Saturday 3rd April 2004. The weather forecast said wet and windy (SW ~20mph), but... it was my first chance to get to
Lundy this year. So on with the waterproofs and off to Ilfracombe Harbour. It wasn't actually raining yet but they're good
for keeping the wind out. At this time of year it can get a lot colder once you're out to sea.
I had a quick nose around the harbour area while we were waiting to board the Oldenburg. The usual
Herring Gulls were in the harbour, with a couple of Great Black-backs.
No sign of the twenty or so Black-headed Gulls that had been wintering in the
area. They seem to have disappeared to their breeding sites. (If anyone knows where are North Devon birds go, I would be
most interested.) I had a look for the Purple Sandpipers that are sometimes present on the rocks
to the north of the pier car park. I just managed to catch a glimpse of one while it was flying around to the seaward side.
Maybe it thought the harbour was too busy this morning.
On to the boat, a couple of Fulmars wheeling around Hillsborough but nothing else until we got
out to sea. The weather was not too bad so far - we still had a bit of protection for the land. A few splashes from the
waves but the sight of a Gannet to make up for it. As we passed Morte Point the seas got a bit
lumpier. A few glimpses of auks in the distance but too far away to tell whether they were
Guillemots or Razorbills (perhaps I could pretend they were Puffins!).
The sea between Morte Point and Lundy can be a bit boring sometimes. The areas near land are usually the best for seeing
larger numbers of birds. But you never know, it depends where the fish are and where the birds want to be. Some days you'll
see hardly anything until Lundy becomes quite large on the horizon. Some days you won't know where to look because they'll
be too much to see (and the chance that one of the other birds is a Puffin). This was one of the quieter days - one or two
Razorbills and Guillemots and a few more unidentified auks.
Closer to Lundy we startled a Kittiwake (the only one I saw that day) and a group of 5 Manx Shearwaters. I'm never sure if I
identify the Manx Shearwaters correctly. At a distance I find them very auk-like. Their flight is different - twisting,
gliding, fulmar-like, with rigid wings. Auk's flight is generally direct with fast wingbeats, although sometimes they will
glide when coming in to land. They're also a similar size and colouration, black on top and white underneath. Auks tend to
have a heavier rear than shearwaters. There is also a lot of white on the rear of auks but this is not always easy to see in
some lighting conditions.
So, after sailing past a few more auks, Gannets and Shags, we landed
on Lundy. Where it started raining. I saw roughly 2-300 Lesser Black-backs around the Jenny's
Cove area. There were Fulmars there as well, but no sign of the
Razorbills or Guillemots on the ledges yet.
Back to the boat. It was a much easier crossing now that we were travelling with the wind. Similar sorts of birds were seen
on the way back, and they were easier to focus on now that the boat wasn't swaying as much. Little groups of auks would
appear then disappear in the wave troughs. Some would dive underwater with a powerful flick of their wings if the boat got
too close. The Gannets seemed to be enjoying the weather. They would fly on a shallow glide,
fast and straight, closing in on the water. Then, as they caught the wind off a wave-crest, they would climb rapidly before
starting on another glide.
So, eventually, we arrived back in Ilfracombe, a little colder, a little wetter, but it had been an