Our first 8 hour pelagic trip of the season set out from Penzance at 8am on Saturday in rather more “challenging” conditions than the Met. Office had indicated! A moderate south-westerly was accompanied by a rougher sea-state than was expected. The 2000-strong raft of Manx Shearwaters present the previous day had moved off, so we headed for Wolf Rock and began to “chum”.
Chumming involves laying a slick of cod-liver oil to attract petrels and shearwaters which use their acute sense of smell to locate food at sea. “Dry” food is added- in this case ground-up sardines, cornflakes, suet and fresh Mackerel guts supplied by crewmen Billy and Kingsley – which floats in the slick and hopefully keeps birds near the boat. The on-shore wind limited the “fetch” this would produce, and there were no gulls on the Wolf which normally scavenge around the boat and can draw in other birds investigating their activity.
Despite this we recorded 3 Storm Petrels , Sooty Shearwater and a close pass from a Great Shearwater, but birds were not staying with the slick so we moved on in order to find the Manx flocks, however, the rough conditions prevented us passing Longships. We tried bringing gulls and other birds off the Runnel Stone using bread, a kind donation of half a pasty (which I would have been glad of!), and pieces of Mackerel expertly supplied by Kingsley “Chopper” Thomas (aged 9), and this phase of the trip produced Sooty Shearwater, a Pomarine Skua, and three Bonxies (Great Skuas). We found a pod of around 12 Common Dolphin on the return to Penzance – which are always guaranteed to put a smile on your face- rounding off the trip which had also included Harbour Porpoise, Risso Dolphins and Ocean Sunfish. We had to work fairly hard for what we saw, but despite low numbers, the selection of species was good and everyone was pleased with the trip.
Looking forward to what next Saturday brings!