Ilfracombe or Bideford-Lundy

Sightings Archives: June 2011

MARINElife Survey Report: Ilfracombe-Lundy 'MS Oldenburg' 25 June 2011

Posted 07 July 2011

Martin Gillingham, Graham Oliver, MARINElife Research Surveyors
Weather: moderate to rough seas, poor visibility

Gannet Morus bassanus 43
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 5
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 2
Storm Petrel Hydrobates pelagicus 3
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 2
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 14
Guillemot Uria aalge 76
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 81
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 2
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 3
Puffin Fratercula arctica 3
Razorbill Alca torda 9
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 1
Unidentified Auk species 9

An exciting trip was in prospect as we arrived in Ilfracombe and not simply because it was our first visit and Survey to Lundy. Unfortunately the weather had decided to ignore that it was only just past mid-summer. Poor visibility and less than inviting seas greeted us as we boarded the MS Oldenburg. However in great contrast was the warm welcome we received from the Captain and his crew.

With less than one kilometre visibility and moderate to rough seas we set off for Lundy hoping for some good sights despite the conditions. A good number of Manx Shearwaters and Guillemots kept appearing out of the mist to take our minds off the rolling seas. Eventually Lundy itself hove into view with the promise of Dolphins nearer shore and of course solid ground beneath our feet. Unfortunately the Dolphins didn't like the weather either, though there was a small party of Grey Seals to welcome our arrival.

A good stomp round the Island with the mist rolling in and out gave a tantalizing taste as to how beautiful Lundy must be in different conditions. Even so the joyful sound of Skylarks followed us accompanied by Linnets and Wheatears with the odd throaty cronk of Ravens wheeling above the Feral Goats and numerous Sheep. A flyby by a Peregrine near Jenny's Cove where Puffins nest, reminded us that it wasn't just the weather that could make raising chicks on the Island difficult.

For our return voyage the seas had moderated and with a following wind the journey was much more comfortable though the visibility hadn't improved too much. We did however see at close quarters the RAF Rescue Helicopter as it came in for a training exercise. Fortunately, from a Survey point of view, it aborted its practise after only a few minutes and we were left to comb the seas for illusive marine mammals. Sadly none were seen but we did get great views of three Storm Petrels only metres in front of the bow. The ship's crew were particularly impressed by the Storm Petrels and indeed showed great interest in our work throughout the day and couldn't have been more helpful.

So in summary, shame about the weather and the lack of cetacean sightings but even so I want to go again.