MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report “MS Oldenburg” Ilfracombe – Lundy 14th of October 2017.

This was my last trip of 2017 as MARINElife Wildlife Officer and I was very much looking forward to being out on the sea aboard MS Oldenburg for the last time this season.
I was welcomed onboard by Captain Jason and got ready to enjoy the crossing with the hope of cetaceans and sea birds. Leaving Ilfracombe harbour, I spotted a Porpoise under in front of the Landmark Theatre. The crossing produced Gannet, Guillemot, Kittiwake and as we approached the Island many Shag were sighted as usual, plus a very special sighting of an Arctic Skua and Great Northern Diver! As we came towards the Lundy jetty 3 Grey Seals were providing great amusement to the passengers as they appeared to being playing to their crowd!
Grey Seals

I disembarked and chatted to Dean Jones the Lundy Warden and pointed out the Great Northern Diver which was about 500 metres away. I proceeded to walk up to the wooded area around Milcombe house where I stayed for the time I was on the Island. At this time of year, you never know what might drop in and today was no different as a single Hawfinch was seen along with Water Rail heard in the walled garden area. It was also good to meet Tim Jones the bird recorder for Lundy who also had a very successful visit.

 A very distant record of the Great Northern Diver
As I walked back to the jetty for the return sailing I chatted to a couple from my home town who were in Devon on holiday. On the return journey a Great Skua was spotted along with the Arctic Skua seen earlier. The last trip did produce 2 Common Dolphin which went down really well with the passengers.
Before leaving the ship, I thanked Jason the Captain and his crew for their hospitality this year and for supporting MARINElife.

Sunday was spent at Fremington Pill and then an afternoon at Skern (Northern Burrows).

Birds of note at the Pill was Glossy Ibis, Greenshank, Black-tailed Godwit, Curlew, Little Egret, Oystercatcher and Redshank.

Glossy Ibis
Skern offered great views of Brent Geese, Golden Plover, Ring Plover, Linnet, Wheatear and Little Egret. As usual we enjoyed a Sunday picnic with superb views of Appledore and the estuary.

Eyebrook Reservoir and Rutland Water Birding Trip - 8th of October 2017.

An early Sunday morning start with my two birding buddies Steve and Gary saw us off to two of our regular birding locations. Eyebrook notables were Red Kite, Sparrowhawk, Kestrel, Buzzard, Red Legged Partridge, Yellowhammer, Blackcap, Bullfinch, Cetti's Warbler, Common Gull, Goldcrest, Little Egret, Ruff, Shelduck, Stonechat and Tree Sparrow.

We were hoping to catch the resident Barn and Little Owl, sadly these were not seen!

Moving on to Rutland Water with hopes of seeing the recently reported American Wigeon our target bird for the day, pleased at seeing the bird and only my second record for the UK we were treated to a second bird on the same pool!
Records of the two American Wigeon

Other birds of note were Black-tailed Godwit, Dunlin, Egyptian Goose, Goldcrest, Goldeneye, Great Black-backed Gull, Great White Egret, Kingfisher, Little Egret, Marsh Harrier, Pintail, Red Kite, Red-legged Partridge, Sparrowhawk and Tree Sparrow which were spotted on the feeders.

MARINElife Survey Liverpool (Birkenhead) to Belfast 30th September 2017.

Arriving at the Stena Line terminal as team leader for this survey, I met up with a fellow MARINElife surveyor Peter and we were soon boarding the Stena Mersey Ferry for our crossing to Belfast.
Stena Mersey taken from Stena Lagon on a previous survey passing the Scottish coast
Once onboard we were met by the Captain who said he would send a crew member to collect us once all the manoeuvres were complete as the ship left its berth and headed out of the Mersey estuary towards the bay of Liverpool.
We set up to do our survey on the starboard wing of the bridge, which gave us a fabulous view. Our route would take us west towards the Isle of Man, passing its southern point and then on to Northern Ireland and to the port of Belfast.
The first Porpoise was spotted not long out from the estuary and we had two more off Chicken Rock the by Isle of Man.
Sadly, this survey did not produce any unusual birds like Skuas and uncommon Shearwaters. The total list of notable bird species recorded included Gannet, Manx shearwater, Guillemot, Black Guillemot, Kittiwake, Fulmar, and Sandwich tern. We did experience a period of recording no birds for almost half an hour, this we found to be very unusual?
As the ship passed the western side of the Isle of Man we saw the four lighthouses that are lined up behind each other. (4 Candles as I now call them) With an hour from the port of Belfast the weather changed to almost flat sea and we had the one and only Black Guillemot of the day!

As the ship was getting nearer to the port of Belfast, we concluded the survey and thanked the Captain and crew for supporting MARINElife and for their hospitality. Another survey completed on this route for me and I look forward to many more.

Coventry & Warwickshire Local RSPB Group – Sunday 24th of September 2017 – Trip to Cley Marshes

This month’s trip saw us enjoying the superb Norfolk Wildlife Trust Nature Reserve of Cley Marshes, as always when I get the opportunity I head for the sea to have a few hours sea watching for possible Cetaceans, Seals and Sea Birds. As a volunteer MARINELife Surveyor and Wildlife Officer, I’m always looking out to sea when possible for whatever I might see?

As I arrived on to the shingle beach, I was soon scanning the sea with my telescope looking for anything of interest. Gannet, Fulmar, Kittiwake and Guillemot passed by as did many flocks of Brent Geese. Two Grey Seals also made a few brief appearances before heading North.

Upon looking far out to sea I noticed a small red boat and within it a chap trying desperately to get the outboard motor to start. I could see that he was also trying to use his mobile phone and as he did the strong tide was pulling the boat further and further away from land. After soon time he started waving his paddle, I guessed this was someone in distress, so I called 999 and reported this to the coastguard. After some time, I could see a small fishing boat the “Kirsty Lee” making its way towards him and at the same time a Lifeboat from the RNLI was on its way to assist.

 The chap was soon on board the fishing boat and they towed his boat back to the beach where upon he was probably glad to be back on dryland?

After witnessing the rescue and feeling rather pleased with myself, it was off to look at what birds where about in the reserve?

Word got around that 2 Dotterel were spotted not far from the sea front which had many of our group heading to see them. Local birders came and went whilst we had the birds in our scopes  confirming that the birds were indeed Dotterel, however we have since learned that the birds have been recorded as Golden Plover! Great debate still goes on especially with the head markings being different to that of Golden Plover.
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.