During quarantine, whilst we are safely staying at home, we can’t help but think about what the wildlife is up to around our coast. Spring is our favourite time of year here at Padstow Sealife Safaris as we tend to be treated to good weather and calmer seas and there is genrally an abundance of wildlife around.
From around mid-April, the puffins begin nesting on our local “Puffin Island” and we generally get to see them every day (more so in the mornings), either whizzing in and out of their burrows or resting on the water in between dives. A small colony of only a couple of dozen birds, this is one of the last places puffins can be found nesting in Cornwall, so we are very lucky to be able to see them year on year. At the same time of year, cousins of the puffin, the razorbills and guillemots, also nest on offshore islands as well as coastal cliffs. These little seabirds that resemble penguins can be seen in huge numbers cramming together on cliff ledges while they nest. Like the puffin, they spend the rest of the year out at sea, only coming to land during the breeding season.
Although dolphins can be unpredictable and don’t tend to stick to too much of a pattern; in recent years we have found that we tend to find common dolphins in roughly the same area and closer in to shore around the spring months. Last year the dolphins threw us a curveball and started hanging our further offshore with lots of easterly winds last spring, however in the last couple of weeks, there have been sightings of dolphins from the shore, meaning they may be back to their old habits.
A more recent visitor to us around April and May has been the minke whale. Previously, this is not a species we would tend to see, however, the last 3 years have given us increasing sightings of these beautiful whales in the spring. In fact, last year, we had sightings right through into the summer until August! The smallest of the baleen whales to be found in UK waters, they can still reach up to 10 metres in length and can be distinguished by their white “armbands” across their pectoral fins.
A much rarer sighting for us on our Sealife Safaris is the basking shark. We haven’t had any sightings for a couple of years now, predominantly due to warming waters pushing their food source – plankton – further offshore and further north into cooler waters. This spring, however, and a little earlier than they are normally spotted, basking sharks have been spotted all around the Cornish coast. These gentle giants glide through the water filter feeding, giving them their name as they look like they are basking at the surface. We are keeping our fingers crossed that they can hang around for us so hopefully we can get some sightings of these magnificent sharks once we are back up and running!