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Wildlife Spotting in Cornwall

14 June 2024

Dolphin boat trips Cornwall

What a wealth of animal life we have here in Cornwall! From dolphins and basking sharks in our seas (they are harmless don’t worry!) to the seals and puffins that gather along our rocky coastline. Inland, across the moor, encounters might include kites and rare butterflies with egrets and kingfishers populating our estuaries and lakes.

Butterflies in Cornwall

When it comes to where to go when hoping for sightings, we are spoilt, but some favourites are Land’s End, the Helford River, Cape Cornwall and Pendennis Point. Over the years on our tours we have been treated to some really memorable moments. We have spotted large schools of bluefin tuna up to 7’ in length and weighing 3-400Lb on our tours 3 years running. Chat to your guide about what you are hoping to see and we can factor it in to your tour of Cornwall.

Seal spotting in Cornwall

Around Land’s End and Mount’s Bay, the very end of Cornwall, is a great place to spot grey seals, dolphins and sharks. If you are exploring the waters around Penzance then you might see whales too! Cape Cornwall is where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Irish Sea, 4 miles north of Land’s End, here you might see sunfish, dolphins, basking sharks and even a humpback whale.

Boat tours are your best bet for viewing dolphins, Mount’s Bay in particular is a great place for sightings. We have several species including the common dolphin which can live up to 35 years. Bottlenose dolphins hang out in pods of up to fifteen and are a stunning spot gliding through the waters. Whales are also possible to see as well, the waters around Padstow have been favourable in the past. Although more associated with the top of the UK in Scotland, we do have sightings here of minke whales, sei whales, fin whales and even humpback whales.

Seal watching in Cornwall

Did you know that Cornwall is home to the majority of the world’s grey seal population? Boat trips are a fab way to see these beautiful creatures, I recently got to see a happy seal sunning himself on a boat trip around Falmouth. If you are booking one of our tours and want to do a spot of seal watching let your tour guide know, we can incorporate it into your tour of Cornwall and book the best boat trips for you.

Mutton Cove at Godrevy Point is home to a large seal colony, there all year round but numbers swell in the autumn and winter, the perfect time to see fluffy pups! There is no access for humans down to the beach to keep them safe, but still a beautiful sight to admire from afar. The National Trust have a helpful guide for watching seals safely. Of course one way to guarantee a good bit of seal watching is to visit the Cornish Seal Sanctuary at Gweek. They look after sick or injured seals, releasing around 70 pups each year. They have such amazing personalities, totally worth the trip.

The Lizard has to be one of the best places for wildlife watching in the county, it feels like a world away from hustle and bustle and that remote location and mild climate allows many species to thrive. Seabirds especially are found here with the famous Cornish chough, brought back from the brink of extinction, puffins, terns and gannets too. In the waters look out for dolphins, porpoise, sunfish, basking sharks and even the minke whale.

Puffins are a likely spot here too, though you could head to the aptly named ‘Puffin Island’ near Padstow which is one the best place to admire these characterful creatures between April and July. That is when they rear their chicks, known as ‘pufflings’. Fascinating creatures, they carry fish in their beaks to feed their young, usually 8-12 can fit in, but I think the record was an amazing 83 fish held in one beak at once! You can also see choughs as far north as Pentire Point, they are thankfully getting a more common sight.

Birdwatching in Cornwall

Driving around we often see birds of prey circling their next meal. You might also spy merlins, osprey and although rare you can sometimes see a white-tailed eagle. Best locations for this would be around Tintagel at Glebe Cliff. Heading a little more inland are the delights of Bodmin Moor, a wildlife treasure-trove. The murmurations of starlings are just breath-taking, soaring in billowing clouds ahead. Around Rough Tor would be a perfect place to meet the moorland ponies that call these rugged hills home. Also look out for rare butterflies like the marsh fritillary butterfly and otters, red deers, buzzards, skylarks and warblers.

Ponies on Bodmin Moor

A wildlife success story has to be that of beavers, reintroduced to Cornwall quite recently, building the first dam in our county for 400 years. They were brought to Woodland Valley Farm and the Cornwall Wildlife Trust offer walks, which do get very popular, so you can see them.

Wildlife in Cornwalls rivers

Of course it would be neglectful if we didn’t include the creeks, riverways and estuaries that house scores of rare and wonderful wildlife across the county. The landscape around the Tamar Valley is a bird watchers paradise and the River Camel provides many aquatic birds. The Helford River is one of Cornwall’s designated special areas of conservation with its shallow bays, sandy banks and mudflats. A river cruise here is a perfect way to while away some time whilst looking out for guillemots, razorbills and oystercatchers. A great resource when planing what to hopefully see where is The Cornwall Wildlife Trust is, they manage 59 nature reserves up and down the county.

So there you have it! Wherever you go on your tour with us, be that around The Lizard, or the wilds of the North Coast or perhaps the far West of Cornwall, there is great opportunity to spot a wide range of wildlife.

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