Weather conditions: Mainly sunny, sea state 2, swell <1m, wind force 2 North Easterly.
Following a cold night, the survey team met up in Penzance. There was still a chill in the air as we boarded the Scillonian, for coffee and a quick recap of the survey protocols. Expectations were high with a good weather forecast and news of lots of cetacean activity around Cornwall in the previous week.
On arrival on the bridge the Captain immediately showed us some photos that he had taken of common dolphins bow riding the Isles of Scilly supply ship when they had passed the Scillonian the evening before.
By the time we started to survey the sun was shining and the air temperature had risen. With a gentle following breeze and a flat sea, conditions were near perfect apart from the glare on the port side. Less than ten minutes had passed when the first sighting was called, eight common dolphins came into the bow of the boat before disappearing. Almost immediately a harbour porpoise was recorded 200 metres on the other side of the ship. Things then went quiet for just over an hour before the sightings started again with four groups of common dolphins recorded in fairly quick succession. The final two sightings of the outward journey occurred as we approached the islands and were of harbour porpoise, with one animal seen within yards of the rocky coast.
Going ashore on St Mary’s it was quiet with only a few visitors around, but the Islands looked at their magnificent best in the warm sunshine. Coats and jumpers were soon removed and shirt sleeves were the order of the day as we wandered out to Peninnis Point and spent a relaxing hour watching up to eight harbour porpoises foraging off the headland.
The return journey was slightly colder with the wind in our faces but conditions were still near to perfect for surveying, particularly for the last week of March. The first return sighting was a single common dolphin, not far from where we had been watching the harbour porpoises whilst ashore. There were three more sightings of common dolphins mid crossing, then a quiet hour before we reached Land’s End and the sightings started again. More common dolphins this time starting with very small groups followed by groups of nine and six in the Lamorna Cove, Mousehole area. We finished the survey just as it was starting to get dark.
Many thanks to Captain Dave Redman and his crew for their assistance and for making us extremely welcome on this survey
Total Sightings: 19 sightings consisting of 86 individual animals.
Common dolphin x 80 (14 sightings)
Harbour porpoise x 6 (5 sightings)
Plus, an incidental sighting of seven unidentified dolphin.
Bird Species Seen:
Great Northern diver, manx shearwater, fulmar, gannet, cormorant, shag, guillemot, razorbill, puffin, herring gull, great black-backed gull, lesser black-backed gull, kittiwake, sandwich tern and sand martin.
Dave Williams, Phil Taylor, Terry Carne