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  • Junes DOLPHIN survey was fantastic!

    These are the days we live for! The seal survey on 11 June 2014 was as glorious as it gets! With calm sea conditions and bright sunny skies we setted off at 7:30am.
    All along the coastline were nesting sea birds, many with visible chicks waddling around the nest area. Herring gull chicks occupied many ledges on our journey out to the survey sites.
    There was a lot of commotion at the Kittiwake colony as a juvenile Peregrine falcon moved along the ledges removing chicks from their nests. Adult Kittiwakes flew in all directions squawking loudly as they did so. This Peregrine must have fledged in the last week. This is evident by its fresh and impressive plumage clearly displayed. Whereas the adult birds are currently undergoing their post breed moult.
    The Peregrine flew from the ledge to chase Herring gulls in the air for a moment before returning to the ledges, then flew again above the skyline and landed on the slope of the nearby island in the sun as we left the colony behind us. Despite this predation, the colony seems to be healthy in terms of numbers of occupied nests and growing chicks.
    During the course of the survey we saw lots of Gannets, flying by or circling and diving. We passed a large group of Manx shear waters, a Balearic shear water, 6 Puffins and a storm petrol.
    We were all at the front of the boat when Dave pointed out in front of us towards a pod of Common dolphins. They were heading for our boat so Chris cut back the speed, stopping at first and then maintained a slow and steady course as the pod joined us.
    There were 20 playful dolphins, they surrounded us, breaching into the air, riding the wake and playing at the bow and sides of the boat as another pod of 20 more dolphins joined them to play.
    It got very exciting so we sat higher to get a better view of them leaping out of and twisting underwater sideways, weaving in and out of one another. Then suddenly another 17 dolphins came to our boat and joined the others followed by another 13. By now we were all on cloud nine, pinching each other to check this was real. Never before have we been so totally surrounded by these magical creatures.
    The 70 dolphins were of mixed age, mostly between 1.5 – 2 metres in length. They stayed with us for a total of 37 minutes, continuing the same behaviours as we made our way onto the next survey site, not forgetting we had work to do!
    The dolphins carefully manoeuvred themselves alongside our boat, sometimes there was only a metre from them and us, we could clearly see all the markings and scars on their bodies and their watchful eyes peered up at us as they continued to play.
    I took so many photos that it was hard to choose just a few, so I put some of my favourites into a collage:
    Gradually the dolphins thinned out, leaving the boat in small groups not as large as the original pods that they had arrived in, until there were 4 remaining dolphins swimming at the front of the boat, swaying and weaving rhythmically underwater playing with the two bows of the catamaran as it moved through the water. These 4 common dolphins stayed with us for some distance before suddenly veering sideways and leaving us altogether in awe of the experience we had just had.
    Soon we were at the main seal haul out spot. In this particular survey we only saw 3 seals, which is not unusual given the time of year as the seals will be feeding further offshore. But it is the lowest number of seals we have ever had on a POLPIP survey! Despite the lack of seals all the volunteers agreed we may just have had the best survey ever, and all returned to normality on land with HUGE smiles on our faces :)
    All the survey data we gather is used in marine conservation and has played a huge part in designating the proposed Padstow Bay Marine Conservation Zone. A huge Thank you to Chris at Atlantic Divers, without you our important surveys would not be possible. Also a huge Thank you to all the volunteers who dedicate their time and money to make these surveys happen.