Ilfracombe or Bideford-Lundy

Sightings Archives: April 2012

MARINElife Survey Report: Ilfracombe-Lundy 'MS Oldenburg' 21st April 2012 returning to Bideford

Posted 03 May 2012

Tim Balmer and Fiona Mcnie, Research Surveyors for MARINElife
Weather: Sea - moderate, visibility - good

Marine Mammals
Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus 1

Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 3
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 624
Gannet Morus bassanus 5
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 15
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 31
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 2
Greater Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 2
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 5
Guillemot Uria aalge 24
Razorbill Alca torda 32
Mallard Anas platyrhynchos 5
Shelduck Tadorna tadorna 17

Terrestrial Birds (on Lundy)
Peregrine Falcon Falco peregrinus 5
Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus 1
Willow Warbler Phylloscopus trochilus 50 +
Blackcap Sylvia atricapilla 10 +
House Sparrow Passer domesticus 10 +
Starling Sturnus vulgaris 4 +
Skylark Alauda arvensis 5 +
Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica 50 +
Wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe 2 x pairs

Our morning crossing to Lundy was good. The Bristol Channel had a moderate sea with 15mph winds which made any sightings of cetaceans possible although not easy, but with good visibility we were hopeful.

Ilfracombe is a typical North Devon fishing harbour town and offered a pleasant place to start our journey. As the bridge on the 'Oldenburg' is relatively small, Fiona and I decided to survey from either side of the bridge, therefore giving us the best possible coverage. The crew of the 'Oldenburg' were very welcoming and our special thanks must go to Gerry, the Captain, and his second in command, Paul.

Manx Shearwater 1Lundy Island lies 10 miles off the North Devon coast where the Bristol Channel meets the Atlantic. It is a remote and exposed island and as such is an ideal breeding place for many thousands of sea birds during the summer months.

As we neared Lundy we began to see, at first a few, but then, many hundreds of Manx Shearwaters, as they fed in the sea around the island. They do breed on Lundy but spend the day at sea before returning to the island as night falls. Other birds encountered included Gannets, Fulmars, Razorbills, Guillemots, and the occasional Kittiwake.

Upon our arrival on Lundy we spotted a couple of Grey Seals in the water, and above us circled Peregrine of my particular favourites. BlackcapOn our visit, we were treated to a 'fall' of migrant birds: especially Willow Warblers, Blackcaps and Swallows...which were a great treat. We also saw a young Sika Deer doe, a few distant Puffins, Skylarks, a Sparrowhawk and last but not least, a lone 'Bat' of unidentified species, which we watched in delight as it flew round in circles in a small sheltered rocky inlet on the south side of the island...not something you see every day, and in bright sunlight !

The cetacean watching was a little frustrating, and despite good light conditions, tiny whitecaps made sightings of Harbour Porpoises, Dolphins etc, challenging.  We know Harbour Porpoises can frequently be seen on this route, but their tiny size and undemonstrative behaviour make them difficult to spot unless the sea is mirror calm, so as a result, we were unlucky, and saw none on this particular trip.

Once again our thanks go to the staff and crew of the Oldenburg who made this a very enjoyable crossing.

Tim Balmer and Fiona Mcnie; Research Surveyors for MARINElife