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Ilfracombe-Lundy survey 17 June

Summary of Sightings

Marine Mammals

Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus 3

Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 2


Seabirds

Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 1

Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 4

Gannet Morus bassanus 10

Guillemot Uria aalge 150

Herring Gull Larus argentatus 12

Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 3

Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 533

Puffin Fratercula arctica 5

Razorbill Alca torda 31

Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 16

Gull sp. 7

Auk sp. 10


The Oldenburg was loading at the quayside in Ilfracombe, and we were pleased to be back on board for the first survey of 2023 and with Rick as the Wildlife Officer for the day. There was a full complement of passengers keen to explore the island and looking out for sightings on the crossing.


We were welcomed to the bridge by Paul, the ship’s captain and were able to put excess stuff in his day cabin. After leaving the harbour we set up on the starboard bridge wing and chatted with a good number of passengers behind us who showed a keen interest in the birds enroute. The weather was dry, with good visibility, intermittent sunshine, and a light southeasterly wind.

Manx Shearwater (Library photo: Rick Morris)

There were lots of Manx Shearwaters around, some were gliding gracefully across our bows, but also there were quite a lot of them rafting in groups as we passed by. Now that Lundy has its full status as an observatory then one of the tasks has been to carry out an extensive survey of nesting shearwaters and that is keeping the wardens busy.


In addition to the shearwaters, we saw a reasonable numbers of auks, especially Guillemot, but also a few Puffin. As we approached the island there were Shag rafting on the sea and a few flying through.

Puffin (Library photo: Peter Howlett)

On the outward crossing there were a few Harbour Porpoises seen by passengers behind us but both surveyors only caught fleeting glimpses of one Harbour Porpoise on each crossing. As anticipated a few Grey Seal were hauled out on rocks at the base of Rat Island and spy hopping in Landing Bay as we moored up to the jetty.


There was a new moon on 17th, so the tide was a long way out when we docked. Once ashore we spent an hour exploring rock pools in the Devil’s Kitchen and had a nice find of a Candy Stripe Flatworm, hiding away in a cave.


After a quick lunch at the Marisco Tavern we set off along the Upper East Side and walked to Quarry Pond to see the Golden Orfe fish. After that we wandered back down the lower path of the East Siding to Milcombe. A group of Sika Deer watched us go by, quite unperturbed by our presence as they wandered across the slopes. The island was full of birds; Wheatear, Song Thrush, Meadow Pipit, Linnet, and Chiffchaff, but what was really pleasing was hearing two Grasshopper Warblers beside the road. We saw a Kestrel mobbing a Peregrine who ventured too close, possibly after its chicks.

Wheatear (Library photo: Rick Morris)

Returning to the jetty we joined the queue of people waiting for the signal to board and chatting over what they had seen on the island; those who had stayed there for a few days were full of their sightings of Puffin, not just at Jenny’s, but also at the Battery and the northwest tip of the island.


The return journey was very smooth with good views of Woolacombe and villages along the north Devon coast. We pulled into Ilfracombe and, thanks to a following tide, were moored up ahead of schedule.


Many thanks to the staff and crew of the Oldenburg who were extremely helpful and made this a very enjoyable trip.

Kevin Waterfall & Elisabeth Waterfall, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884; Registered Company No. 5057367)


Weather

Outward and return: light SE wind with calm, almost millpond seas, occasional sunny spells.


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