May Holiday in North Devon 2014.

Arriving in Coombe Martin very late on Friday night due to the many accidents on the M5, we quickly had our caravan set up, beer open and commenced the art of chilling, which is what our trips to Devon are all about. Saturday was rather busy with caravan maintenance chores taking up most of the day in one format or another. Following a shopping trip for essential supplies, which included beer and Bacardi, we headed for Woolacoombe bay and some fish and chips. Whilst here we did some sea watching over the bay with sightings of three Harbour Porpoise about a quarter of a mile out from shore along with a few Gannet, Oystercatcher, Stonechat and the usual gulls. Upon arriving back at the camp site I put up a couple of bird feeders which quickly attracted House Sparrow and Blue Tit whilst doing so my attention was soon drawn to the many Swallows and house Martins that were constantly passing overhead as were herring gull and a Buzzard. A pair of Pied Wagtails were seen too, however they’ve not been seen since!

On Sunday my fiancĂ©e and I were up bright and early for my third trip this year to Lundy Island, this time in the company of fellow Devon Birdwatching Preservation Society members on their annual birding trip.  Arriving in Bideford at 07.30am it already felt warm and we were optimistic for a fabulous day of weather and the day didn’t disappoint, as the sun shone all day with the temperature in the 70’s. After boarding the MS Oldenburg the ship left the quay at 08.30am and we started our journey up the Taw estuary, past the sand banks and the reef and out and on towards Lundy in a very calm sea state which was excellent conditions for looking out for cetaceans. The outward passage didn’t give us any sightings of cetaceans, however we soon had Manx Shearwater gliding effortlessly over the water, diving Gannet and many Guillemot and Razorbill rafting as the ship passed them by. The usual gulls were seen along with Kittiwake and Fulmar. As we approached Lundy I chatted briefly to Jerry the Oldenburg captain as he opened the bridge door and was chuffed to hear that the ship would be doing a circuit of the island and as we were on the starboard side we would have the perfect position to view the island cliffs, caves, coves and of course the wildlife.

The many ledges were covered in Guillemot and Razorbill, the rocks had Kittiwake and Shag and all the usual gulls were observed. Grey Seals were sighted both in the water and on the rocks, as we approached Jenny’s Cove the whole area had a good number of Guillemot and Razorbill rafting and to everyone’s delight I soon had some of the passengers along with some of the ships company on to Lundy’s famous Puffins. These small birds are always a pleasure to see either on the water or on land. Sadly all my photos were either taken from too far away or blurred! 
As the Oldenburg made its way slowly towards the landing bay I had sight of a distant black and white bird resting on the sea, the binoculars soon had me ticking off a Black Guillemot and a great start to the island’s bird list. Soon everyone disembarked and we began the long road trek up to the higher levels. Our planned route was to take in the southern coastal footpaths along and past the old battery and then on towards halfway wall and lunch overlooking Jenny’s cove.
The first birds seen were the numerous Swallows, House Sparrows, Meadow Pipits and Wheatear. Other seen were Blackbird, Wren, Linnet, Pied wagtail, Rock Pipit, Starling, Rock Dove, Goldfinch, Mallard, Robin, Chiffchaff and Jackdaw.

Upon arriving at Jenny’s Cove we scanned the birds on the rock ledges as far as Needle rock. Kittiwakes, Guillemot, Razorbill and Puffin were all identified from a reasonable distance. We found out later in the day that a Short Toed Lark was spotted near the half way wall, what a good bird for the few who managed to see it. Walking back the island’s Sika Deer were running around in many directions. Other animals observed were the usual sheep, some were obviously posing for “Aaaar” photo’s, also seen were Lundy ponies, wild goats and a single rabbit which is in fact the first rabbit I’ve ever seen on Lundy.
Jenny's Cove

After stopping at the Marisco Tavern we started our decent towards the landing bay which can take a while especially when you are in the company of fellow birders who all stop, start, stop, start as and when birds appear. Reports of a Golden Oriole had the decent put on hold as the area was scanned by over twenty people looking for it, at this time a Peregrine was spotted chasing a bird very high up and nobody could identify the bird being perused. Skylark was the species that was suggested, however last year a visiting Golden Oriole on the island was taken by one of the Peregrines, I hope we don't read the same outcome on the Lundy Birds sightings blog.

The crossing back to Bideford was calm again with the same birds being seen along the way, this time we sighted four harbour Porpoise from the port side and 5 Common Dolphin ahead of the bow. Returning to Bideford Quay gave us Curlew, Whimbrel, Oystercatcher and Godwits on the sand bank.

A really great day shared with members of the Devon Birdwatchers Preservation Society both on the sea and on Lundy in beautiful weather.

I’m already looking forward to visiting Lundy again at the end of this month, this time it will be as the MARINElife Lundy Wildlife Officer aboard MS Oldenburg helping passengers with identifying cetaceans and birds.