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Bideford-Lundy survey 19 August

We arrived promptly at the shore office beside the MS Oldenburg’s mooring on the river Torridge, and here we met up with Grahame Madge who was going to be todays MARINElife WLO for the crossing to Lundy and back.

This was Olivia’s first survey with us, and upon entering the room behind the bridge, we made ourselves ready for the survey. We waited for the ‘Oldenburg’ to slip her moorings before gaining Captain Jason’s permission to join him on the bridge.

As the course down the Torridge has a few turns to miss the various sand banks we took this time to familiarise Olivia with the ship’s instruments and our survey forms before starting the survey as we headed out of the estuary into Barnstable Bay.

The sand bar at the mouth of the Torridge (Rick Morris)

Once over the sand bar, sea conditions were quite challenging after storm Betty from the previous night. However, we remained quietly confident, but alas the sea conditions made cetacean sightings extremely difficult, and none were seen.

For the first half hour or so, it was very quiet with just a couple of gull species, a single Black-headed Gull, and a single Gannet seen. As we left the river behind a solitary Ring Plover went past us right under the bow, a slightly unusual sighting. Eventually, we had continuous sightings of Manx Shearwater and Gannet. Also seen were Lesser Black-back Gull, Herring Gull, Guillemot, Fulmar and Shag. As we came within 30 minutes of arriving at Lundy, a large, dark bird appeared just off the port side and obligingly showed of its white markings on its wings allowing us to confirm it as a Great Skua.

Grey Seal (Rick Morris)

As we approached the island, Jason headed toward the north end before turning south towards the landing jetty, giving us a good view of the east side. We disembarked and as we looked toward Rat and Mouse islands, we could see nine Grey Seal hauled out. It was time to head up to the top for a welcome cuppa and bite to eat before spending some time for a walk-about! It was great to see Lundy’s Raven are doing well, its always well worth spending a few minutes watching them flying around and sometimes getting into mischief, one was seen with half a baguette in its beak, flying and landing with it as if to torment the others!

Raven with baguette (Rick Morris)

Arriving back down at the landing jetty in good time for the 17:30 departure, we sat and watched some young Grey Seal that were being very inquisitive of the passengers queuing up to board the boat. It’s quite funny watching this as so many people were oblivious to them being studied by the seals!

We said our farewells to Rosie (the Warden) and wished her well in her new venture next month! Back on the bridge and once the Oldenburg reversed clear of the jetty and settled on a homeward heading, we began the second leg of the survey. Sea conditions had improved a fair bit, but still no cetaceans were to be seen, however, bird sightings were still frequent with the addition of Razorbill and Kittiwake to add to the species list.

Common Sandpiper (Rick Morris)

We concluded the survey as we entered the Torridge and after putting the survey forms away, we spent some time on the outer bridge wing to look for any waterbirds that might be about. On the far bank we saw Little Egret, Grey Heron, Curlew and Common Sandpiper as well as Oystercatcher in flight and many Black-headed Gull on the river and in flight.

Jason moored the Oldenburg gracefully alongside our berth at Bideford and we said our thanks and made our way home.

Our sincere thanks to Jason and his crew for the help and support, also to all the shore office staff and a special thanks to Rob (Lundy Manager), Rosie and all on Lundy.

Rick Morris and Olivia McLaughlin, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884; Registered Company No. 5057367)


Eastbound: visibility 5, wind WSW force 4-5, sea state 3-6 Westbound: visibility 5-6, wind WSW force 4, sea state 3-4

Summary of Sightings


Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 1

Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 3

Gannet Morus bassanus 52

Great Skua Stercorarius skua 1

Guillemot Uria aalge 2

Gull sp. 1

Herring Gull Larus argentatus 3

Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 10

Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 1

Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 142

Razorbill Alca torda 5

Ringed Plover Charadrius hiaticula 1

Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 2

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