Survey Report – Penzance to St Marys, Isles of Scilly – 19 June 2019
The team met on a bright Wednesday morning in Penzance. The weather looked promising with sun and some cloud, not too hot or too chilly and the sea in Mounts Bay looked fairly flat.The team boarded the Scillonian III in time for a coffee, a Danish pastry and a quick reminder of the protocol and a look at the effort and sightings forms.
We were allowed on to the bridge early to start our survey and found Captain Dave on duty with his crew. As always they made us feel very welcome.
As we departed Penzance we watched a swan fly over the water in Mounts Bay. The sea was a state 2 and we felt optimistic for lots of sightings, however, the first three rotations gave us practice with our effort forms, but not with the sightings forms! We did spot a small jellyfish and also a large barrel jellyfish and there were plenty of birds about, although they were not gathering in large groups or showing signs of feeding behaviour.
The crew had told us that recent sightings by them had been close to the islands and, sure enough, with the mainland far behind us and the islands getting nearer, towards the end of the second hour we started to have small groups of common dolphins appear. In the space of just over half an hour we had six sightings and another group of three which had to be put down as incidental as they were towards the back of the ship. Visibility remained good throughout our first watch and the sea state was mostly 2, rising to 3 in the last hour and with little swell.
The team spent an enjoyable few hours ashore on St Marys enjoying the views and the ice cream before returning to Scillonian for our return journey.
The tide was such that we were able to leave by the shorter route, only possible when there is enough depth of water, so not when the tide is low. As we approached open sea leaving St Marys on our right and some rocks to the left, a seal was spotted in the water just in front of the rocks and, on looking further, four more were counted, making five in total.
The sea state started again at 3 and gradually crept up through 4 and 5 to a sea state 6 with quite a lot of white water, however, the wind was behind us and weather bright and clear and the swell, although it increased a little towards Penzance, was not enough to be uncomfortable, so that we had a very pleasant return crossing. Visibility was good and we could see the mainland almost as we left the islands.
The white water made sightings a bit trickier on the return to Penzance but we had three more glimpses of probable common dolphins. One was just seen under the water as it raced at speed under the bows and two more only just showed their fins to us. We had two more sightings of large barrel jellyfish off the Cornish coast and again there were plenty of birds about including shearwater (in large numbers), gannet, guillemot, puffins (to our delight!) shag, a great skua and gulls. As we neared Penzance a buzzard flew over us! A swan and a buzzard over the sea – not quite what we had expected!
An interesting, rewarding and enjoyable day and, as ever, we would like to thank Captain Dave and the rest of the crew of Scillonian III for making us welcome on their bridge. We are now all hopefully looking forward to the next time!
Marine Mammal Sightings:
4 x Common Dolphin (12 animals)
5 x Unidentified Dolphin (9 animals) plus 2 incidental sightings (4 animals)
1 x Grey Seal (5 animals)
Total animals: 26 (plus 4 incidentals)
1 x small jellyfish
3 x barrel jellyfish (7 altogether)
Gannet, Guillemot, Puffin, Fulmar, Black backed gull, Herring gull, Shag, Shearwater, Mediterranean Gull/unidentified tern (?), Swan, Buzzard, Unidentified brown wading bird
Heron, house sparrow, blackbird, wood pigeon, collar dove, goldfinch
Abundant bumble bees were noted on the wonderful flora on the island
Jackie Shaw (TL) Chantelle Barry and Shanna Clayton