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Penzance-Isles of Scilly 16 July

We were warmly welcomed by the Purser and crew of the Scillonian III and soon set sail from Penzance to St Mary’s on this Volunteer Seabirds at Sea (VSAS) survey. Once we had cleared Penzance harbour we were escorted to the bridge and introduced to our Captain; Vicky, and the crew before taking our position on the fly bridge and starting the survey. Conditions the day before had been a very rough and the crossing on the day before that had been cancelled.

Our outward journey was in sea state 5/6 with at least 2 - 4 metre swell. We found the conditions to be too rough to undertake a comprehensive survey and decided to use the outbound leg as a VSAS training exercise.

Fulmar (Library photo: Rob Petley-Jones)

Shortly after leaving Penzance, we observed four Common Dolphin and as we proceeded, we had an almost constant stream of Manx Shearwater and Gannet with the occasional Fulmar. As we approached the Scilly Isles and the weather moderated, we also observe Great Black-Backed Gull and Lesser Black-Backed Gull and a Shag.

During our stop in Hugh Town, we managed to have a splendid Sunday Carvery lunch in ‘The Atlantic’ and then went to the beach and reviewed our survey data and approach. We noted House Sparrow, Swallow, Swift, Herring Gull, Oystercatcher and Cormorant during this time.

Common Dolphin (Library photo: Peter Howlett)

We departed St Mary’s in clear skies and sunshine and with a wind which had calmed significantly. The Purser once again took us to the Bridge where we started the survey on the port fly bridge. We quickly started to observe Manx Shearwater and Gannet, and we observed three sets of Common Dolphin on the return journey. On two occasions they were bow-riding, which gave us and the passengers fabulous views.

We stopped the survey shortly before arriving back at Penzance. Before leaving the bridge, we thanked Captain Vicky and her crew for their support on what was an interesting and enjoyable survey.

Stephen Hedley and Chris Hilder, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884; Registered Company No. 5057367)


The weather in the morning was still very rough with sea swell of between 2 and 4 metres and a wind force of between 5 and 6. The afternoon could not have been more different with light winds and a calming sea.

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals

Common Dolphin Delphinus delphis 10


Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 1

Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 1

Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 72

Gannet Morus bassanus 37

Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 4

Herring Gull Larus argentatus 2

Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 1

Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 1

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