25th of July 2015 - Ilfracombe to Lundy MARINElife Wildlife Officer Trip
This month’s Wildlife Officer Trip to Lundy Island began in Ilfracombe, arriving at the harbour it was interesting to see many passengers dressed in Victorian costumes and like most people my curiosity got the better of me! It turned out that they were all from a cricket club and were going to Lundy to have a big picnic and to play cricket in the campsite, all this to celebrate a special birthday for one of their party.

As MS Oldenburg left Ilfracombe we soon had sightings of Gannett within a kilometre of the harbour. As the ship made its way towards Lundy there were good numbers of Manx Shearwater, Guillemot and Razorbill. Also seen were Fulmar, Kittiwake, Herring Gull and Lesser Black Backed Gull.

An hour in to the journey we caught sight of two Harbour Porpoise from the port side and these were our only cetaceans during the crossing.

As the Oldenburg approached the Lundy landing bay the first of nine Grey Seal was seen in the area of Rat Island. Taking the short route to the shepherds hut, I stopped for lunch and an hour of sea watching. Sadly nothing to report here, however the surrounding area was a haven for Butterflies, Bees and insects.

As the time to return to the jetty was getting closer, I made my way to the back of Rat Island to watch the Grey Seals in the small bay. Here nine animals were located and some were making booming noises not too dissimilar to the coast guards now retired fog horns! As I boarded the ship my eyes were immediately drawn to a large brown bird rafting in the bay, the bird was a Common scoter, a welcome first tick for my overall Lundy bird list. Common Scoter are really not that common as there are only 38 breeding pairs of these birds in the UK, most being in Scotland!

During the return sailing two separate sightings of Common Dolphin made many passengers on the port side extremely happy.

The same birds that were seen earlier were again observed. As we arrived in Ilfracombe harbour, I thanked the crew for another successful day on behalf of MARINElife and I look forward to my next Lundy Wildlife Officer trip in August and also the joint Bottlenose Dolphin and Balearic Shearwater survey with the RSPB three days later. Details are available of this project from the link below.

11th of July 2015 - MARINElife survey trip - Newhaven to Dieppe.
Arriving in the coastal town of Newhaven, I met up with a fellow MARINElife surveyor at the ferry terminal at 08:00, after a few cups of tea, we were escorted to the "Cote D'Albatre" ferry and as we boarded we were quickly allocated cabin space where upon we made ready for the survey.
Reversing out of Newhaven
 Arriving on the bridge, the crew welcomed us and soon began telling us of recent Dolphin sightings on their passages during the week! Dolphins are amazing mammals and to hear stories from seasoned seafarers and their passionate recollections of their encounters is, as always, brilliant!

Leaving the port of Newhaven the ship was soon under way heading towards the French coast. As with all MARINElife surveys we were given a prime spot on the starboard side of the bridge to conduct the survey. Not very long in to the journey we soon had sightings of Harbour Porpoise, a fabulous start to the survey and the total tally for this trip was eight.

Approaching the port of Dieppe
Birds seen, Gannet, Herring, Lesser Black Backed and Black headed Gulls, Guillemot, Fulmar, Kittiwake, Cormorant and Manx Shearwater.
Gannet recorded this survey was 148
Manx Shearwater
In terms of birds, this trip really was very disappointing as the reports from previous surveys have records of some quality bird species. However, as July is very much the month that is renowned as the quietest on the bird sightings front, we enjoyed the reasonably calm waters and the generous hospitality of DFDS. I look forward to surveying this route again, however, next time maybe I will volunteer during the migration months?
29th - 30th of June 2015 MARINElife Survey, Felixstowe to Vlaardingen, Holland.

 I arrived at Felixstowe dock 2, on Monday night to meet up with fellow surveyor Fraser at 10:30pm. Checking in at the DFDS offices, we were quickly issued ship passes for the "Anglian Seaways" Ro-Ro Ferry and then escorted through passport control and driven directly to the ship, which was being loaded with trucks and containers. It always amazes me just how busy and noisy docks are even at almost midnight!

Upon boarding the ship we were shown to our cabins and after agreeing to meet up at 05:15am we got some sleep.
At 05:30am we started our survey high up on the starboard side of the bridge. The sun was up over the horizon and we very quickly started to record a great many Gannet, Lesser Black Backed Gull, Great Black Backed Gull and Fulmar. During the crossing my first Common Scoter of the year flew past.
A total of eight Harbour Porpoise were recorded along with five Grey Seal making the early start more than worth while.
DFDS always look after us and this trip was no different with drinks and meals provided for the duration of the survey.
As the ship got within ten miles of the mainland we were joined by sixty two other ships all looking as if they too were heading for the same port! A truly amazing sight and one that had the captain and his crew on full alert watching and communicating with other shipping and Dutch coastguard.

Entering the "river" (the Nieuwe Waterweg) the captain slowly steered the ship towards the docking pier. The river gave us a great many birds, all are listed below.

Arriving in Rotterdam it was time for a power nap before lunch followed by further surveying until 21:00pm. Upon leaving the river we had a oil tanker ship the "Bowfin" on our starboard side at a distance of about a quarter of a mile away. As I looked at her I could see that smoke was coming from her port side, then flames could be seen, thinking the worst, we were delighted to see that the crew had got the flames under control and the ship started to come to a halt.

 Arriving back at Felixstowe at 23:00pm, we thanked the captain and his crew for supporting the MARINElife survey and we made our separate ways home. I'm looking forward to my next survey in July from Newhaven to Dieppe.
Birds seen at sea on this survey were, Gannet, Fulmar, Great Skua, Lesser Black-backed Gull,  Great Black-backed Gull, Herring Gull, Kittiwake, Sandwich Tern, Common Tern, Cormorant, Common Scoter, Starling, Swallow and Woodpigeon.

Birds seen on the Nieuwe Waterweg:

Common Gull, Black-headed Gull, Cormorant, Great Crested Grebe, Coot, Mute Swan, Egyptian Goose, Greylag Goose, Oystercatcher, Lapwing, Carrion Crow, Feral pigeon, Pied Wagtail, Mallard and Meadow Pipit.

27th of June 2015 - Lundy Island Trip

This month's Wildlife Officer Trip to Lundy Island began in Ilfracombe, the sun was shining and the crew of MS Oldenburg were soon welcoming the many passengers on board. This voyage to Lundy had seventeen additional people that were going to the island for a four day MARINElife experience.

After a brief chat on the bridge with Jerry the ship's captain and Brian the first mate, I began my tour around the upper and lower decks introducing myself to as many interested passengers as I could. As usual the conversations were positive and it's always great to hear other likeminded people's wildlife experiences.

Passing Gannet

As the ship left Ilfracombe harbour, the first birds of note were Gannet, followed by Fulmar and Manx Shearwater. All three species were seen within a mile of the harbour. We soon had many Kittiwake, Herring Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull and a few distant Great Black-backed Gull.

Manx Shearwaters
Whilst touring the aft area, I was put on to two Common Dolphin off the starboard side, the two passengers who spotted them turned out to be Sue and Cheryl who are MARINElife members and fellow surveyors. Close by, birds of note were Razorbill and Guillemot.

Common Dolphin
As I was here a solitary Minke whale was seen from the upper starboard side, we sadly missed it! Passengers that go over to Lundy on a regular basis have often told me that these majestic whales are sometimes spotted. Who knows, maybe next time?

As the Oldenburg approached the Lundy landing bay the first of four Grey Seal was seen bobbing effortlessly. My afternoon was spent checking out the new Antony Gormley statue which is very fitting for Lundy. Here is also a good location for a spot of sea watching while having lunch. Looking down to the sea there were many Razorbill, Guillemot, Gannet and the usual gulls. Raven went over as did  a small flock of Goldfinch. In the surrounding area the beautiful sound of Skylark was heard and I watched many fly very high continuing their song. Linnet, Meadow Pipit and Wheatear were plentiful too.

Before the crossing back to Ilfracombe Rat island provided a further three Grey Seal. During the return sailing two separate pairs of Common Dolphin thrilled everyone on board. Watching for birds gave up the same birds that were seen earlier, however a lone Puffin was seen off the port side, much to many peoples delight. A single brief fin of a Porpoise was seen as the ship passed Morte Point on the mainland.

We arrived back in Ilfracombe harbour where the day's trip concluded, I thanked Jerry the captain and his crew for another successful day on behalf of MARINElife and I look forward to my next Lundy Wildlife Officer trip in July.
Anthony Gormley Statue looking out to sea