These friendly, inquisitive and playful dolphins are dark grey (although they can sometimes be bluish or brownish grey too) with pale lower sides and a light gey belly. Their beak is short, and they have a high dorsal fin, long slim pointed flippers and a pointed fluke. You can find a group of 40 bottlenose dolphins roaming around the coasts of Devon and Cornwall but they can be difficult to find!
The common dolphin has a very distinctive colouring which forms and hourglass pattern on their sides. A yellow panel runs down the front half of both sides, separated from the grey stripe in the rear by a cape of black that forms a saddle just below the dorsal fin. The common dolphin live in pods of between 50 to 100 individuals and can be seen in various places around Cornwall including Padstow, Hella Point and on ferry trips to the Isles of Scilly.
The harbour porpoise is shy and small, and the only porpoise found in European waters. Its characteristic rolling-swimming style and small triangular dorsal fin makes it easy to recognise. Being coastal species, the don’t tend to range too far from the shore. The harbour porpoise can be seen all around the south west coast including Cornwall, Devon and Dorset, particularly Cornwall’s Pentire Point.
Adult Risso’s dolphins have a base colour of grey, often hidden by a pattern of white scars. They measure around 4m in length and have a tall dorsal fin and a large forehead with no beak. The mouth of a Risso’s slopes up to look like a smile. With only around six – ten reports of Risso’s dolphins per year in Cornwall, they are a little harder to spot than the common dolphin!
The fin whale measures as one of the largest animals on the planet. Reaching a huge 26m in length, it comes second only to the Blue whale. These whales are characterised by a long, thin grey body with a white underbelly, and an asymmetrical colouration on their jaw (a darker left side and a white right side).
They usually reside in subtropical and temperate waters during summer and on rare occasions have been spotted in coastal waters off Cornwall.
One of the most energetic of the large whales, the Humpbacks can be distinguished by their large head and 5m long flippers. Sightings of these whales are usually more common around the Scottish coast however they can be seen off the coast of Cornwall and the Scilly Isles as they make their way further north.