Risso’s and Jelly

Charlie and Jelly
Charlie and Jelly

Where on earth do Barrel Jellyfish think they are going? And where on earth have they come from? And why on earth do they like to congregate off headlands where their unbelievably weak and slow swimming action is even less effective at getting them where they want to go because headlands are always the places where tidal currents are strongest. They will end up going with the flow whether they like it or not.

Barrel Jelly
Barrel Jelly

But however casual and frilly their approach to life, they seem to have hit upon a winning formula as this Spring they are around the coast in vast numbers.Maybe they do know what they are doing despite apparent frailty and vulnerability. They are big (3ft long) and a bit ghostly and very weird. And great to see as you cruise silently above in your kayak.


And how excellent is it that the most successful creature around at the minute does not even have a brain. It confirms that life is sustainable without an i-phone (and having a casual and frilly approach to life is not necessarily a bad thing).

In Mount’s Bay the other day just beyond St. Michael’s Mount there was a swarm of Barrel Jellyfish.Many hundreds of them. Taking random photos underwater from the edge of my kayak would show up to five jellies on screen at any one time. Amazing. I wonder if it means that the sea creatures that feast on jellyfish, Sunfish and Leatherback turtles, will also put in a big appearance this year.Hopefully.

Jelly Trio
Jelly Trio

May’s weather has, as usual, been a bit catchy especially, as usual, down here in the South west with strong winds making the sea out of bounds to kayaks for much of the time.

But being forced to head inland for a bit of kayaking action is not necessarily a bad thing. The Tamar estuary upstream of Calstock is always a favourite.

Kayaking the Tamar near Gunnislake
Kayaking the Tamar near Gunnislake

And a two -day trip to the Upper Thames provides an unexpected ribbon of wilderness within a shout of Swindon. Trilling Curlews, cuckoos , screaming swifts and bushes full of a variety of singing warblers. And  as many ducklings, goslings and cygnets as you would care to see.P1080015

P1080032Locks and lockkeepers cottages remained unchanged for centuries.P1080004

The canoe pass at Radcot lock is inspirational. More please.

Radcot lock canoe pass
Radcot lock canoe pass

Only one thing split the sound of nature, and it kept going round and round as it practised landing at RAF Fairford.About as unfeasible as a Barrel Jellyfish.

Globemaster transport
Globemaster transport

Nice camp spot with a decent view along the river:

Tent window with a view
Tent window with a view

I have ventured out for one brief fishing session off the south coast during a window of quieter weather. My first mackerel of the season was followed by half a dozen pollack, a couple of whiting and a grey gurnard. All caught on a string of silver foil feathers. All small. All put back. While in fishing mode I took a spin round Newlyn harbour to see how the ‘big boys’ do it.

Grey Gurnard
Grey Gurnard
Busy Newlyn Harbour
Busy Newlyn Harbour

My most recent visit to Penzance provided BIG excitement. Not just for the vast numbers of jellyfish and the scenic backdrop of St. Michael’s Mount jutting out into the middle of the bay.

St.Michael's Mount
St.Michael’s Mount

Launching from Marazion I ventured out offshore in the hope of encountering some sea creatures. I soon saw a big fin at the surface, but too sickle-shaped for a shark and too big for a common dolphin. In fact too big for a bottle-nose dolphin as well, I thought. I got my camera ready and of course did not see it again. For a while anyway.

Ten minutes later a different big fin surfaced quite close beside me and I floundered to get my camera poised in the choppy conditions. It surfaced briefly four times then once again was gone. I was pretty sure this was a Risso’s dolphin considering the size and shape of the fin but was keen to get a better view.

Risso's dolphin
Risso’s dolphin

Over the next few hours I saw the big fins about ten more times. Usually a single, big, dolphin but also one or two small groups. And in the far distance beyond St. Michaels’s mount a wild splashing that must have been of dolphin origin. I paddled over to have a look, saw nothing, paddled a mile back to the middle of the bay, and glanced back to see the exact splashing again where I had just been. So I paddled back,waited around for half an hour, nothing appeared, so I paddled back to the middle of the bay again, and unbelievably the splashing once again appeared in the far distance, in the same place. Maybe they just didn’t like me.

As I pondered over a ham sandwich (with lettuce and coleslaw), another big fin sliced the water in front of me, this one looking very bleached..surely a Risso’s. As I was waiting for it to resurface a school of very active but not particularly friendly common dolphins appeared and surged all around. Very much smaller than the Risso’s and much more dashing. Impossible to photograph. I suspect the wildlife watchers on Shearwater II had a better and more stable view than I had.

Wildlife watchers on shearwater II
Wildlife watchers on shearwater II

Before I headed for home I caught two very brief glimpses of Risso’s dolphins breaching. One had a lot of white on it and the other was greyer but showed the characteristic blunt head. I didn’t get to see the ‘classic’ scarring marks that Risso’s are supposed to have on their bodies. They didn’t seem to be inquisitive like bottle-nose dolphins and were intent on feeding, apparently on cuttlefish.

The local gulls were very pleased to clear up the pieces. This Greater Black-back puffed himself (herself) up to look even bigger and even more threatening than normal.

Greedy Gull
Greedy Gull

So very pleased with a new dolphin species seen from kayak. Just got to see that whale now!

Another Risso's fin
Another Risso’s fin




Eight species Fish Fest


Couldn’t sleep and rolled into the car park at Lamorna Cove at 6.30 am which was before even the parking meter had woken up. Unbelievably a day ticket didn’t start till 7 so I left a polite note explaining my predicament plus the correct money in FULL view on the dashboard and promised to pay when I got back. Surely common sense and an appreciation of all that is reasonable would prevail. (fat chance).

I was fairly bursting with anticipation as it was a cracking sunny day with light winds forecast, plenty of marine wildlife to expect and I was in severe need of catching more than mackerel and pollack. However my first encounter with a fish was not on the end of my line:

First glimpse of a sunfish

 I hadn’t come across an Ocean Sunfish for several years so was keen for a closer look but this one s was possessed by an inexplicable turn of speed. However I managed a couple of ghostly underwater images as it spooked past.


 Sunfish eat jellyfish and have no teeth so the taxonomist must have had his (or her) tongue firmly planted  in his (or her) cheek when he (or she) gave it the Latin name ‘Mola Mola’.

This exciting start was hotley pusued by a fair tug on the line which produced a , yawn, mackerel but it was a real whopper.

Monster Mack

 My weapon of choice for the day was a string of big blue Hokkais spiced up by a couple of mackerel strips but I was surprised when this smart little cuckoo wrasse managed to get caught on the big hooks.

Mr.Cuckoo Wrasse

 It was so calm I headed well offshore to maximise the chance of a BIG encounter. An incessant stream of gannets cruised overhead and shearwaters zipped past.

Manx Shearwaters

 About a mile off Porthcurno it was so deep I ran out of line before my weight hit the bottom! However my rod buckled over and I hauled something very heavy up from the depths…..alas only a foul-hooked codling.


 The Scillonian was fairly groaning under the weight of passengers as it lumbered past. Just looking at it made me feel claustrophobic….thank goodness for sit-on-top kayaks.

Scillonian III

 I was half way through demolishing my five weetabix when a load of splashing with the odd fin appearing made me paddle like crazy to investigate. Fantastic….Common Dolphins and as usual they came over to investigate and swam right underneath my feet, and as usual I failed to capture the moment on film. Five or six of them, and they aren’t quite so inquisitive or showy offy as Bottlenose Dolphins so they were soon on their way.

Common Dolphins

 I sat and fished off Porthcurno and watched the world, or a tiny bit of it, go by. The beauty of this bit of coast never fades. The great granite monolith of Logan Rock and the impossibly white sand of the beaches and turquoise of the water. Need some therapy….come here. (I don’t ,by the way)

Logan Rock and Porthcurno
Bloatboat ruining the peacefulness of Porthcurno
Bingo at the Minack (Bingo's the name of the yacht)

 Although I put most of the fish I catch back I kept a few mackerel and chucked the guts out for the expectant fulmars. I like fulmars as they are basically mini albatrosses in seagull’s clothing:

Friendly Fulmar

 The local gulls soon got in on the scene and the fulmars really got stressy about it . I apologise but I find all the squabbling and bickering quite entertaining  although don’t suppose the birds feel the same. But they do get a wholesome meal out of it.

Fractious Fulmar

 It was time for a leisurely offshore paddle back to Lamorna cove. I had dropped a mackerel flapper to the bottom without success but as I paddled off with it trolling behind me something kept pulling at it and when I reeled it in all that was left was the head.

I stopped for a final drift off Boscawen point when the wind had dropped to almost nothing. The only sounds to be heard were the splosh of diving gannets and the ‘piffing’ of breathing porpoises, and the distant squealing of a young peregrine from the black cliffs at Tater Du. Two fish in quick succession on the hokkais:



Astonishingly red Red Gurnard

 The gaudiness of the Gurnard was equalled only by the yellow of Warlord’s hull:

Warlord by name, warlord by appearance

 Remarkably my final two bites were two other species of fish, a pollack and then a first for me…..a ling.Not the biggest specimen but an attractive fish nonetheless.

First ever Ling

My eighth species of fish was a pouting which unfortunately wasn’t too photogenic when it came up from the depths.

That was it , but one more curiosity on the final paddle in were the half dozen or so Red Admiral butterflies and single Large White that passed me heading landwards after clearly crossing from France. An extraordinary feat, especially as during gusts the delicate little creatures were temporarily blown backwards.

I was still quarter of a mile away from my car parked above the harbour wall when I noticed a yellow note stuck to the windscreen. Oh groan. Unfortunately all that was reasonable had not prevailed.