the wildlife

the wildlife

All our trips are tailor made to the customers on board and last either for 1 or 2 hours. You’ll be safe hands with our experienced skipper’s, as most of them are RNLI team members. On arrival at either Padstow or Rock, your skipper will discuss with you all, what you would like to see and what’s on offer with just some of the wildlife you may see outlined below. Once you are kitted out with life jacket and waterproofs (if required) you’ll board our 9meter RIB, powered by two 175hp outboards for a fantastic ride out of the Camel estuary and up the spectacular North Cornwall coastline. On the way you’ll pass Daymer Bay, Polzeath beach (where our surf academy is located), out past amazing The Rumps and Pentire Head (a frequent seal hangout spot) and up to the tranquil fishing village of Port Isaac, which was made famous by the Dr Martin series. The return journey will take you out via Puffin island where sea birds and seals frequent and there’s always a chance to spot Basking Sharks, Porpoises and Dolphins that live in the area.

There is the option to be dropped in Padstow or Rock at the end. Our newly opened shop in Padstow is located right on the quay serving tasty local Coffee and Ice Cream and this is where the ferry departs for those needing to get to Rock.

Animal Facts for Cornish Sea Tours


Common Dolphin (delphinus delphis)

  • Very social creatures, usually seen in pods of 10-500 individuals
  • Yellow and light grey colouring on flanks
  • Diet of fish and squid
  • Food herding behaviour frequently observed with cooperation between group members
  • Use echolocation to find food
  • Commonly ride the bow waves of boats and will leap out of the water

Bottlenose Dolphin (tursiops truncatus)

  • One of the larger dolphin species, grey/dark grey colouring with lighter cream coloured belly
  • Diet is varied and opportunistic, includes fish and cephalopods, and they will use a variety of methods to catch their prey such as group herding and driving the fish close to shore
  • These are among the most vocal of mammals using a wide variety of whistles and clicks and use specific sounds to identify each other
  • Very intelligent animals and captive research has shown that they are very self- aware and will recognise themselves when looking in a mirror
  • They are one of the more aggressive dolphin species and have been known to kill each other and other dolphin and porpoise species
  • They can move each eye independently of each other and can only see 180 degrees forward and to either side bit cannot see up, so you may see them chasing fish bellyside up or whenbowriding turning on their sides to see humans
  • Exhibit behaviour such as spy-hopping to aid them when looking for food or danger

Atlantic Grey Seals (Halichoerus grypus)

  • The UK’s largest land breeding mammal
  • Britain has the largest distribution of grey seals
  • Spend around one in five days hauled out on to beaches around the British coasts, they may travel between haul out sites when feeding or use one site as a base
  • Large variation in colours, and can be plain or blotchy or spotted
  • Sexually dimorphic, males are larger than females
  • Females tend to be lighter and spottier than males, males usually have a more roman nose (broader and longer snouts)
  • Breeding season is September to December – Seal pups born with a distinguishable white fluffy coat called a lanugo.

Puffin (fratercula arctica)

  • The mouls is the best place to see puffins along the Cornish coast and is our largest breeding colony – it is an amber list species
  • Distinctive back head with large pale cheeks and brightly coloured bill
  • Live on a diet of fish especially sand eels
  • They nest in burrows in the cliffs where predators cannot reach them and they lay one egg – young puffins are called PUFFLINGS, the pufflings will remain in the nest until they are ready to leave and will not return until it is ready to breed about 5 years later.
  • By late August all of the puffins will be gone, the young ones leaving overnight, to move further south for the winter.

Basking Shark (cetorhinus maximus)

  • Reaching up to 12m in length they are the largest fish in British waters
  • They are only one of three plankton feeding shark species and are relatively harmless
  • They are not immune to impacts from humans and are regularly injured in boat strikes and entanglement in nets
  • Can reach up to 4.5 tonnes in weight
  • Characterized by 5 huge gill slits that almost encircle the head, large mouth and pointed nose
  • Prey consists of small copepods, barnacles, fish eggs and deep water oceanic shrimp – their movements are consistent with the location of zooplankton and they are able to locate plankton hotspots over ranges of about 500km
  • They feed passively by swimming with their mouth open rather than actively sucking in water for filtering

Common Seals ( phoca vitulina)

  • Also known as the Harbour Seal
  • Widely distributed around the British Isles, but not so much around the Cornish coast where the Atlantic Grey Seal is more abundant
  • They lack external ear flaps and have a v shaped nostril and rounded head
  • They can dive to depths between 10 and 150 metres for up to 31 minutes
  • The UK population represents about one 10th of the global population with between 50 and 60,000 individuals

Sunfish (mola mola)

  • The heaviest known bony fish, can weigh up to 1000kg as an adult
  • Live on a diet of jellyfish which is nutritionally poor, so they consume large amounts to enable them to maintain their body weight
  • Females can produce more eggs than any other known vertebrate, the fry resemble small puffer fish
  • In the EU the sale of fish in the Molidae family is banned
  • Sunfish are pelagic and swim at depths of 600m, though their common name sunfish is given due to their nature of sunbathing at the surface
  • They have an average length of 1.8m with a fin to fin length of 2.5m

Guillemot (uria aalge)

  • These birds will nest in large colonies on cliff edges called loomeries
  • They have a dark brown back and head and a white belly
  • They dive to feed, filling the same ecological niche that penguins do- feeding in fish and crustaceans
  • In winter their cheeks become white and they spend time further out to see
  • Auk family
  • When they leave the colonies on the cliffs they will usually “splash down” to form large rafts near the colonies before departing to foraging areas
  • Eggs are conical shaped to stop them rolling off the cliffs
  • They will only have one chick, and one parent will remain at all times until they fledge at 3 weeks old where they have to plunge off the cliffs to the sea below

Manx shearwater (puffinus puffinus)

  • Black on top and white below and flies low over the waves
  • Mostly seen offshore during the day and will nest at night to avoid predation from black backed gulls
  • Diet of fish, including herrings. Sardines and sprats
  • Despite the latin name they are unrelated to puffins, the only similarity being that they too are burrowing seabirds
  • They lay eggs that are huge in comparison to their body weight and will be about 15% of their body weight

Razorbill (alca torda)

  • Similar in size and build to a guillemot, but darker plumage on its back and a thick blunt bill
  • Nests in boulders and crevices rather than on ledges
  • Dives to catch fish – another member of the Auk family
  • Diet of sandeels, sprat and herring

Gannet (morus bassanus)

  • Large white seabird with black wing tips, with a yellow head
  • Plunge dives for fish by folding its wings behind its body and diving head first from a great height achieving speeds of 100km/hr as they strike the water, they have adaptations for this behaviour – they have no external nostrils, they have air sacs under their face and chest to cushion the impact and their eyes are positioned far forward on their face to allow for accuracy
  • Fishes around the coast of Cornwall throughout the year but does not breed here
  • They nest in dense colonies on cliffs and will brood a single egg for 6-7 weeks, they will reach maturity in 3-4 years
  • An amber list species as it is a rare breeder

Cormorant (phalacrocorax carbo)

  • Large, dark seabird characterized by its wing drying stance
  • Adults have a white cheek patch, but show a white thigh patch and head in the breeding season
  • Juveniles are brown with a paler belly and face
  • They are resident to our coastline so remain throughout the winter
  • They are excellent fishers and will mainly eat fish and fishermen are concerned that they will affect fish stocks with the increase in population numbers

Shag (phalocrocorax aristotelis)

  • Very similar to cormorants but smaller in size
  • The name shag refers to the the crest on top of their heads which can be seen during the breeding season
  • Plumage is glossier with a green sheen
  • They are an amber list species as they have few breeding sites
  • Live on a diet of fish, and occasionally crustaceans and molluscs

Greater Black Backed Gull (Larus marinus)

  • The largest of our gulls with a very dark grey back (hence the name)
  • They are Omnivirous and will therefore eat whatever they can find, shellfish, fish, other birds and carrion
  • They are known to be able to eat a puffin whole and they are a predator of the Manx Shearwater who will not land during the day as the gulls will eat them.
  • Curved bill that can easily smash, stab and tear with ease

Kittiwake (rissa tridactyla)

  • A small and nimble gull with soft white plumage and grey wings with back wing tips
  • Yellow bill and black eyes and legs
  • Diet of fish shrimps and worms
  • Mainly a coastal gull and is usually seen at breeding sites in the spring and summer

Arctic Tern (sterna paradisaea)

  • Local name of sea swallow, due to its shape and long tail streamers
  • They depend on a healthy environment and have been affected by fish shortages
  • They are the ultimate long distance migrants, summering in the UK and wintering in the Arctic
  • They will fly the equivalent of 3 times around the moon in their lifetime

Turnstone (arenaris interpres)

  • Turnstones have a mottled appearance with brown or chestnut and black upper parts and brown and white head pattern, with orange legs and white underparts
  • Live on a diet of insects, molluscs and crustaceans which they will pick out of rocks and crevices, as a result they have strong necks and bills designed for this purpose

Sandwich Tern (sterna sandvicensis)

  • A large tern with long thin wings and a forked tail
  • Very noisy making a “keereck” call in flight
  • Lives on a diet of sandeels, sprats and whiting
  • Tern populations were nearly brought to extinction in the early 19th century due to egg collection for food but numbers responded well to protective legislation in the 20th century

Peregrine Falcon ( falco peregrinus)

  • These falcons are one of, if not the fastest animals in the world, believed to have achieved speeds of up to 200kph
  • Most widely distributed of all birds, living on all continents except Antarctica
  • They are sexually dimorphic, with females being larger than the males
  • Its diet exsists almost exclusively on small birds, but will take small mammals, reptiles and insects
  • They mate for life and will nest on cliff edges

Cornish Thrift (armeria maritime)

  • These tiny pink flowers grow in tightly packed, spherical heads on top of flexible stems.
  • Their habitat is usually coastal areas, particularly rocky areas and sandy soils.
  • One of the most common flowers along the Cornish coast and can thrive on mining waste
  • Folklore suggests that you will never be poor if thrift grows in your garden
  • It is thought that the name thrift was derived from the word thrive, as the plant does thrive around the Cornish coast

Padstow Pride or Red Valerian ( centranthus ruber)

  • The flowers are either red, white or pink and are carried in large branched clusters
  • It often grows on ruined walls, banks rocks and cliffs where it is dry
  • Also called Jupiters Beard
  • Both the leaves and roots can be eaten, in salad or soups

Compass jellies (chrysaora hysoscella)

  • Identified by the brown v shaped markings on the umbrella, with a brown circle in the centre, making it look like a compass rose
  • 24 slender tentacles hang down from the edge of the umbrella, with 4 oral arms in the centre
  • Young fish such as whiting will often be seen swimming between the tentacles for protection from predation

Moon jellyfish (Aurelia aurita)

  • The most commonly seen jellyfish – often seen in huge swarms in the summer
  • Its most distinctive features are its reproductive organs, which appear as opaque horseshoe shaped tissues visible in the umbrella
  • Four arms at the centre are used for feeding

Lion’s Mane (cyanea capillata)

  • Its tentacles are covered with powerful stinging cells, stretching up to 3m long when extended
  • The umbrella has brown markings
  • The tentacles are arranged into 4 bunches with each bunch containing 100 tentacles

By-the-wind-sailor (vellela vellela)

  • When at sea this species has blue jelly tentacles hanging from a flat disc of cartilage.
  • When washed up the jelly soon decays leaving the flat oval of cartilage with a semi circular “sail” of cartilage standing up on top.
  • The “sail” moves the animal around in the wind, but in stormy conditions hundreds can be washed ashore.
  • Not just one animal, this is a colony of individuals that carry out different tasks – in the centre is the individual that takes in food, around this are small reproductive individuals, clustered around this are feeding individuals which take the form of long tentacles.

Blue Lion’s Mane (cyanea lamarckii)

  • Sometimes known as the blue jellyfish as it is usually blue or purple
  • Much smaller than the Lion’s Mane
  • There are fewer tentacles in the bunches, around 50 and their sting is much weaker

Portuguese man of war (physalia physalis)

  • Easily identified by the it purplish or silvery blue float. Below the float different types of polyps are suspended on very long trailing tentacles
  • The fishing and defensive polyps may extend for several tens of metres and are armed with enormous numbers of stinging nematocysts, which are extremely dangerous to humans.
  • Not often seen in Cornish waters but can be blown in by onshore gales