MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report 'MV Balmoral' Ilfracombe to Lundy 17th August 2016

Rick Morris; MARINElife/Balmoral Wildlife Officer (WLO)
Weather: Overcast with sunny spells Wind: Easterly 3-4 Sea State: 3-4

Summary of sightings
Marine mammals:
Common Dolphin 50+
Harbour Porpoise 4
Grey Seal 6

Seabirds:
Fulmar
Oystercatcher
Gannet
Herring Gull
Lesser Black-back Gull
Great Black-back Gull
Kittiwake
Shag
Manx Shearwater
Guillemot
Razorbill (passenger sighting)

Sightings on Lundy:
Rock Pipit
Meadow Pipit
Skylark
Wheatear
Carrion Crow
Raven
Peregrine Falcon
Feral Pigeon
Wood Pigeon
Starling
House Sparrow
Swallow
Swift
House Martin
Blackbird
Mallard

It was an overcast morning when I arrived in Ilfracombe and the MV Balmoral was still on her way from Swansea, so I popped in for a chat with Jacqui in the shore office. The Balmoral arrived on time and after the passengers for Ilfracombe disembarked, I was greeted by Tony, Balmoral's purser.

Oldenburg from Balmoral_R Morris

Oldenburg at Lundy from Balmoral (Rick Morris)

We left Ilfracombe on time and Tony kindly made the announcement that I was onboard as the Wildlife Officer, this made it easier to talk to the passengers as I made my way around the outer decks. I had plenty of interest in what we may see and it never ceases to amaze me just how many people are unaware of the diversity of marine wildlife that can be found in our seas, so these Wildlife Officer trips really are a great way for us to engage and inform the passengers.

It was a fairly quiet start to the trip, with just a few Herring Gull, but then nearing the halfway point a passenger next to me on the starboard side said she thought she saw something come out of the water and to our delight it was a Harbour Porpoise and it obligingly resurfaced a couple of more times to give a few passengers a chance to see. I promptly made my way to the stern to inform those on the back deck, but by then the animal had disappeared. I returned to the bow and was informed by another passenger that another porpoise appeared briefly on the port side, but I did not see this one.

Seabird activity started to increase and we started seeing Gannet, Kittiwake, Fulmar, Lesser Black-back and Herring Gull and also small groups of Manx Shearwater. I looked intensely at the shearwaters as this time of year there's the possibility of seeing critically endangered Balearic Shearwater amongst them.

Manx Shearwater Rick Morris 06

Manx Shearwater (Rick Morris)

Another 2 Harbour Porpoise around 150m distant went down the port side giving all great views before we arrived at Lundy. There were quite a lot of Shag feeding in the Landing Bay and a couple of female Grey Seal were seen 'bottling', checking us out!

The MS Oldenburg was moored on one side of the landing jetty and after we berthed I popped over to say hello to some familiar faces. I decided to jump in the Landrover with Rob (Lundy's manager) as we didn't have too much time up top. Here I met up with Lundy's warden, Beccy McDonald and after a quick catch up I popped over to the west side for a short walk to the quarter wall then across to the east side and back down through Milcombe Valley to the Landing Bay. Even though I only spent around an hour on top, I still managed to see a good variety of wildlife.

Reaching the Landing Bay, a number of Grey Seal could be seen as we waited for the 'Oldenburg' to depart and the 'Balmoral' to come onto the jetty. We left Lundy and within a few minutes we were spotting Gannet and Manx Shearwater and with the sea state improving the hope was we may see more Harbour Porpoise, but we did not, we did however encounter a large group of 50+ Common Dolphin as we neared Bull Point which was fantastic as everyone on board had excellent views of these beautiful animals, with lots of them coming into the bow and side of the boat. To me, moments like these are priceless as you see the shear enjoyment and pleasure on the faces of the passengers that these animals bring! I'm sure many will have gone home feeling elated having done this 'great day out on the MV Balmoral'.

Common Dolphin_Sharon Morris 06

Common Dolphin (Sharon Morris)

Upon reaching Ilfracombe, the 'Balmoral' was expertly berthed and I made my way ashore saying my farewells as I left.

Balmoral 01_Rick Morris

Balmoral (Rick Morris)

My thanks to Tony and the captain and crew of the MV Balmoral for all the help and support.

Rick Morris MARINElife/Balmoral Wildlife Officer (WLO)