Ilfracombe-Lundy survey report 17 September
Summary of sightings
Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus 15
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 1
Gannet Morus bassanus 7
Guillemot Uria aalge 66
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 3
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 1
Outward: overcast and dry with a moderate sea, winds from the north, visibility good
Return: sunny and dry, light winds, with a very smooth crossing with sunshine most of the way.
The Oldenburg was loading at the quayside in Ilfracombe and Grahame, the Wildlife Officer for the day, and I joined a good number of passengers boarding. Some were canoeists whose canoes were loaded onto the front deck. Several others were from running groups who were going to join in the Lundy Island Race on 18th. A special MS Oldenburg trip has been chartered to get the majority of runners over and back on Sunday.
We were welcomed to the bridge by Jason, the ship’s captain, and his crew and were able to put excess stuff in his day cabin. After leaving the harbour I set up on the starboard bridge wing and chatted with a good number of passengers behind me who showed a keen interest in the birds on route. The weather was dry with a fresh wind from the north, but very good visibility, the island was clearly seen as soon as we left port.
This is the quiet time of year as most birds have gone further out to sea, though compared to the September 2021 trip there were twice as many Guillemot and Gannet around, but the number of gulls was reduced. The juvenile Guillemot seen were still learning their survival skills from their parents, though it can be hard to distinguish juveniles from the parents in their winter plumage.
Lundy has largely escaped the dreaded bird flu, with only one gull found to have the illness. Auks have left the island now and will only return next spring, but the island is seeing a good selection of passage migrants, including Goldcrest, Firecrest and both Pied and Spotted Flycatchers.
I went for a quick lunch at the Marisco Tavern then set off for a walk up to Quarry Pond to see the Golden Orfe fish and then a wander back down the upper path of the East Siding to Milcombe. There are a lot of Wheatear in the fields, no doubt making their way south for the winter. Last week there had been a Common Rosefinch in Milcombe and Stuart, the assistant warden, told me to look out for the Rosy Starling up by the Lambing Shed.
Returning to the jetty, there were still 9 Grey Seals hauled out on the rocks beyond Rat Island and there are other females giving birth in coves and beaches around the island. In Landing Bay, we were serenaded by calls from the Grey Seals and there was a very new seal pup on the beach, all white with the mother in close attendance to keep an eye on her young one.
The return journey was very smooth with good views of Woolacombe and villages along the north Devon coast. We pulled into Ilfracombe and 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 Research Surveyor for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884; Registered Company No. 5057367)