MARINElife Survey Report: ‘Oldenburg’ Ilfracombe-Lundy 11 August 2018

Maggie Gamble and Amanda Jones, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884; Registered Company No. 5057367)

Weather: Outward - overcast, wind S force 4, good visibility. Return - overcast, wind S 4-6, good visibility.

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals
Grey Seal  Halichoerus grypus 2

Fulmar  Fulmarus glacialis 3
Gannet  Morus bassanus 34
Herring Gull  Larus argentatus 8
Kittiwake  Rissa tridactyla 3
Lesser Black-backed Gull  Larus fuscus 2
Manx Shearwater  Puffinus puffinus 62
Pomarine Skua  Stercorarius pomarinus 1
Shag  Phalacrocorax aristotelis 9
Storm Petrel  Hydrobates pelagicus 2
Wader sp.  18

When I arrived in Ilfracombe the residents of Ilfracombe were busy setting up for their Harbour Festival. I met up with Amanda my fellow surveyor who had already collected our tickets and we boarded the Oldenburg for what was to be Amanda's first survey.

Pomarine Skua Peter Howlett 02
Pomarine Skua (Library photo: Peter Howlett)

It was a quiet survey overall, no cetaceans were spotted and fairly low numbers of seabirds. However, that gave us plenty of time to cover the survey methodology and to enjoy watching the birds we saw. The great bonus of sea watching from a boat is the amazing close views you can have of these wonderful marine inhabitants. So, it was a day of quality birds and not quantity but it gave Amanda plenty of time to admire some new species. Manx Shearwaters were working the air currents and a couple of diminutive European Storm Petrels flitted past on their way to the southern tip of Africa for yet another summer. Bird of the day was a Pomarine Skua, a passage migrant on its way south to the coast of west Africa was a bonus spot by Amanda.

Storm Petrel Mark Darlaston 01a
Storm Petrel (Library photo: Mark Darlaston)

Unfortunately Saturday was the day that the 2018 hottest, driest summer for decades finally broke. Lundy was suffering from a shortage of water but there was plenty coming down outside. The Marisco Tavern was clearly the place to be for a hot meal and a cup of tea. Afterwards I made my way back down to the pier for the return leg of the survey. Just off the beach were a couple of Grey Seals and their pupping/ breeding season will soon commence.

On our arrival back in the harbour Ilfracombe was in the middle of glorious bird-man eccentricity. Teams of people in fancy dress and various props leaping seawards off the harbour attempting to achieve flight. None of them flew as well as a Manx Shearwater and a vertical but heroic plunge was the norm. Once again our thanks go to the Landmark Trust and the Captain and crew of the Oldenburg for enabling us to continue this survey.