John and Carol are volunteers for the Isles of Scilly Seabird Recovery Project and live on the islands; here they explain the wildlife you can see from the Scillonian III.
When you travel on the Scillonian it’s great fun to look out for seabirds and dolphins following the boat. Huge and impressive gannets are always in sight, often flying right over the ship and fishing nearby by plunging into the water from a great height. Manx shearwaters can often be spotted too – black above and white below, they fly with rapid, stiff-winged flaps followed by long glides on slim, straight wings. Groups (or pods) of dolphins often make a beeline for the ship when they see it, so that they can ride the bow waves. It is also fun to watch people rushing to the side of the boat to see these wonderful sights.
On many trips there will be a volunteer guide from the Isles of Scilly Seabird Recovery Project to help you see and identify the birds and cetaceans (the collective name for dolphins, porpoises and whales). If you are lucky they may point out a diminutive storm petrel fluttering amongst the waves. The project aims to increase the numbers of seabirds breeding around our coasts, and in particular storm petrels and Manx shearwaters on the Isles of Scilly. The Scillonian plays an important role in this and the volunteer guides gather lots of data to help the Project workers understand how well the birds are doing.
A major part of the current work of the project is to remove brown rats from the Scillonian islands of St Agnes and Gugh. This will allow the seabird population to recover, as their numbers have plummeted due to rats eating their eggs and chicks.
For more information and to learn how you can help our seabirds visit www.ios-seabirds.org.uk and do look out for seabirds and cetaceans when travelling on the Scillonian – it can be a perfect start or end to your visit to the islands.