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.
 
Cetaceans:
 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.


Redshank
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.

Nightingale
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.