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Ilfracombe-Lundy survey report 20 August

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals

Common Dolphin Delphinus delphis 4

Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus 11

Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 1


Balearic Shearwater Puffinus mauretanicus 1

Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 11

Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 3

Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 11

Gannet Morus bassanus 62

Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 2

Guillemot Uria aalge 179

Gull sp. 37

Herring Gull Larus argentatus 34

Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 7

Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 6

Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 51

Puffin Fratercula arctica 1

Razorbill Alca torda 5

Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 5

Storm Petrel Hydrobates pelagicus 1


Outward: overcast and dry, swell and winds from the southwest, visibility good

Return: dry, calmer than the morning and sunny at times, wind southwesterly

As the Oldenburg was loading at the quayside in Ilfracombe we met Chris, who was Wildlife Officer for the day, and caught up on our news since we last met on a MARINElife trip in Weymouth Bay. We boarded the Oldenburg and were welcomed by Jason, the ship’s captain, and his crew. We set up on the starboard bridge wing and sailed promptly at 10:00 with a full complement of passengers. The weather was dry with a fresh wind from the southwest, but very good visibility.

Coastguard helicopter over the Oldenburg (Kevin Waterfall)

On the outward crossing we had a good variety of birds, including one adult Puffin plus a couple of rafts of Guillemot, Fulmar and gulls actively fishing. As several Manx Shearwater were entertaining us we became aware of a Coastguard helicopter approaching us from astern – much to the excitement of the school children on the aft deck. One of the crew of the chopper was standing in the open door and waving. Thankfully, it was only an exercise and they were just testing out that they could maintain a fixed position whilst the Oldenburg steamed ahead at a steady 10knots.

Shag (Kevin Waterall)

As we came into Landing Bay we were greeted by calls from the Grey Seals hauled out on the rocks and a Shag swimming in the water. While some passengers joined a guided walk with the assistant warden to explore the southern end of the island, we went for a quick lunch at the Marisco Tavern then set off to explore some of our own favourite places ashore.

Highland cattle at Pondsbury (Kevin Waterfall)

Water on Lundy is a precious commodity and the ponds are all at a low level but revived slightly by recent rain. The Highland Cattle make the most of the water at Pondsbury and the gulls have to wait their turn at the edge. The domestic sheep beyond the camping field seemed relieved to have been shorn, while the Soay Sheep shed their fleeces naturally.

Coming down through Milcombe there was a Pied Flycatcher in the trees, one of several that have been on the island as a stopover on their migration route. As we returned to the ship there were 11 Grey Seals hauled out on the rocks beyond Rat Island and others had been seen as we made our way around the coast. The females are now very large as they are close to giving birth. A group of nine Oystercatcher were circling the beach in the bay and a Great Black-backed Gull was pecking at a dead Guillemot.

Grey Seals (Kevin Waterfall)

The return journey was calm so we had brief views of a pod of four Common Dolphin to the great delight of the children on board. Nearer to the North Devon coast a Harbour Porpoise put in a few brief shows. There were several large rafts of mixed sea birds, but mostly Guillemot, some distant from our course and others alongside with the birds diving to get away. The juvenile Kittiwake were a pleasure to see and the Storm Petrel and Balearic Shearwater put the icing on the cake.

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

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

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