Our 3rd pelagic of the season began in better conditions than the previous week’s, with good cloud cover and some light rain. Again we had to contend with an onshore wind, and the big swell from the previous day’s strong north westerlies meant we were unable to head north past Longships to look for the main Manx Shearwater flocks.
Things got off to a good start with a small group of Risso’s Dolphins heading into Mount’s Bay as we steamed out! We began chumming between Wolf Rock and the Epsom Shoal and had our first Storm Petrels within minutes. Good numbers of gulls, Gannets and Fulmars gathered which pulled in a brief fly-by by a Sooty Shearwater, but after nearly two hours the wind had dropped and the sun had come out bringing an early end to the session. As mentioned above we tried to head north but the sea was too rough so our best option looked like heading back to Epsom Shoal via the Runnel Stone. We baited all the way with chopped fish and bread to keep the gulls and Gannets with us in the hope of attracting large shearwaters. This produced 4 juvenile-1st winter Yellow-legged gulls, another Sooty and a few passes from Great Skuas, but the highlight- and also most frustrating part of the trip came as we approached the shoal.
Adrian (our skipper) saw a Minke Whale breach about half a mile in front of the boat, but as we made for the spot a few of us glimpsed a whale surfacing briefly off the starboard bow. However, although we assumed it was the Minke it looked far better for Humpback!! We waited for as long as we could hoping for another sighting but nothing appeared and the large concentration of birds which had attracted us to the spot in the first place dispersed, leaving us wondering if we had missed the best chance we have had so far at recording this rare visitor to our waters, particularly as one had been seen in the same area a few days previously!
Despite this frustrating ending we managed to log a good selection of both seabirds and marine wildlife; over 500 Manx Shearwaters, around 10 Balearic Shearwaters, 15-20 Storm Petrels, 2 Sooty Shearwaters, 4 Great Skuas, 4 Yellow-legged Gulls, and our first Common Scoters of the season were nicely complemented by the Risso’s, a pod of about 12 Common Dolphins, a few Harbour Porpoise, 2 Ocean Sunfish and the Minke and “mystery” whale. Thanks again to all those who attended, and let’s hope we can do even better next time- the one time in life it would actually be nice to get the Hump!