We are glad to report sightings of Basking Sharks today. They were few and far between last year, but they have definitely arrived now. The Bay has been full of fantastic wildlife so far this year. The Bowhead Whale, Humpback Whales, Basking Sharks, Common Dolphins, Bottlenose Dolphins, Harbour Porpoises, Barrel Jellyfish and Grey Seals and its still only May! Hopefully this bodes well for the rest of the season.
What an incredible sight here in Cornish waters. A bowhead whale! These beautiful whales are usually found in Arctic or sub-Arctic waters, so you can imagine how dumbfounded we were to see one off Long Rock Beach! We watched in wonderment as this graceful creature surfaced and dived right in front of us, too stunned to even reach for the camera. As it started to move southwards, blowing as it went, we eventually regained our wits and tried to capture the moment. Unfortunately the photos aren’t great and most definitely do not do the moment justice, but they do prove that you never know what you might see here in Cornwall. The marine environment is changing every year and it is more than evident in the variety of species we are seeing here now.
A few facts on the Bowhead whale and why this sighting is so special:-
The bowhead whale got its name from its bow-shaped skull. It’s body is black with a whitish chin patch broken by what resembles a necklace of black spots. The bowhead is also identified by its lack of dorsal fin and two bumps which are usually visible above the water corresponding to the head and the back. The whale produces a V shaped blow from paired blowholes situated at the highest point of the head, often reaching 7m in height. We did see a few fantastic blows in the bay. The bowheads baleen is the longest of any whale at over 3m and is used to strain tiny prey from the water. The whale’s blubber is the thickest of any animal!
Image From SuperCentenarian.com
The reason for the thickness of the blubber is due to it’s natural habitat of Arctic waters. They are often found close to the edge of the Arctic ice shelf. Now we all complain of the cold in Cornwall, but the waters are definitely not Arctic! Their bow shaped head is used to break through ice up to 60cm thick. Now that’s some ice! Bowheads migrate north and south of the Arctic as the ice retreats and expands. The whales prefer bays, straits and estuaries, and are seldom found far from ice floes. That is why this was truly was a spectacular sight.
The Dalmation Pelican was first seen over Gwithian on Saturday, but was mis-identified as a White Pelican. It was correctly identified as Dalmatian Pelican from photographs taken on Sunday (8th) when the bird was seen on the sea off St Ives and later Cape Cornwall and Land’s End. For the last 2 days the bird has been moving between the scattered small pools between Sennen and St Levan. The bird was seen in Poland in early April, then crossed Germany and France before reaching Cornwall. Dalmatian Pelican used to breed in Britain in the Bronze Age and currently breeds from eastern Europe- particularly northern Greece, across the former Soviet Union, through Mongolia into China and south east Asia where it’s populations have declined drastically through persecution by fishermen and habitat loss. The World population is estimated at less than 15,000 birds and, despite conservation measures resulting in increasing or stable populations in eastern Europe and Turkey, the species’ IUCN classification is “Vulnerable”.
The “fuss” about this particular individual is that it may constitute the first acceptable record of this species since it’s extinction as a breeding bird in the U.K. There have been previous sightings, but these are presumed to refer to escapes from captivity ( though this species is relatively rare in collections and zoos compared to White or Pink-backed Pelicans). However, given this bird’s known movement from Poland thanks to easterly weather patterns, it’s lack of leg-rings or tags, and obviously good condition (captive birds are often stained and/or show damaged wing feathering) it would appear to be a good candidate for our first genuinely wild bird for centuries! The European breeders are not strongly migratory but “dispersive” and given to wandering, whereas the populations east of the Black Sea are migratory and move north to their colonies in early Spring. Dalmatian Pelican has a huge wingspan of over 10 feet and like most large birds relies on thermals or strong head-winds to gain enough height to travel long distances on migration. This can encourage birds to “over-shoot” or move in un-favourable directions to avoid bad weather. The local weather – moderate easterlies with low cloud, rain and fog- is probably the only reason this bird has spent the last few days in West Cornwall as it is unable to soar, and has been forced to use often ridiculously small pools, where local birders have been concerned about the bird’s ability to feed.
3 day forecast
wind: 11m/s NE
H 7 • L 5
Weather from OpenWeatherMap