1st Pelagic of the season

 The 7th and 8th of July were one of our busiest weekends so far for wildlife trips. On top of the usual trips to the Minnack and “seal cove”, we began our pelagic season on Saturday morning. I have been asked not to keep moaning about the weather lately, but we really are beginning to have too much of a “good thing”! The hot, settled days and almost constant north-easterly wind have made it increasingly difficult to reach the seabirds offshore, so I was not expecting too much at 6.30! We did “chum”, knowing that at least the (sadly very light) wind was blowing the smell of our slick in the right direction and did eventually attract double figures of Storm Petrels and a raft of feeding gulls which included our first juvenile Yellow-legged Gull of the year. Other highlights included 4+ Harbour Porpoise, 5 Ocean Sunfish, tuna sp. , 4 Sooty Shearwaters, 2-300 Manx and one Balearic Shearwater, one or two Bonxie (Great Skua), and 50-60 Gannet, though the latter were attending 2 pods of Common Dolphins totalling about 100 animals. Many of these dolphins came to serenade us under the boat! The almost flat calm meant we could turn off the engine as the slick was barely moving, so groups of dolphins frequently peeled off from those feeding and came to “play” (or even enjoy the shade) under the hull where our microphone picked up their chatter.

     The remaining trips on Saturday found seabirds quite scarce as they moved further out to sea. The only species seeming to be increasing in the Bay being Mediterranean Gulls (over 20) a few Sandwich terns and 5 Common Scoter, with waders such as Turnstone and Common Sandpiper returning south. The bay is producing a thick algal bloom which is certainly attracting jellyfish – mostly Blue and Moon with a few huge Barrel jellies, and in turn these are presumably bringing in the increasing numbers of Sunfish, but until this weekend we were seeing very little else. However, the “local” pod of Bottlenosed Dolphins have returned to the bay east of the Mount for the last 3 days now, and on Saturday we were lucky enough to find a pod of 8-9 Risso’s Dolphins feeding intently off Mousehole. The distinctive scar patterns on this species make individuals easy to identify. These proved to be – all except one “immature” adults and possibly pairs, un-mated females and males, that were originally part of the same larger pod, to which the females and youngsters that visited us earlier belonged. A pod of about 150 Common Dolphin were seen from one of our fishing trips on Sunday, so it does look like the seas here are finally warming up in a good way!
Martin Elliot
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Risso’s Dolphins in Mounts Bay

At long last our weather has broken with several days of westerly winds and a couple of weak fronts which- as predicted- have brought the wildlife back within sight of land! More reassuring- but harder to explain-  has been the return to St Clements of our local Grey Seals – though “Sammy”/”Silverback” was not on his usual “sofa” (low rock) today we saw 3 females, 3 of last years pups and a young bull, and even “Nervous Nigel” (a young male) was on the Greeb  where he spent most of last summer! Seabirds have been inshore in good numbers though the weather meant we had to watch from headlands; Wilson’s Petrels off Porthgwarra and Black Head, Storm Petrels, Cory’s and Sooty Shearwaters, Skuas and good numbers of Manx Shearwaters and Puffins- the last 2 making it into the bay with 1,400 and 9 respectively passing Mousehole on Sunday evening. Today’s highlights included Sandwich Terns, a few Manx, the seals mentioned above, and, best of all 10-12 Risso’s Dolphins feeding off Penlee. These dolphins have highly variable pale scarring which makes many individuals easily identifiable so it was nice to see that at least 3 (females?) were animals we have seen in the last 2 years and which calved in the area in 2016. In fact all of the dolphins today appeared to be presumed females with 1-2 year old young!

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