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Penzance-Isles of Scilly survey 18 May

This survey was carried out using JNCC ‘Volunteer Seabirds At Sea Survey Methods. Maggie and I, both having arrived early in Penzance, were amongst the first to board the Scillonian III. This gave us time to look over the paperwork and prepare our equipment, including setting up the GPS.

When the vessel started to leave the harbour, the Purser escorted us from the saloon to the bridge to meet Captain Victoria Bolitho and the bridge crew. After a warm welcome and discussion on the wind and sea state, we headed out with our equipment on to the flying bridge.

Manx Shearwater (Library photo: Peter Howlett)

Most of the sightings on the outward journey occurred in the first half of the crossing, Manx Shearwater being by far the most dominant bird; this included a group of about one hundred and fifty which took off from the sea alongside the boat. We continued to survey until the ship was heading into the channel between St. Agnes and St. Mary’s.

We had nearly four hours on St Mary’s before our return voyage, so plenty of time to have a look around the harbour area, enjoy lunch and take a walk around the Garrison. Where better on a lovely sunny day.

For the return voyage the tide was now higher, so the Scillonian was able to sail out through the channel between St. Mary’s and Tresco. Once beyond the islands, and with the horizon in view, we started our return journey survey.

Minke Whale (Library photo: Peter Howlett)

Again, Manx Shearwater dominated – however, there were more Gannet than in the morning. About an hour into the journey a mixed group of Gannet and Manx Shearwater were briefly seen associating with a pod of six or more Common Dolphin and a Minke Whale.

On approaching Penzance, as the ship turned towards the harbour, we stopped our survey, collected our bags, thanked the crew, and headed off the bridge.

Maggie Gamble and Judith Tatem, research surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884; Registered Company No. 5057367)


Outward: wind force 2-3, weak-moderate sun, with no-light swell

Return: wind force 2-3, weak sun, with no-very light swell

Summary of sightings

Marine Mammals

Common Dolphin Delphinus delphis 6

Minke Whale Balaenoptera acutorostrata 1


Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 1

Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 395

Gannet Morus bassanus 19

Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 5

Herring Gull Larus argentatus 15

Guillemot Uria aalge 9

Gull sp. 10

Auk sp. 7

Diver sp. 1

Skua sp.1

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