After such a long, cold and wet winter, summer has come early to North Devon.
And what better way to make the most of it than a trip along the coast on a small boat. A group of wildlife enthusiasts invited us along on a local lobster boat for a cruise along the cliffs to see and count the seabirds breeding there.
What an adventure! We boarded the Our Jenny in Ilfracombe harbour, and headed East along the coast.
There were fulmars nesting at intervals along the coast, but once we passed Combe Martin we started to see shag nests, and a few auks. There are three species of auks breeding in the UK, but only two are found regularly on the mainland cliffs – razorbills and guillemots. The third species, the adorable puffin, is found only on offshore islands, apart from a colony on Anglesey.
This is a little raft of guillemots resting on the water. Razorbills look similar, but are black rather than chocolate brown, and have a broader bill. As we travelled east, the colonies started to get larger, until we reached the best breeding areas between Heddon’s Mouth and Lee Bay.
Here there were hundreds of razorbills, and over a thousand guillemots, which was a very impressive sight, and hard to count!
We continued as far as Lynmouth, where we had a short break for tea and doughnuts, before heading back along the coast.
Our total seabird counts for the day were:
Fulmar: 109 nests
Kittiwake: 90 nests
These are only estimates, but are still valuable, as these birds are impossible to count apart from by boat.
It was a most enjoyable morning, with wonderful weather, and we rounded it off with a huge plate of mostly local seafood on the quayside.