Weather conditions: Mainly sunny with a cool breeze, sea state mainly 2 with a moderate swell 1-2m offshore.
This was the final Isles of Scilly ORCA survey scheduled for 2019. Being the last week of “British summer time”, the survey team assembled just after the sun had risen over the Lizard peninsular. With a promising weather forecast our expectations were high. After embarkation, we had time for a coffee and a short re-cap on survey protocols. The Scillonian departed a few minutes ahead of schedule and the team were quickly in position to start in excellent surveying conditions that continued for the whole day.
Within a couple of minutes the first sighting was called, it was a harbour porpoise passing reasonably close down the port side. Another pod of porpoises was sighted shortly after. During the next hour a number of single large splashes were seen but with no view of what made them. Each time as we approached the approximate position nothing was to be seen. This behavior pointed strongly at there being hunting bluefin tuna in the area. So it was no surprise that the next couple of sightings were of tuna breaching and splashing. The final sighting of the outward journey was a pod of 5 common dolphin.
Our stop on St Mary’s was shorter than normal as the Scillonian was scheduled to leave one hour 15 minutes earlier than normal so that it could return in daylight. This still allowed time for a picnic on the beach and a stroll taking in the views, on what was now a warm autumn day and off course keeping our eyes peeled for the blue rock thrush that was seen 5 minutes before our arrival.
On departure our first sighting was of 5 grey seals in the vicinity of the most easterly of the Eastern Isles. From then on we had regular sightings of small numbers of common dolphin. After passing Land’s End there were two sightings of harbour porpoises and finally 4 grey seals were seen hauled out on St Clement’s Isle at Mousehole.
Many thanks to Captain Dave Redman and his crew for their assistance and for making us extremely welcome.
Total Sightings: 13 sightings consisting of 37 individual animals plus 1 incidental sighting.
Common dolphins x 9 (3 sightings)
Harbour porpoise x 11 (4 sightings)
Unidentified small cetacean x 2 (2 sightings)
Grey seal x 9 (2 sightings)
Tuna sp. X 6 (2 sightings)
Bird Species Seen:Mute Swan, gannet, cormorant, shag, herring gull, great black-backed gull, lesser black-backed gull, black-headed gull, kittiwake, guillemot, razorbill, puffin, oystercatcher.
Survey team members
David Williams Leah Freshwater Neil Best