St. Mawes Lighthouse from the cruise
I joined two trips over the weekend, with fellow student and crew member Gemma Haggar. On Saturday, with a howling north-west wind and threatening skies, we headed east up the coast, past St. Mawes head, Portscatho and Veryan, all the way towards Gorran. It was a superb trip, and we came across a fantastic array of wildlife: we saw three separate pods of Harbour Porpoise, amounting to a total of 27 individuals- a great tally; Grey Seals were scattered along the coastline, with a single three-week old pup giving good views in one of the bays. Flocks of Gannets were the main pointers to any cetaceans seen, and we also had great views of these superb pelagic wanderers as they dived into the water to pluck up fish and sprats. It was great to see some of the winter's first divers, with singles of Great Northern and Black-throated Diver representing the first of what can be an impressive wintering population in the south-west; views of Peregrines along the coastal cliffs were great, especially when one sliced through a flock of Linnets and managed to catch one. We saw over 40 Mediterranean Gulls, a single Whimbrel, Little Egret, and a lonesome Chough, which was great.
We had a great Harbour Porpoise (Phoecena phoecena) day on Saturday, encountering 27 individuals in three pods. These shy little mammals are the smallest of the UK's cetaceans, measuring between 1.4 and 1.7 metres long. They feed on a broad variety of prey, from fish and shellfish, to squid and octopuses. They commonly surface two or three times for air every 10-20 minutes, making relocation a little tricky at times.
Most of the Grey Seals we saw were bulls, but we did come across this one seal pup, which may have been the same as a fluffy white individual Keith came across two weeks ago
Watching these apex predators from the boat was great, especially as it allowed views which could rarely be achieved on land
Bottlenose Dolphins have to be one of the most well-known cetacean species in the world. They are fantastic animals, and incredibly intelligent. Interestingly, there are said to be two different 'varieties', with a smaller form which tends not to stray further than five miles from land, whilst a larger pelagic form rarely strays that close to land. The markings and wear that accumulate on the back and dorsal fin can provide a great natural way of idenitifying individuals. Keith was telling me about a particular individual called Clett, who has an incredible story spanning 20 years. He even has a Fecbook page, so check him out! After widely ranging around the UK, he was last seen this spring.
One of the many Gannets that afforded brilliant views