Ilfracombe or Bideford-Lundy

Sightings Archives: May 2011

MARINElife Survey Report: Ilfracombe-Lundy 'MS Oldenburg' 24 May 2011

Posted 31 May 2011

Adrian Shephard, Rick Morris and Sue Lakeman, MARINElife Research Surveyors
Weather: NW 4-5, bright

Gannet Morus bassanus 21
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 15
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 1
Guillemot Uria aalge 43
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 277
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 16
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 2
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 42
Razorbill Alca torda 4
Unidentified Gull species 13

The team arrived in Ilfracombe and parked ready for 9.15am in readiness for the pilot survey aboard MS Oldenburg to Lundy.

We were made very welcome initially by the shore-based team and introduced to the bridge team and the Lundy Island Manager who was travelling across to Lundy.

The weather forecast hadn't been quite as accurate as we hoped and we were greeted by a sea state 5 with a swell coming in from the west, making viewing conditions from the bridge challenging as the windows were doused with waves every few minutes. We did start picking up birds however, primarily Manx Shearwaters riding the air currents.

The crossing to Lundy took 2 hours and during this time we discussed with the captain and other bridge team what sightings they tended to have. They reported frequent sightings of Common Dolphins, Grey Seals and Harbour Porpoise with occasional sightings of Minke Whale. Historically the route also had sightings of Bottlenose Dolphins and Basking Sharks, but in recent years they have not been seen.

On arrival at Lundy, we disembarked and were had a fleeting glimpse of a Grey Seal alongside the quay. We then headed off to explore the Island during the 4 hours before setting sail.

We encountered a number of birds on the Island including:

Wheatears, House Sparrows, Swallows, Meadow Pipits, Sky Larks, Willow Warblers, Kittiwakes, Starlings, Mallards, Little Egret, Herring Gull, Lesser Black-Backed Gull, Great Black-Backed Gull, Guillemots, Jackdaws, Oyster Catchers and Crows.

We unfortunately missed the Trumpeter Finch which was around, but proved elusive despite a search of last known areas it had been seen. We also got to see the local Black Rabbits, Feral Goats and Sika Deer.

The return survey with the wind behind us and reduced swell and sea state made for better observation conditions. Higher numbers of Manx Shearwater were encountered, together with Guillemots and Kittiwakes.

We wished the bridge team goodbye and disembarked for the trip home. A great day and despite the absence of cetaceans on this crossing, the route has great potential for good cetacean and bird sightings on future crossings.