MARINElife Trip Bideford – Lundy 9th of September 2017

Sea state was force 5 – 6 with north westerly winds. Rain showers throughout the day and few sunny spells.
 Common Dolphin 1 
 Grey Seal 7

Birds at Sea:
Manx Shearwater, Black Headed gull, Herring Gull, Kittiwake,  Lesser Black-backed Gull,  Great Black-backed Gull, Fulmar, Great Skua, Guillemot, Shag and Gannet.

Estuary Birds:

Little Egret, Swallow, Redshank, Oystercatcher,Teal,
Birds on Lundy:

Willow Warbler, Meadow Pipit, Starling, House Sparrow, Swallow, Robin, Blackbird, Skylark, Wren, Carrion Crow, Goldfinch, Jackdaw, Spotted Flycatcher, Goldcrest and Raven.

I arrived in Bideford at 07:30am and collected my ticket from the Landmark Trust office, following this, I proceeded to board the MS Oldenburg where I was welcomed aboard by Paul the ship’s Captain. I quickly started my tour around the upper and lower decks while the Oldburg made its way down the estuary towards the open sea, as I chatted to some of the passengers the rain started and waterproofs were soon being put on! Once we were out of the estuary the sea state made it impossible to walk around the decks and I have the pleasure of chatting to a group of people and the banter was really good. The one and only cetacean sighting happened as the ship had passed the one hour mark of the voyage, it is always good to see a Common Dolphin. Birds of note were very few due to the weather conditions. Manx Shearwater, Gannet along with Guillemot rafting as the ship passed them by. The usual common gulls were seen along with Kittiwake, Fulmar and my first Great Skua this year.

Grey Seal

As the Oldenburg made its way slowly towards the landing bay there was four Grey Seals on the rocks of Rat Island, however I did see three during my time on the island from the higher levels. As the passengers disembarked, the sun came out and everyone proceeded to walk up to the higher levels. My route this visit was to walk along the east side of the island looking for birds and at the same time cast an eye out to sea for cetaceans.

Manx Shearwater
The crossing back to Bideford was more or less the same conditions as the outward crossing as the Oldenburg passed over the sand bar before entering the estuary the ship surfed the waves much to the enjoyment of many of the passengers.

Before disembarking I thanked Paul the Captain and Vernon the ship’s first mate for his and the crews’ continued support for MARINElife. I look forward to my last trip this season in October.
23rd of June 2017 - Frampton Marsh Trip

Another day out with my two birding buddies Steve and Gary started off catching up with the now famous breeding Bee Eaters at East Leake Quarry in Nottinghamshire. The day started in traditional English summertime with torrential rain! Arriving at the RSPB car park before 7:00am it was a little time before any showed, once they did we enjoyed watching three of these superb multi-coloured birds. Sadly they were too far away for photographs. I have noticed on social media that there are some superb shots of these birds, however I do wonder if some of the people taking them have indeed stayed within the viewing areas?

We hope to return to see the young once they have hatched and feeding for themselves?

After our nice year ticks, it was off to RSPB Frampton Marsh in search of more ticks?

Frampton always delivers with a final count of 72 species with the following highlights.

Distant views of Red-necked Phalarope and Pectoral Sandpiper, followed by Avocet, Corn Bunting, Curlew Sandpiper, Grasshopper Warbler, Greenshank, Hobby, Kestrel, Knot, Little Stint, Marsh Harrier, Redshank, Ruff, Snipe, Spotted Redshank, Spoonbill, Whooper Swan and Wood Sandpiper.

Grasshopper Warbler
Corn Bunting
Little Egret
 Ten year ticks in one day made my day, if the Turtle Doves seen the day before had showed I would have been even more happier!
8th - 11th of June 2017 - Lundy Island

Four days on the magical  Island that is Lundy. A great  lump of granite situated in the Bristol Channel just off the coast of North Devon. The island is three miles long and half a mile wide.

The word Lundy is Norse for Puffin which breed here every year and this year the numbers have increased.

This trip was organised by the charity MARINElife who I volunteer for as both a Cetacean and Bird Surveyor and Wildlife Officer. Also along were our partners which made for a brilliant group of likeminded people and my fiancĂ©e really enjoyed it too.

As we left Ilfracombe aboard MS Oldeburg the ship that takes day trippers over we had everyone scanning the sea for cetaceans, we managed Harbour Porpoise and Common Dolphin along with high numbers of Gannet, Manx Shearwater, Guillemot and Razorbill.

Common Dolphin from a previous trip
Sunday morning we were all up before 5:00am to see the sunrise over the mainland, a truly beautiful sight. It was not long before everyone made it up to Jenny's Cove to sea the Puffins. Here also were nesting Kittiwake, Fulmar, Guillemot and Razorbill. Six Common Dolphin were spotted out at sea and a single Harbour Porpoise.

The four days were over before we knew it, however with lots of time to explore, we covered the whole Island and visited parts not seen in the many times I have been there! Here are few images of Lundy.

2nd - 4th of June 2017

Another weekend away in Yorkshire with my birding buddies Steve and Gary began with a visit to Alvecote before heading north to Bridlington. Social media had reported that a Corncrake was here, so it was a great thrill to hear the bird which was deep within the long grass! Sadly we did not see the bird however we and a few others heard it clearly.

Off we went to Yorkshire with mixed emotions should we have stayed with a hope of seeing the Corncrake or were we satisfied at just hearing it?

Bempton Cliffs
 We arrived at Flamborough Head and a total of 65 bird species were noted. Fulmar, Gannet, Barnacle Goose, Guillemot, Kittiwake, Puffin, Razorbill, Red Kite, Sedge Warbler, Shag and Turnstone were all viewed. Grey Seals were observed in the cove with a total of 8 individuals recorded. We stayed again at the same B&B where our host made us feel very welcome.



Day two was spent at RSPB Bempton Cliffs were all the usual birds made an appearance. What I was not expecting was a Barn Owl at 10:35 in the morning! Also good to see Tree Sparrows. We ended the afternoon at Thornwick Pools which sadly did not produce anything of note. We did however stopped to chat with local birding legend Brett who is a well known character.



Day three was one of the best days birding that both myself and my two buddies have experienced. We boarded the Bridlington Bell ship for an RSPB trip out to Bempton Cliffs. What a superb 3 hours, the ship had knowledgeable RSPB volunteers on board sharing their local knowledge with everyone.

Bridlington Bell
I have been on many ships doing survey work, however I have never been so close to chalk cliffs and being surrounded by thousands of rafting sea birds. I highly recommend this trip that is organised by the RSPB.

Another superb weekend with the lads and we look forward to our next birding trips whether they be day trips or weekend ones?
May 2017 - Birding Overview

On the first of May I enjoyed another days birding in North Devon, this time starting at Fremington Pill, with a low tide, the mudflats we exposed giving the birds plenty of opportunities to feed.

A few Curlew were the first seen and with them were eight Whimbrel. Shelduck, Mallard and Little Egret also made an appearance. A single Greenshank made it's way along the waters edge and was in the company of many Redshank. Above the inlet the sound of Jackdaws could be heard as they crossed over on route to the fields behind the inlet.

Next stop was Northam Burrows to see what had dropped in on the recent high tide? Over a hundred Ring Plover were moving through the area as were Dunlin, again well over a hundred individuals. As with many people who come here a picnic was enjoyed as we started to catch sight of Linnet, Pied and White Wagtail, plus Wheatear travelling up and down the beach area. Swallow numbers are increasing as more and more arrive for the summer. One of the best things to hear and see here are the resident Skylarks, singing and flying higher and higher. Other notables were Whimbrel, Little Egret, Black Tailed Godwit, Oystercatcher, Cormorant and Herring Gull.

Our last stop for the day was Woolacombe Bay for fish and chips and to watch the surfers, of course while here I continued to look out for possible notable birds. A Common Sandpiper (my first sighting here) Stonechat, Lesser Whitethroat and plenty of Goldfinch were passing through.

After returning home, the garden has since provided additional ticks for this year with the star bird being a Wheatear passing over. A group of four Swifts made a rapid pass, along with three Swallows, two House Martins, ten House Sparrow and single Buzzard, Green Woodpecker, Song Thrush and Great Spotted Woodpecker.

The second weekend, I met up with my two birding buddies at Brandon Marsh for a mornings birding, sixty three species were listed with the notables being, Blackcap, Buzzard, Cetti's Warbler, Chiffchaff, Common Tern, Cuckoo, Goosander, Great Crested Grebe, Great Spotted Woodpecker, House Martin, Jay, Kestrel, Kingfisher, Lapwing, Linnet, Little Egret, Little Ring Plover, Oystercatcher, Redshank, Reed Warbler, Ringed Plover, Sand Martin, Sedge Warbler, Song Thrush, Swallow, Swift, Treecreeper, Water Rail, Whitethroat, Wigeon and Willow Warbler.

Following a good morning we travelled the short distance to Napton resevior in a quest for Bearded Tit, year ticks for my two buddies.

Upon arriving at the reed bed where I have seen these birds on a regular basis, three birds came our right in front of us. As I turned for my camera I realised that it was still in the car!

After some time here, we moved on to Napton on the hill in search of Flycatchers. Sadly none were seen, however we stopped off to enjoy the panoramic views from the high vantage points. As it was such a bright sunny afternoon we managed to make out known buildings in the distance, these included ones in Nuneaton, Coventry, Southam and Leamington Spa.

The next weekend I travelled to Liverpool for a survey for MARINElife. Meeting up with a fellow surveyor, we boarded the Stena Line Ferry to Belfast. Sailing through the night meant we were given a cabin each and this made sure we were ready for the eight hour survey as the ship returned to Liverpool the following day.

Birds of note were, Black Guillemot, Common and Sandwich Tern, Fulmar, Gannet, Guillemot, Kittiwake, Manx Shearwater, Razorbill and Shag. Sadly no cetaceans were seen, however three Grey Seals made an appearance on three different locations.

The last birding trip was to two of my favourite locations, first was Eyebrook reservoir. Here a total of 37 bird species were seen, the notables were Osprey, Yellowhammer, Red Kite, Little Egret and my first Little Owl this year. After a picnic breakfast we left and made our way the Rutland Water.

Red Kite
As we arrived we bumped in to Tim the now retired reserve manager who was very much still involved in this years "Birdfair".

Taking in the many hides throughout the day gave up the following birds of note. Arctic Tern, Cetti's Warbler, Cuckoo, Egyptian Goose, Garden Warbler, Hobby, Little Egret, Pochard, Red Kite, Red-Legged Partridge, Redshank, Ringed Plover, Sand Martin, Spotted Flycatcher and Yellow Legged Gull.

Whilst walking towards one hide the sight of two Nightingales collecting insects for their young was the highlight by far! 
April 2017 - Birding & Wildlife Overview

A month with plenty of birding adventures starting at my local reserve WWT Brandon Marsh.

51 species were seen with the notables of Cetti's Warbler, Coal Tit, Goldcrest, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Greenfinch, Jay, Kestrel, Little Egret, Little Grebe, Peregrine, Redshank, Ringed Plover, Sand Martin, Snipe and Water Rail. Seeing a Peregrine is always a thrill and as it made its way through the reserve, everything within the area made for a quick and opposite direction!

A weekend in Dorset is always a good place for early migrants with Christchurch Harbour and Hengistbury Head a good starting habitat for looking for wildlife. Plenty of the usual birds were seen and the sound of Greenfinch were everywhere within the area. Stonechat were aplenty sitting high upon the gorse, there were at least three couples.

The following day was spent at RSPB Arne, my favourite reserve in Dorset, here the total species was 54 , highlights were Bar and Black Tailed Godwit, Brent Goose, Dartford Warbler, Little Egret, Sandwich Tern, Skylark, Stonechat, Swallow, Wheatear and Wigeon. As I always do when at Arne, I spent a great time in the car park area searching for my elussive bird the " Firecrest". Yes as usual, no sightings!

The following weekend I was out with my birding buddies, again up early and in Cambridgeshire for 07:00am and arriving at Paxton Pits Reserve to the sound of superb birdsong.

Within 10 minutes our target bird was heard singing its most beautiful song. The Nightingale is still one of natures most charismatic birds and always a great bird to see in the U.K.

Record shot of distant Nightingale deep within the tree

Here we also saw 51 species, Common Tern, Swallow, Sand Martin, Blackcap and Little Egret being the notables.

Following a morning trying to get a photograph of the Nightingale we left and travelled to Harrington Airfield for a completely different birding habitat. This airfield is an old world war 2 Airfield, which later became a cold war Airfield that stored nuclear missiles back in the 80's!  Notables species seen where Red Kite, Skylark, Swallow, Wheatear and Yellowhammer.

My next days birding was another trip with the Coventry and Warwickshire Local RSPB Group, this time to the premier reserve of RSPB Minsmere in Suffolk. Along with RSPB Arne this is one of my favourite reserves in England. The days total species was an brilliant 76. In addition to the birds, we were treated to views of an Otter feeding within a pool which was no more than 100 metres from the hide we were in.

Of note were Avocet, Barnacle Goose, Bar and Black Tailed Godwit, Garganey, Grey Partridge, House Martin, Kittiwake, Lesser Whitethroat, Mandarin Duck, Marsh Harrier, Mediterranean Gull, Peregrine, Red Legged Partridge, Redshank, Ringed Plover, Sand Martin, Sandwich tern, Sedge Warbler, Stonechat, Wheatear, Whitethroat. The day ended with half an hour scanning for Stone Curlew, two birds were eventually seen, however we were not expecting to see three Whimbrel too! a superb day with our local group.

My last weekend was again spent in North Devon which included my first MARINElife trip to Lundy Island as Wildlife Officer aboard MS Oldenburg. These trips are always full of adventure for many of the passengers that have never experienced the Island of Lundy.

Arriving at the quay early on Saturday morning, I collected my ticket and joined the passengers waiting to board MS Oldenburg. Here I bumped in to Simon Dell MBE who was on board to do a guided tour of Lundy for many of the visitors. Simon and I are so passionate about what I call "Our Island".

During the crossing the birds seen were Gannet, Manx Shearwater, Fulmar, Guillemot, Razorbill, Herring Gull and Swallow.

Once on the Island, I made my way to the Millcombe area to look for migrants, Blackcap, Whitethroat, Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler were all seen. From here, I made my way up and on towards the central track that goes through the middle of the Island.

My destination was Jenny's Cove, so called after the ship wreck of "The Jenny" which was wrecked here with a cargo of Whiskey, sadly none of the said cargo has been seen in many a year. However this area is a haven for sea birds that include Guillemot, Razorbill, Fulmar, Kittiwake and of course the bird that gives the Island it's name the "Puffin" Lundy is Norse for Puffin.

On the voyage back to Bideford many Manx Shearwater and Gannet were observed, sadly we didn't see a cetaceans this trip.
March 2017 - Birding & Wildlife Overview

The first weekend of March was spent in the great company of my two birding buddies Steve and Gary, up and on our way before it was light we travelled to the Forest of Dean in search of Hawfinch, Goshawk and wild Boar.

Upon arriving we were not alone, as there were quite a few fellow birders scanning the area for these stocky birds.

Our first was seen high in a tall Scots Pine far too high for a record photograph! We stayed for some time hoping that it would decend to to the ground to feed, alas, it didn't. Word from the locals suggested we try a wooded area near a church that could be seen from where we were.

We arrived just as the rain started, then Hawkeye Hobbs caught sight of a raptor high in the distance, an almighty shout was heard as Gary spotted a Goshawk. Tick two of the day for the species we had set out to see. A second Hawfinch made an appearance, again it too was very high in the trees surrounding the church's cemetry.

Returning to our original location we were on the lookout for Hawfinch again, sadly no others were spotted, however as we chatted to a local, he informed us of a Great Grey Shrike in a near woodland and he also gave us directions that turned out to be spot on. As we arrived, it happened again, Hawkeye had it first and we all enjoyed views through his scope.

Leaving here we made our way to a Woodland Trust site called "Fancy View" on route we passed several pools, one of which had a least 30 Manderin Duck rafting on the water. The site over looks a valley which is heavily covered in trees. In the distance more Goshawks were seen. A total of 47 bird species were recorded that day with three very special ones indeed. Evidence was everywhere that wild Boar where in the area, however, none of us were lucky enough to see any!

The 12th of March, I had my first Sand Martin of the year at Brandon Marsh, my local reserve, plus 54 other species during my visit, migration time had started.

On the third weekend of March we had our first trip this year to North Devon which gave me an opportunity to drop by at Fremingtom Pill an inlet off the River Taw Estuary. What an experience it was too with 7 Cattle Egret, 8 Little Egret, Glossy Ibis, Greenshank, Kingfisher, Shelduck, Black-Tailed Godwits, Grey Wagtail, hundreds of Redshank and my first Swallow of the year.

The month ended with a trip with the Coventry and Warwickshire Local RSPB Group to Potteric Nature Reserve, which is part of the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust. 

As usual, I was in the company of my two birding buddies as well as a few regulars that I know from Brandon Marsh and previous trips. Highlights were Bittern, Black Necked Grebe, Cetti's Warbler, Marsh Harrier and Mediterranean Gull. 
February 2017 Overview

The month started with a Great White Egret and a nice year tick whilst out in Northamptonshire, whilst stopping at Pitsford Reservoir to eat my lunch, I could clearly see this huge Heron from my parking spot.

Garden birds numbers totalled 29 with the following seen either in or going over.


Blackbird, Black Headed Gull, Blue Tit, Buzzard, Carrion Crow, Chaffinch, Coal Tit, Collared Dove, Dunnock, Fieldfare, Goldfinch, Great Black Backed Gull, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Great Tit, Green Woodpecker, Greenfinch, House Sparrow, Kestrel, Lesser Black backed Gull, Long Tailed Tit, Magpie, Pied Wagtail, Robin, Siskin, Song Thrush, Starling, Woodpigeon and Wren.

A trip out to Napton Reservoir hopefully for a year tick of Bearded Tit was disappointing, as the wind was quite strong and therefore any chance of seeing these beautiful birds was very slim, sadly none showed. However, the afternoon was not a complete waste of time as I ticked my first Red Kite of the year, as it gracefully soured over my head towards Southam.

The third week of February I went over to Ireland for a family weekend, instead of flying I booked the ferry from Liverpool with the intention of sea watching along the way. Thanks to storm Doris, the ferry was stuck in port until it passed over! When it finally left the Mersey estuary, the wind had dropped significantly and the expected rough journey was not too bad.

Balbriggan and Skerries provided a good place for a little sea watching, here the birds of note were Black Guillemot, Black Throated Diver, Brent Goose, Common Gull, Common Scoter, Curlew, Dunlin, Eider, Fulmar, Gannet, Guillemot, Hooded Crow, Purple Sandpiper, Redshank, Ringed Plover, Rock Pipit, Shag, Turnstone, Sanderling and the highlight was Iceland Gull, which is a lifer for me. 

Unfortunately I did not get a photo of the Gull as two over excited young lads on their BMX’s raced past and put all the gulls up, it was never seen again! Other common birds were seen, with the final count being 36.