The team met at the end of a stormy week in Penzance close to the weighbridge office on a wet and gloomy day. We were sailing later than planned due to the weather in Scilly. Despite the weather, the team boarded the Scillonian III in time for a coffee and a quick reminder of the protocol and a look at the effort and sightings forms.
Shortly after sailing we were allowed on to the bridge to start our survey. We found both Captain Dave and Captain Pete on duty, perhaps due to the weather, winds and sea state? As always they made us feel very welcome.
We had quite a big swell coming at us at 45 degrees, so quite a lot of movement. There was less white water than expected and although visibility was poor it could have been worse. The first hour or so produced no sightings but gave us a chance to practice observing and recording the effort sheet and settle into a routine – good practice for the less experienced team members. Then we had our first sighting – common dolphins! A middle sized group – we counted 6, but there may well have been more bearing in mind the waves and the swell and the rain and mist! A good first sighting!
After this it was quiet again for a while, although we were sure that there were plenty of animals out there hiding from us! Then the motion of the sea was taking its its toll. We continued surveying for the next rotation. There was just one sighting of a single animal breaching through the waves, probably a harbour porpoise behaving like a dolphin so we had to record a “small cetacean”. By the end of this rotation, the port side weather conditions increased, so the decision was made to just survey on starboard as we were nearing the end of the first leg.
Due to the late sailing, we had little more than two hours ashore, enough time for a delicious lunch and a wander through the little town taking in both beaches and an ice cream before returning to the Scillonian for the return trip.
Although the movement of the ferry continued to be challenging and the team needed good balance, we all stayed well on the return journey. Despite the mist, the rain had mostly deceased and we had a further 8 sightings, mostly common dolphins although there were a couple of single animal sightings which may have been harbour porpoise. There was a lot of bird activity throughout both crossings, mostly gannets, which the highlight of the day was of a large number of gannets, probably hundreds, diving into the water with common dolphins feeding underneath and also a mother and small calf who approached the feeding frenzy close to the ferry enabling our newest surveyor to have a good view. Again, we just counted 6, but there may well have been more! What a shame the Scillonian had to continue on its journey and not turn around to watch!!
An interesting, rewarding and enjoyable day and, as ever, we would like to thank both Captains Dave and Pete 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 Mammals Sightings:
6 x Common Dolphin including one calf
3 x Small Cetacean
1 x Unidentified Dolphin
Total animals: 24
Gannet, guillemot, black backed gull, herring gull, shag, shearwater, mediterranean gull (?)
Turnstone and house sparrow
Jackie Shaw, Ronnie McGowan Scot, Shona Moore