MARINElife Survey Report: MS Oldenburg Ilfracombe-Lundy 13 April 2019

Jenny Ball and Mallory Warrington, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884; Registered Company No. 5057367)

Weather: Outward: wind SE 4, Return: wind SE 4

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals
Common Dolphin Delphinus delphis 1

Fulmar  Fulmarus glacialis 20
Gannet  Morus bassanus 8
Great Black-backed Gull  Larus marinus 3
Guillemot  Uria aalge 43
Kittiwake  Rissa tridactyla 7
Lesser Black-backed Gull  Larus fuscus 25
Manx Shearwater  Puffinus puffinus 28
Razorbill  Alca torda 38
Shag  Phalacrocorax aristotelis 5

This was to be MARINElife's first Ilfracombe-Lundy survey of the year, and Mallory and I met up with Annette, on Wildlife Officer duty, aboard the MS Oldenburg, also for the first time this year.  We were all welcomed by Captain Jason Mugford and his crew, and we were soon organised and starting our survey as the ship got onto course for Lundy, a few minutes after leaving the harbour.

common dolphin Peter Howlett 22
Common Dolphin (Library photo: Peter Howlett)

The forecast had been for a fairly stiff breeze, so we were relieved to find that the south easterly force 4 was blowing with the tide, and our outward passage was quite smooth and comfortable.  The crew said that they hadn't seen any dolphins since they started sailing at the beginning of April, so Mallory did well to spot one on our return journey, off Bull Point.  Bird life on the way to Lundy was fairly sparse, with Fulmar, Guillemot and Razorbill being the most frequently recorded species.  Closer to the island we started to see a number Manx Shearwater, a few on the water but mostly cruising over the waves.

We spent a happy few hours on Lundy: Mallory was looking forward to some solitary birding and I was introducing a friend to my favourite island.  We climbed up the Old Light for an overall view, walked through a field of new lambs with their mothers, and up towards the Halfway Wall with Wheatears and Skylarks singing and displaying as we went.  We watched several Fulmar, flying in and out of cracks in the cliffs below us, some gulls sitting in the sun (just like us!) and could just about identify a couple of distant Puffin on the water.

Manx Shearwater Steve McAusland 01
Manx Shearwater (Library photo: Steve McAusland)

The conditions for our return survey were a little more challenging, to start with at least, before the sea state dropped and we could hold onto our binoculars rather than the furniture!  However, there were not many birds to be seen, a few Shag and Fulmar soon after our departure, a scattering of Guillemot, Razorbill and Manx Shearwater during the crossing, and some gulls as we approached Ilfracombe.

This was a quiet but enjoyable survey to start the season - we very much appreciate the Landmark Trust's support and the friendly welcome from the captain and crew of MS Oldenburg.