley, a DWT volunteer and an expert in ‘reading the sea’ to find out the treasure of life that is passing through it. Paul’s knowledge is both incredible and accessible to folks of all ages. His love and enthusiasm for our sea is infectious as is reason for surveying, “From a personal perspective I know that there are many reasons to survey and I have always believed that the English channel is incredibly important to many species of cetaceans (WhalesDolphins and Porpoises). But more importantly, surveying is a way to help people to understand that we cannot go it alone. We need all life on the planet to keep us alive and at a time when this has never been clearer what better animal [common dolphin in photo] to help us.

So it seems fitting that I want to monitor the sea life that visits my local shore. In time I want to set up an East Devon Watch group with the help of Coral, Paul and DWT. In the meantime I need to learn from Coral and Paul how to ‘sea watch’ and record properly what I find. If you want to join me, I would whole heartedly recommend the Wembury Point Sea Watch events from 08:30 – 10:30 on January 6th 2024 and 2nd March 2024. Visit the Devon Wildlife Trusts Event page to book your place . Please note that Wembury Point is a different car park to the one for the Wembury Marine centre…otherwise you’ll have a 30 minute walk first!

Another date for your diary is Saturday 8th June 2024 when Paul will be talking about sea life for the Sid Valley Biodiversity Group’s Biodiversity festival.

Dr Emma Dolphin

Webpage links

Devon Wildlife Trusts Event Page


Common Dolphin Photo Credit

Paul Burley

SeaWatch photos – credit DWT

Seawatch DWT Credit

Seawatch 2 DWT Credit

Dr Emma S Pilgrim​

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