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Penzance-St Mary's survey 20 May

Summary of Sightings


Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 1

Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 521

Gannet Morus bassanus 14

Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 2

Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 1

Herring Gull Larus argentatus 6

Guillemot Uria aalge 9

Puffin Fratercula arctica 1

Razorbill Alca torda 3

Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 1

Gull sp. 1

Auk sp. 17


Outward – wind force 3, full sun, with light swell

Return – wind force 4, full sun, with very light swell

This survey was MARINElife’s first to be conducted using the JNCC ‘Volunteer Seabirds At Sea Survey’ (VSAS) method, and it was exciting and rather nerve-racking to be part of this new initiative.

Maggie and I, both having arrived early in Penzance, were amongst the first to board the Scillonian III, and this gave us time to look over the paperwork and prepare our equipment, including setting-up the GPS and calculating the stopwatch times for the snapshot bird recordings. It was also an opportunity to have a very welcome coffee!

Maggie and Judith surveying

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

We had decided that we would use the first part of the crossing to practice and familiarise ourselves with the new survey methods, and this proved to be a very good idea as we were soon to see lots of Manx Shearwater along with some gulls and auks. After about an hour of practice and familiarisation with the methods, we decided to start the survey properly.

Manx Shearwater (Library photo: Rob Petley-Jones)

Manx Shearwater dominated the whole crossing, together with small numbers of auks, gulls, and Gannet. The captain had asked us to call her if a Puffin was seen, but we only had a very brief glimpse of one bird, as 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 a walk around the Garrison. Where better on a lovely sunny day.

We were sailing on the high tide, so the Scillonian III headed out into the channel between St. Mary’s and Tresco. Once beyond the islands and with the horizon in view, we started our return journey survey. The wind was now stronger than it had been in the morning, and Manx Shearwater again dominated, with many small groups and the occasional larger ones. Hardly any of our two-minute recording blocks failed to have a Manx Shearwater or two in them.

No cetaceans had been seen by the ship’s crew during the previous week and sadly we had none to report from this trip.

On approaching Penzance with the ship slowing, we stopped our survey, collected our bags, thanked the crew, and headed off the bridge. The first of MARINElife’s new VSAS surveys was complete!

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

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