Marine Wildlife Highlights this weekend

7.8.127.8.137.8.14

The weekend’s wildlife highlights were; Minke whale, many Common Dolphin and 20++ Harbour Porpoise mostly feeding a mile or so offshore with an attendant “frenzy” of seabirds! Oddly this frenzy is mostly Shearwaters – over 2000 Manx, up to 100 Great (counted from Gwennap Head), c.200 Cory’s , 50++ Sooty, and increasing numbers of Balearic Shearwaters – 5 from our Minack trip on Sunday evening. There are relatively few Gannets associating with this frenzy which implies the birds are feeding on small prey such as sand-eel or fry, fine for the Minke Whales but unusual for dolphins. A few presumed Blue-fin Tuna have been feeding in the same area and, although still not numerous, Ocean Sunfish are increasing again with 4 on Sunday.

    Seabird numbers continue to be impressive! Out of the totals mentioned above we have managed to see 3 Cory’s, 2 Great, 5 Sooty, and 5 Balearic Shearwaters amongst the 100s of Manx on the Minack trip, a few Storm Petrels are still appearing well inshore  and we saw over 20 following a returning “day-boat” on our 3pm cruise. Although not many are off towards Land’s End 100s of Gannets are still in the Bay area though lately further east off the Lizard. Auk numbers have dropped sharply as the adults are now taking newly fledged young to safety offshore. Skuas are still scarce with only a couple of Bonxies (Great Skua) harassing the shearwater flocks, and although a few Sandwich Terns and Kittiwakes are in the bay there has been little movement so far. Great Northern Divers and the mad/sad Eider drake are still with us, and small flocks of Common Scoter are still passing with over 30 this weekend. A couple of Yellow-legged Gulls are still arriving , but since the strong westerlies have set in there have been fewer Mediterranean gulls.
    The Grey Seals are slowly building in numbers on St Clement’s Island again, but we still see too many kayakers getting too close and disturbing them- 2 people even had to be taken off the island by the lifeboat apparently! Wader numbers are already building with Curlew, Whimbrel, Oystercatcher, Turnstone, Dunlin, an early Purple Sandpiper and Common Sandpipers all roosting on the island so this disturbance is even less welcome!
     All in all it has been excellent for so early in the season and we even had a report of a Basking Shark from one lucky observer on the 1pm fishing trip! So even though the weather isn’t exactly scorching, the marine wildlife is certainly heating up!
7.8.10 7.8.16 7.8.15 7.8.9 7.8.4 7.8.5 7.8.7 7.8.11 7.8.8

Wilson’s Petrel Sightings!

wp10wp11

 

There’s much excitement at Mermaid Pleasure Trips, Penzance at the moment!  The Wilson’s Petrel has blessed us with its presence on not one, but two of our Mini Pelagic trips. After seeing The Wilson’s Petrel on one of our Marine Wildlife Cruises, we decided to arrange a Mini Pelagic Trip on Wednesday evening. Many keen local birders came along and were delighted to see 2 Wilson’s Petrel even though the sea conditions were not particularly kind! We also saw 35+ Strom Petrel’s, 2 Great Shearwater, 2 Cory’s Shearwater, 2 Sooty Shearwater, 200+ Max Shearwater, Bonxie, Arctic Skua, Juvenile Yellow-Legged Gull, and even some common dolphins! Yesterday evening we set off again with more keen birders in terribly wet conditions and were delighted to encounter 4 Wilson’s Petrels along with Great Shearwaters.

We are running another Mini Pelagic Trip on Tuesday evening at 5pm and a Pelagic Trip on Saturday at 6.30am. Please call to book on 07901731201.

wp 1 wp 2 wp 4 wp 5 wp 6 wp 7 wp3 wp8 wp13 wp14 wp15 wp16

Wilson’s Petrel seen on Saturday’s Pelagic Trip

15.7.5

Well it had to happen eventually! Our first pelagic of 2017 looked like it was going to be a shaky start; 2 people never showed, the seas were much higher than expected and comfortable!! As a result the rafts of shearwaters etc feeding on the growing “slicks” were scattered and gone. In fact we could not get out to where we prefer to “chum” and had to turn back east to get the swell behind us before finally trying a bottle of cod-liver oil.

     There were plenty of Gannets, Fulmars  and Manx Shearwaters ranging widely, a single Arctic Skua and just 2 Storm Petrels before we stopped. As soon as the chum hit the water “Stormies” began to appear, and by the time we had a dozen the long longed for Holy Grail arrived – a cracking u n-moulted (presumably juvenile) Wilson’s Storm Petrel, one of the most sought -after sea birds on the British list! It “bounced” in among the British/European Storm Petrels along the slicks and returned 2-3 times before we had to head back, allowing good, if brief, comparative views and even reasonable photographic opportunities (if I hadn’t set my camera up wrong!).
       Wilson’s is actually one of the commonest of all sea-birds but is a bird of the southern hemisphere. Like most petrels it wanders, and is regular in good numbers in the Western North Atlantic off the States, and even in much smaller numbers off the South West of Britain with most off Scilly. It is notoriously hard to see from shore though and has to be forced in by strong winds in most cases. It might not look much; a little bigger than Stormie, with longer legs, a pale band on the upperwing, and lacking stormies bright white stripe on the underwing, but this bird was pure gold! May it be the first of many!!
 Also saw ocean sunfish, 15-20 Common Dolphin, Yellow-legged and Mediterranean gulls. Cheers for now!!
17.7.2 15.7.8 15.7.7 15.7.4 15.7.3 15.7.1

Wilson’s Petrel on Saturday’s Pelagic Trip

15.7.5Well it had to happen eventually! Our first pelagic of 2017 looked like it was going to be a shaky start; 2 people never showed, the seas were much higher than expected and comfortable!! As a result the rafts of shearwaters etc feeding on the growing “slicks” were scattered and gone. In fact we could not get out to where we prefer to “chum” and had to turn back east to get the swell behind us before finally trying a bottle of cod-liver oil.

     There were plenty of Gannets, Fulmars  and Manx Shearwaters ranging widely, a single Arctic Skua and just 2 Storm Petrels before we stopped. As soon as the chum hit the water “Stormies” began to appear, and by the time we had a dozen the long longed for Holy Grail arrived – a cracking u n-moulted (presumably juvenile) Wilson’s Storm Petrel, one of the most sought -after sea birds on the British list! It “bounced” in among the British/European Storm Petrels along the slicks and returned 2-3 times before we had to head back, allowing good, if brief, comparative views and even reasonable photographic opportunities (if I hadn’t set my camera up wrong!).
       Wilson’s is actually one of the commonest of all sea-birds but is a bird of the southern hemisphere. Like most petrels it wanders, and is regular in good numbers in the Western North Atlantic off the States, and even in much smaller numbers off the South West of Britain with most off Scilly. It is notoriously hard to see from shore though and has to be forced in by strong winds in most cases. It might not look much; a little bigger than Stormie, with longer legs, a pale band on the upperwing, and lacking stormies bright white stripe on the underwing, but this bird was pure gold! May it be the first of many!!
 Also saw ocean sunfish, 15-20 Common Dolphin, Yellow-legged and Mediterranean gulls. Cheers for now!!
17.7.2
15.7.8
15.7.7
15.7.4
15.7.3
15.7.1

Wildlife and bird sightings so far this year.

Spring continues to be a bit of a mixed-bag in the Bay. We have had worse weather lately than we saw for much of the winter and sea temperatures are lower than this time last year. As a result we have not managed to get out as much as we’d like and there are major differences in what we are managing to find! The lack of jellyfish and sunfish is presumably due to the colder water and less extensive plankton blooms, but on the upside we have seen several Basking Sharks – probably for the same reason- which is a vast improvement on the last two years. Common Dolphins have remained offshore, now in smaller pods, and the less predictable group of Bottlenosed Dolphins have put in welcome performances off the Mount in the eel-grass, hunting cuttlefish. Risso’s Dolphins haven’t done that this May, and Porpoise have only been further west out of the bay. It is tempting to think the latter may be avoiding the Bottlenoses , but choppy weather always makes Porpoises harder to see.

    Sea-birds have been more predictable with the usual resident Fulmars, non-breeding Gannets, auks and Manx Shearwaters regularly feeding in the Bay, though we have yet to see Storm Petrel. Puffins have been scarce. Recent strong winds pushed in a few migrating skuas and an early – or late – Balearic Shearwater! There were fewer sea-birds generally as the winds were more easterly – even producing more Swifts and Swallows arriving on migration than the hoped for skuas and terns. As last year, there are still many “winter visitors” lingering in the bay notably Great Northern Divers, one or two Black-throated Divers and Common Scoter. Our wintering Turnstones have mostly left but a few in stunning summer plumage are still delaying departure for the Arctic as well as over 30 Purple Sandpipers a couple of 100 yards from the Mermaid shop around Battery Rocks, occasionally joined by other waders such as Whimbrel, Dunlin, Sanderling and Common Sandpipers all pushing north.
     Then there is the Eider….! “Frankie” as some people are calling him (after Frankie Howard “OOOOOaaw!” etc) is still sexually harassing the local black-backed gulls,  Greater mostly but he has tried it on with Lessers too! When not eating crabs off the harbour mouth Frankie seems to like nothing better than chasing Great Black-baked Gulls to St Clement’s Island where he serenades and displays to them, and he has even taken to trying to soar over the quarry with the Lesser Black-backed. He has managed to get a response from some of them! Disturbing, sad, or sweet depending on your point of view!
      Things can only get better……!
Basking shark 2 5.17
Basking Shark 5.17
Basking Sharks 5.17
dolphin 5.17
dolphin 35.17
purps and turnstones1 dunlin purple sand3 purple sandpiper1 purps and turnstones purps and turnstones1 purps turnstones turnstones1

Dolphins and seabirds seen on 1st Wildlife trip of 2017

Mermaid ll’s first trip of the year set out on a January day that put a lot of the previous summer to shame! The sun shone and the sea was flat and a few birders down to start their New Year lists in Cornwall joined us mostly in the hope of finding the returning Pacific Diver. This proved just as elusive from a boat as it usually is from shore as we only had one or two glimpses. Despite heading back to where the bird had been, it had already gone further offshore in search of bait-fish. There was no lack of other wildlife however; 40+ Common Dolphin showed well, “Sammy” the dominant Grey Seal bull and some of his harem and pups were relaxing on St Clement’s Isle, and there were good numbers of seabirds; 15+ Great Northern Diver, Gannets, 5 Eider including the resident drake, 3 Velvet Scoter, 16 +Common Scoter, Guillemots and 1 Razorbill, and we even managed distant views of the Eastern Black Redstart currently resident under the Rockpool Café at Mousehole.

If you would like to book one of our trips for 2017, please call 07901731201 or enquire at www.cornwallboattrips.co.uk/enquiry and we will get back to you.

The first pictures are of the Common Dolphin and “Sammy”. The bird pictures are as follows:- Great Northern Diver, Gannet, Eider male and female in flight, Velvet Scoter, flock of Common Scoter, Guillemot, Kingfisher in Newlyn harbour, Shag with a wrasse. Photos and text by Martin Elliot.

 

003

 

002

 

004

 

005

img_0063

 

img_0274

 

img_0027

 

img_0345

 

img_0319

 

img_0184

 

img_9912

 

img_9999

 

Basking Sharks

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.

IMG_7916-001

001

10389060_909056969112389_8552511322953687013_n

DSC_0184

10255018_909532105731542_7723774870945340855_n