MARINElife Survey Report: Ilfracombe-Lundy 'MS Oldenburg' 30th March 2013

Teresa Donohue; Research Surveyor for MARINElife
Wind NE 3-5. Sea state 3-4

Fulmar 2
Cormorant  2
Shag 14
Gannet 8
Great Black-backed Gull 40+
Lesser Black-backed Gull 55+
Herring Gull 55+
Kittiwake 61+
Guillemot  20+
Razorbill 95
Unidentified Gull Sp. 510+
Unidentified Auk Sp. 617+

With gale warnings and prevailing easterlies, outlook was touch-and-go for this survey trip. On the morning of departure however, sailing was deemed safe, and the crossing proved to be worthwhile and surprisingly pleasant!

Razorbill 1The MS Oldenburg is an impressive and wonderful ship and, after a swift embarkation, I was quickly welcomed onto the bridge by Captain Gerry and crew. It was a delight surveying from a much smaller ferry than I am used to; the side doors to the bridge provide excellent viewing platforms, and it was great to be out in the wind and salt spray. Several enthusiastic passengers as well as the crew were very helpful, pointing out birds and showing great interest in the survey.

Razorbill dominated the sightings list, with fewer Guillemot, as we encountered small rafting parties and trailing flocks in flight throughout. The majority of these were in their smart summer plumage, although winter-plumaged birds were also recorded. Single Kittiwake roaming the sea were also seen, as well as a couple of Fulmar. As we approached Lundy a very large number of birds became visible - mostly gulls and auks - in a loose aggregation feeding off the island's east coast.

Lundy IslandGannet could also be seen diving in the distance, whilst closer to the ship we began to see numerous Shag swimming about. Sadly no cetaceans were spotted this time, but the fantastic stories and records kept by the crew indicate that this is indeed an important area for porpoise and dolphin.

I disembarked to enjoy a few hours exploring the island in brilliant sunshine and a biting, cold wind. Wheatear, Meadow Pipit and Skylark were very lively, singing and flitting around in their hundreds, whilst excellent views of Golden Plover and Peregrine were highlights. Sika Deer and Highland Cattle grazed peacefully, and a I managed to spot a few Soay Sheep - with their uncanny agility - basking in the sun halfway down a precipitous cliff face!  It was good to meet and chat with the new warden Beccy, who is keen to find ways to improve how MARINElife and Lundy may be able to collaborate through our marine research in the future.

My sincere thanks go to all the Lundy staff, and to Gerry, Paul and the rest of the crew for making my first trip on the Oldenburg such an exciting and enjoyable one, and for their continued support of MARINElife.

Teresa Donohue; Research Surveyor for MARINElife