Risso’s Dolphins sighted on Scilly Isles survey

9th Jun 2014

Date: 31.05.14
Route: Penzance - Isles of Scilly
Vessel: Scillonian III
Surveyors: Dan Jarvis, Charlotte Sams, Hazel Selley

Species Number Sighted
Risso's Dolphins 3
Common Dolphins 6
Harbour Porpoise 3
Grey Seal 6

The day started off fairly cloudy and with a distant haze, but only a sea state 1 as we left Penzance that only increased as far as state 2 for the rest of the journey as we reached deeper waters.  A swarm of dozens of Barrel Jellyfish greeted us shortly after getting out of Mount's Bay, followed by an Ocean Sunfish just afterwards that showed really well at the surface, albeit briefly.  The crew of the Scillonian had informed us as we boarded that morning that Risso's Dolphins had been seen every day for the past few days off Land's End and we were not to be disappointed as, just as they had predicted, 3 tall dorsal fins cut through the slight swell as we left the mainland, passing back in the direction we were coming from.  The remainder of the outbound trip fell quiet after this, with three Grey Seals popping up in different places as we approached the islands, although now in brilliant sunshine!

Due to a double ferry sailing day, we were lucky enough to have much longer on the islands than usual, and on top of this the local boatmen were advertising a wildlife trip out to the Western Rocks, including Bishop Rock lighthouse, which is rarely available as conditions are not usually good enough to get out there (and on this day it was positively tropical!).  We boarded a trip boat almost as soon as we disembarked from Scillonian III and headed out, and were well rewarded by spotting Puffins and many other seabirds, Grey Seals hauled out in several locations, an Ocean Sunfish and finally three Harbour Porpoises at relatively close quarters!

On the return crossing back to Penzance the conditions continued to favour us, with similar sea conditions as the morning and the continued clear skies and bright sunshine.  Despite this, three Grey Seals were all we saw as we left the islands before a long quiet journey, interrupted only by a small group of Common Dolphins just a few minutes before the survey ended when they suddenly surfaced near a fishing boat and scat about excitedly towards us before vanishing without a trace again seconds later.

Many thanks to Charlie and Hazel who were great company throughout the day, and as usual the Captain and crew of Scillonian III who are always happy to accommodate us and keep us up to date with their latest news and sightings.

- Dan Jarvis