Ilfracombe or Bideford-Lundy

Recent Sightings

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘MS Oldenburg’ Ilfracombe-Lundy 14 October 2017

Posted 19 October 2017

Steve McAusland; MARINElife Wildlife Officer
Weather: Weather: Outward - partially overcast, good visibility: light south westerly breeze force 2 - 3

Summary of sightings:
Marine Mammals
Harbour Porpoise 1
Common Dolphin 2
Grey Seal 8

Seabirds
Arctic Skua
Great Skua (Bonxie)
Fulmar
Gannet
Shag
Herring Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Guillemot
Kittiwake

Terrestrial Birds
Pied Wagtail
Cormorant
Meadow Pipit

Wildlife seen on Lundy
Hawfinch
Great Northern Diver
Spotted Flycatcher
Swallow
Chaffinch
Goldcrest
Goldfinch
Meadow Pipit
Oystercatcher
Wood Pigeon
Dunnock
Robin
Blackbird
Starling
Magpie
Jackdaw
Carrion Crow
Raven
Linnet

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 on-board by Captain Jason and got ready to enjoy the crossing with the hope of cetaceans and sea birds. Leaving Ilfracombe harbour, I spotted a Harbour Porpoise under 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 Seal were providing great amusement to the passengers as they appeared to being playing to their crowd!

GN Diver Steve McAusland

Great Northern Diver (Steve McAusland)

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.

Grey Seals Steve McAusland

Grey Seals (Steve McAusland)

It was also good to meet Tim Jones the bird recorder for Lundy who also had a very successful visit.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.

Common Dolphin Steve McAusland 03

Common Dolphin (Steve McAusland)

Before leaving the ship, I thanked Jason the Captain and his crew for their hospitality this year and for supporting MARINElife.

Steve McAusland; MARINElife Wildlife Officer

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘MS Oldenburg’ Ilfracombe-Lundy 7 October 2017

Posted 12 October 2017

Annette Dutton; MARINElife/Lundy WLO
Weather: Cloudy with Rain, Wind South Westerly, Sea State Moderate to Rough

Summary of sightings:
Marine Mammals
Grey Seal 18 +

Seabirds
Arctic Skua
Herring Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Kittiwake
Razorbill
Guillemot
Shag
Cormorant
Gannet

Wil
dlife seen on Lundy
Oystercatcher
House Martin
Swallow

The weather forecast wasn't good and it was raining when I arrived at Ilfracombe Harbour to make the crossing with the other 89 passengers booked on the trip - the rain meant that many of them were huddled in the waiting room.

It didn't take long for everyone to board and settle on the lower decks, I collected my hi-viz jacket and after a quick chat with Jason the Captain I went and stood by the steps on the middle deck. I also had a quick chat to fellow MARINElife volunteer James McCarthy who was on board for the monthly survey.

We left the confines of the Harbour and were soon in fairly roughs seas, but the Oldenburg soldered through but needless to say I saw nothing during this part of the crossing. As we passed the half way mark I saw a couple of Guillemot and a Lesser Black-back Gull followed us for a short while.

Arriving at Lundy, I saw several Grey Seal hauled out on the rocks along the coast and a then couple more on Rat Island.

The rain had stopped by the time we unloaded and I walked up to the Village turning to follow the road and then onto the track past Hanmers Cottage to sit on the nearby bench for lunch.

As I was watching a Border Force vessel going to each of the Yachts harboured in the bay and noticed a seal swimming along and then some Swallow and House Martin flew around me for a while.

Patrol Boat_Annette Dutton

Patrol Boat (Annette Dutton)

I walked over to the Castle and could see several seals on the rocks by Rat Island and a couple more hauling out as the tide receded.

I walked back to the village and sat on the bench by the shop for a while chatting to people before moving on and back down to the beach for a spot of rock-pooling.

The conditions were much improved for the return trip and shortly after leaving I saw 2 Arctic Skua flying past on the Starboard side and I went up to the Bridge to check with James who had also seen them. The rest of the journey was quiet until I spotted a few Guillemot, a lone Razorbill and a Gannet as we reached the Devon coast.

Arctic Skua Peter Howlett 15

Arctic Skua (Peter Howlett)

I went to the Bow of the Oldenburg and was chatting to James when we saw a Grey Seal bobbing about as we passed Lee Bay. It was a bit lumpy as we turned into Ilfracombe Harbour and after the crew had moored up, I went to the Bridge to say goodbye and thanks to Jason and the crew before leaving the Oldenburg.

Annette Dutton; MARINElife Wildlife Officer

MARINElife Survey Report: ‘MS Oldenburg’ Ilfracombe-Lundy 7 October 2017

Posted 08 October 2017

James McCarthy; Research Surveyor for MARINElife

Summary of sightings:
Seabirds:
Guillemot Uria aalge 17
Gannet Morus bassanus 2
Storm Petrel Hydrobates pelagicus 1
Razorbill Alca torda      4
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 3
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 5
Arctic Skua Stercorarius parasiticus 2

Terrestrial Birds:
Swallow Hirundo rustica 4
Meadow Pipit Anthus pratensis 3

The Oldenburg left a rainy Ilfracombe at 10am sharp and turned the corner into some windy conditions with a surface chop. 2 hours and just a single Gannet, Kittiwake and Storm Petrel seen as we crept into the lee of Lundy.

Storm Petrel Peter Howlett 04

Storm Petrel (Peter Howlett)

The conditions certainly impacted sightings with Captain Jason and the crew worked hard and waves touching the bridge windows - many of the passengers took shelter below decks.

The homeward trip was a record run with waves, wind and tide pushing the boat over 16 knots!  Continued surface chop made cetacean searching hard and we failed to even see a porpoise.

Birds were also tricky to spot with 2 Arctic Skua being the highlight and the dearth of life made us wonder if there was just a simple lack of fish in the area or the migration was taking place elsewhere.

Razorbill John Little 01

Razorbill (John Little)

Thanks as always to the captain and crew and the Landmark Trust and looking forward to returning again next year.

James McCarthy; Research Surveyor for MARINElife

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘MS Oldenburg’ Ilfracombe-Lundy 23 September 2017

Posted 01 October 2017

Tess Milton; MARINElife/Lundy WLO

Summary of sightings:
Marine Mammals
Harbour Porpoise 1
Grey Seal 11+ 1 pup

Seabirds:
Gannet
Herring Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Razorbill
Cormorant

I set off from my house bright and early on Saturday morning, the weather was cloudy and drizzly all the way down to Devon, so I was pleasantly surprised to arrive in Ilfracombe to find sunshine and a pleasant breeze!

I parked right outside the Lundy Shore Office on Ilfracombe Pier and went in to get my tickets and let them know I had arrived - they were really welcoming and friendly which was lovely after a rather long drive (made longer by missing my turning on the M5!). I joined the queue of excited passengers to board the MS Oldenburg.

Once on-board, I received another lovely warm welcome from Jason and the rest of the crew. It was 16 degrees already and the forecast was set to remain nice all day, so I was keen to get the trip underway. All 144 passengers on-board and happy, we set-off for Lundy Island promptly at 10am sharp.

The crew warned me that the channel has been really quiet of late, and they weren't wrong! After walking around the boat and introducing myself to the passengers, I settled myself in a spot ready with my binoculars to spot anything that wanted to show itself to us!

I saw the odd juvenile Herring Gull as we left Ilfracombe, and as we left the coastline to enter the channel, myself and a fellow passenger thought we may have seen a Harbour Porpoise. We couldn't be 100% sure and it didn't show itself again if it was one, so that spot remained a 'maybe'.

As we went further into the channel any Herring Gull activity diminished, it was very quiet indeed until we were closer to Lundy when we started to enjoy seeing Gannet flying or sitting on the water. As we entered the harbour at Lundy Island, we were quickly accompanied by two Grey Seal who seemed to want to know what we were doing.

Herring Gull Adrian Shephard 03

Herring Gull (Adrian Shephard)

I disembarked from the boat and started to walk up the hill towards the village, enjoying a stop off at the beach to watch a Grey Seal pup making its way down to the water's edge, clearly not impressed by the influx of visitors to the peace and quiet!

I made my way up to the village and had a jacket potato in the Maristo Tavern, which was lovely! After I'd eaten this, I took a little stroll before finding a sunny spot and enjoying the peace and tranquillity of the island with a good book! It was a beautiful September day to be on the island.

We all gathered on the pier for our return journey around 3.30pm, there were 8 Grey Seal all basking on the rocks on the outside of the harbour, and a large male having a good sleep on the beach right by the MS Oldenburg, which gave us all something to marvel at before boarding for our return journey.

The journey back to Ilfracombe was much the same as the outward journey - we enjoyed some lovely Gannet as we departed the Island, but as we got further into the channel and neared Ilfracombe, sightings more or less dried up to nothing.

Gannet Adrian Shephard 14

Gannet (Adrian Shephard)

Despite the lack of wildlife sightings, it was a thoroughly enjoyable day to Lundy Island - and the crew on board the MS Oldenburg truly make it a welcoming and comfortable day out. Massive thanks to them all, and hope I see them all again soon!

Tess Milton; MARINElife Wildlife Officer

MARINElife Survey Report: ‘MS Oldenburg’ Ilfracombe-Lundy 16 September 2017

Posted 22 September 2017

MARINElife/Lundy WLO: Annette Dutton

Weather: Sunny/cloudy, wind NW, sea state 3-4

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals
Harbour Porpoise 3
Grey Seal 6 + 1 pup

Seabirds:
Gannet
Cormorant
Shag
Kittiwake
Herring Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Razorbill
Guillemot

Birds on Lundy:
Kestrel
Meadow Pipit
Rock Pipit
House Martin
Swallow
Raven

The weather was a bit cooler than previous trips but it was not as windy as it had been during the week so I was hoping for a good crossing. I arrived at Ilfracombe harbour and boarded the Oldenburg, popping up to the bridge to say hello to Jason the Captain and to collect my Hi-Viz jacket.

I took up position on the upper deck and waited for the boat to depart, I didn't see much as we left the harbour then I spotted 2 Gannets as we passed Lee Bay. I saw little else as we cruised along westwards then I saw a Swallow fly over and another Gannet as we approached Lundy.

Grey Seal Annette Dutton 11
Grey Seal (Annette Dutton)

Arriving at Lundy, I saw a couple of Shag at the end of Rat Island, a Grey Seal on the rocks below and as I walked along the landing stage I spotted another Grey Seal in the Devil's Kitchen.

Rob gave me a lift up to the village in the Land Rover and on the way he stopped to point out a Grey Seal pup on the beach behind some rocks.

From the village I walked over to the North Light where there were still lots of House Martins and Swallows flitting about and I carried on to Battery Point to sit on the rocks for lunch. A Kestrel flew by and I could see a lot of Gannets feeding in the distance towards the top of the Island but there was no sign of any cetaceans.

I retraced my steps and then walked over to my favourite bench by Hanmers cottage where I saw Ravens, Meadow Pipits and more House Martins and Swallows.

Grey Seal Annette Dutton 12
Grey Seal pup (Annette Dutton)

I made my way down towards the landing stage and noticed some of the passengers looking down onto the beach and as I reached them I could see that the Grey Seal pup was still there. It was high tide so no one could get onto the beach which was a relief as people getting too close to the pup could deter the mother from feeding.

I took some photos and carried on down, stopping at Devil's Kitchen to watch 2 Grey Seals that were bobbing about and I also saw a male and female by the rocks near where the pup was on the beach.

The return crossing was very pleasant with sightings of the odd Razorbill and Gannet then as we passed Bull Point there was a larger group of Gannets feeding and I briefly saw 2 Harbour Porpoise below them. As we carried on past Lee Bay I saw a few more Gannets a glimpse of another Harbour Porpoise.

We arrived at Ilfracombe and I said goodbye and thanks to Jason and the crew before leaving the Oldenburg.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘MS Oldenburg’ Bideford-Lundy 9 September 2017

Posted 13 September 2017

MARINElife/Lundy WLO Steve McAusland

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals:
Common Dolphin 1
Grey Seal 7

Seabirds:
Manx Shearwater
Fulmar
Gannet
Shag
Great Skua
Black-headed Gull
Kittiwake
Herring Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Guillemot

Estuary Birds:
Teal
Little Egret
Redshank
Oystercatcher
Swallow

Birds on Lundy:
Willow Warbler
Meadow Pipit
Starling
House Sparrow
Swallow
Robin
Blackbird
Skylark
Wren
Carrion Crow
Goldfinch
Jackdaw
Spotted Flycatcher
Goldcrest
Raven

I arrived in Bideford at 07:30 and collected my ticket from the Landmark Trust office, then swiftly boarded 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 Oldenburg 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!

Grey Seal Steve McAusland 10
Grey Seal pup on Lundy (Steve McAusland)

Once we were out of the estuary the sea state made it impossible to walk around the decks. I had 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.

As the Oldenburg made its way slowly towards the landing bay there were four Grey Seals on the rocks of Rat Island. However, I did see another three during my time on the island from the higher levels, including a pup which was in the rocks. 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. Unfortunately there were very few migrants visible just the odd Willow Warbler and Goldcrest.

Goldcrest Steve McAusland 01
Goldcrest (Steve McAusland)

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.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report ‘MS Oldenburg’ Ilfracombe-Lundy 2 September 2017

Posted 04 September 2017

MARINElife Lundy Wildlife Officer WLO Rick Morris

Weather:
West: Cloudy, wind S-SW 2-3, sea state 3
East: Cloudy with sunny spells, wind WSW 3, sea state 3

Summary of sightings:

Marine mammals:
none seen at sea

Seabirds:
Great Skua
Gannet
Shag
Guillemot
Great Black-backed Gull
Herring Gull
Manx Shearwater
Fulmar

Terrestrial birds seen at sea:
Swallow

Lundy terrestrial birds:
Meadow Pipit
Rock Pipit
Starling
Carrion Crow
House Sparrow
Swallow
Robin
Blackbird
Sotted Flycatcher
Linnet

Arriving at the long stay car park opposite the harbour, I could see the MS Oldenburg berthed on the outer wall as it was now low tide. It was a rather cloudy morning with a couple of large black clouds threatening to spill their contents on us, fortunately, they did not.

After a brief visit to the shore office to collect my ticket from Kate and a quick hello to Jacqui, I made my way to join the passengers waiting to board.

We departed Ilfracombe on schedule with a full boat and after a tour around the decks to enlighten everyone why I was there I began my search for wildlife, now with lots of eager eyes to assist.

I have to say, this trip was probably the quietest one I have ever done, with a fair sea state of 3, light winds and good visibility, no cetaceans were seen throughout. I expected seabird numbers to be low, but on the way out, all I saw was a few Gannet, 3 Fulmar and a sighting of a solitary smart looking Guillemot in winter plumage followed by 6 Swallow heading south, presumably having just left Lundy.

Grey Seal Rick Morris 12
Grey Seal (Rick Morris)

Arriving at Lundy, 6 Grey seal were on the rocks on Mouse Island and some of the island's Shag were busily fishing in the Landing Bay. Looking past Mouse Island, in the tidal race, Gannet were circling with some diving in to feed, my hope was that there may be cetacean activity as well, but no fins were seen.

I had arranged prior to this trip to meet up with Dean, Lundy's Warden, and after a casual walk up to the village, we met up in the Marisco's garden for a welcome mug of tea whilst discussing plans for the 2018 Lundy Adventures.

Looking at the time, I decided that as the southwesterly wind was picking up a little, I would spend an hour at the 'Ugly' overlooking the waters of the east side. Here I observed Herring and Great Black-back Gull and Gannet over the sea with a dozen or so Carrion Crow patrolling the cliffs, Swallow, Meadow and Rock Pipit and a Spotted Flycatcher were also seen.

Great Skua Rick Morris 01a
Great Skua (Library photo: Rick Morris)

Back at the Landing Jetty, a couple of curious Grey seal were keeping an eye on us, with 6 more seen in the Devil's Kitchen. The return back to Ilfracombe was again very quiet with just a couple of Gannet, a few Fulmar and a solitary Manx Shearwater. We did see one bird of note, a Great Skua around half an hour out.

Back at Ilfracombe, I collected my bag from the bridge and said farewell to Jason and Vernon, as this was my last trip of the season.

My thanks to Jason, Vernon and the crew of the 'Oldenburg' and to all on Lundy and the shore offices.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘MS Oldenburg’ Bideford-Lundy 26 August 2017

Posted 31 August 2017

MARINElife/Lundy WLO Lucy Grable

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals
Harbour Porpoise 10
Bottlenose Dolphin 8
Common Dolphin 30
Grey Seal 59

Seabirds:
Herring Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Guillemot
Razorbill
Gannet
Shag

Terrestrial Birds:
Grey Heron
Little Egret
Wheatear
House Sparrow
Meadow Pipit
Rock Pipit
Raven
Starling
Swallow
Linnet

It was a perfect day for a trip to Lundy Island with clear skies, calm seas and temperatures set to soar to 24°C. We departed Bideford with a full boat and headed along the River Torridge. The journey started off quietly with a dozen Little Egret and a single Grey Heron seen in the trees around Northam and the occasional Herring, Lesser Black-backed, Great Black-backed and Black-headed Gull, but the quietness didn't last long.

As we left the estuary and entered the Bristol Channel I caught a glimpse of the fins of three Harbour Porpoise on the starboard side and was able to point them out to those close by. Shortly afterwards another pod of Harbour Porpoise came into view on the port side. This time there were five individuals and they were much closer to the boat much to the delight of the passengers. I also saw a couple of Harbour Porpoises in the distance and tried to show a few passengers, but they soon disappeared. Before long we were arriving into Landing Bay where a couple of Grey Seals were swimming around.

Grey Seal Peter Howlett 01
Grey Seal (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

Once on the island I met up with my partner Gary and decided to make the most of the glorious weather and excellent visibility and climbed up to the top of the old lighthouse. The views did not disappoint; we had 360 degree views of the Atlantic Ocean, Bristol Channel and an aerial view of Lundy Island itself. We decided to walk around the whole of Lundy and do a seal count sticking to the outer coastal paths. We stopped for lunch at the northern end of the island just east of North Point where we were joined by seven Grey Seals frolicking in the sea and a couple hauled out on the rocks. The walk along the eastern side of the island was abundant with Grey Seals and in total we counted 59!

Once back on the Oldenburg we were treated to great views of Guillemot floating on the water's surface and also a couple of Gannet diving. I told the passengers that diving seabirds often have accompanying marine mammals and not long after we spotted some distant Harbour Porpoise. The sea was so calm that we were able to observe the small species from a distance.

Common Dolphin Adrian Shephard 01a
Common Dolphin (Archive photo: Adrian Shephard)

Shortly afterwards I caught a glimpse of a splash on the port side. I made my way over there and alerted the passengers to a pod of Bottlenose Dolphin. Just ten minutes later a pod of approximately 30 Common Dolphin came into view this time on the starboard side. As we approached them, they split into two groups with some swimming underneath the boat, providing great views of their distinctive markings. The entire boat was buzzing with excitement and I was approached by many passengers asking what the difference is between a dolphin and porpoise.

What a perfect start to the bank holiday weekend. As always thank you to Jason the Captain and the entire crew of the Oldenburg for their hospitality and help.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘MS Oldenburg’ Ilfracombe-Lundy 19 August 2017

Posted 26 August 2017

Annette Dutton MARINElife/Lundy WLO

Weather: Sunny/cloudy, wind westerly 4, sea state moderate

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals
Grey Seal 15+
Common Dolphin 30+

Seabirds
Osprey - juvenile
Herring Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Greater Black-backed Gull
Shag
Oystercatcher
Kittiwake
Guillemot
Gannet
Cormorant
Fulmar
Manx Shearwater

Wildlife seen on Lundy
Meadow Pipit
Rock Pipit
Skylark
Wheatear
House Martin
Swallow

Other wildlife
Ocean Sunfish 3

As I walked down to Ilfracombe Harbour, I could see that the sea looked rough and although it was quite windy, it was warm and sunny. I boarded the Oldenburg and popped up to the bridge to sort myself out and had a chat to Jason the Captain and the two MARINElife surveyors, Maggie and Tony who were onboard to conduct the monthly survey.

I took up position on the upper deck and was joined by regular visitor to Lundy, Martin who was hoping to spot some of the more unusual species. As soon as we left the harbour, Martin alerted me to a raptor on the starboard side flying towards us and it turned out to be a juvenile Osprey, I also saw a couple of Gannets in the distance too.

Osprey Peter Howlett 01
Osprey (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

As we approached Morte Point I spotted something silvery to the starboard side next to a seabird. This turned out to be something Martin and I had been discussing earlier - an Ocean Sunfish being 'cleaned' by a Fulmar. Shortly afterwards another Sunfish, fin waving away, was seen off the port side followed by another.

I saw nothing after that until we neared Lundy when 2 Manx Shearwater, a Fulmar and a couple of Gannets put in an appearance. As we arrived at the landing stage there were the usual Shag and Grey Seals on Rat Island plus a couple of Grey Seals in the bay.

Dean, the Warden kindly transported me to the village where I sat by the shop and had my lunch. I then walked up the main track, accompanied by lots of House Martins before taking the path over to the eastern side of the island and down to the Quarry Pond and the Quarry Timekeepers hut where I made use of the bench for a while before continuing back up.

I rejoined the main track where there were flocks of House Sparrows and Wheatear flitting about and I saw a solitary Swallow amongst the House Martins as I headed back towards the village, stopping to admire a Lundy Pony on the way.

Back at the landing stage I met up with Maggie and Tony for a chat before boarding the Oldenburg. There were 2 Grey Seals bobbing about giving passengers in the queue a good photo opportunity.

Grey Seal Annette Dutton 10
Grey Seal (Annette Dutton)

The return crossing was much smoother and apart from a few seabirds I didn't see much until we approached the Devon coast where a large group of Gannets were feeding and as we passed through them about 30 Common Dolphins suddenly surrounded us which caused a lot of excitement amongst the passengers.

I saw a few more Gannets along the coast by Bull Point but nothing else and we arrived back in Ilfracombe after a pleasant journey. Back on the bridge, I had another chat with Maggie and Tony then thanked Jason, Vernon and Julian before leaving the Oldenburg.

MARINElife Survey Report: ‘MS Oldenburg’ Ilfracombe-Lundy 19 August 2017

Posted 24 August 2017

Maggie Gamble & Tony Chenery, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884)

Weather:
Westbound: Cloudy with sunny spells, wind W 5, sea state 5, swell 2m
Eastbound: Cloudy with sunny spells, wind W 4, sea state 4, swell 1m

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals:
Common Dolphin Delphinus delphis 5
Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus 1

Seabirds:
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 31
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 13
Gannet Morus bassanus 83
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 1
Guillemot Uria aalge 22

Terrestrial birds:
Dunlin Calidris alpina 3

Other wildlife:
Ocean Sunfish Mola mola 1

The outward survey leg was quiet with little bird and no mammal activity recorded. A nice surprise however was a view of an Ocean Sunfish. These potentially huge fish visit our waters in pursuit of their prey - jellyfish.

Ocean Sunfish Tom Brereton 01a
Ocean Sunfish (Archive photo: Tom Brereton)

Arriving at Lundy after the two hour crossing we could see some swimmers in the water closely watched by some attentive Grey Seals. Walking up through the scrub below the village I spotted an obvious migrant a very smart Wood Warbler. Unfortunately, this is a bird whose UK population has decreased by more than 50% since 1995 and I seldom hear their distinctive call near me anymore.

Having visited the Marisco Tavern for a mug of tea, the local shop beckoned for some retail therapy and I purchased the new Lundy tea-towel beautifully painted with some iconic images of Lundy Island and it's wildlife - an ideal present for any Lundy-phile.  At this time of year the Puffins have left the Island but there were plenty of Grey Seals to be seen just off shore and their pupping season will soon begin.

Common Dolphin Peter Howlett 50
Common Dolphin adult and juvenile (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

At the end of a rather lazy afternoon on the Island watching the sea go by it was time to head back to the Oldenburg for boarding. The return leg of the survey was more productive with sporadic recording of Fulmar, Manx shearwater and the occasional Gannet. At about mid-crossing Tony spotted a lot a Gannet feeding activity some distance ahead, with many birds actively diving in pursuit of fish. As we drew closer we could see the distinctive fins of Common Dolphin underneath all the Gannets. It was a great sight to see and as we passed through them, passengers on both sides had great views as some of the dolphin came and interacted with the Oldenburg. We also sighted at least one Juvenile amongst the group.

After all that concentrated activity the sightings were reduced to an occasional Gannet as we made our way back into Ilfracombe Harbour. Thanks again to Captain Jason, the Oldenburg's crew, shore staff, and all on Lundy for supporting these surveys.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘MS Oldenburg’ Bideford-Lundy 12 August 2017

Posted 14 August 2017

Rick Morris MARINElife/Lundy WLO

Weather:
West: Cloudy, wind NW 3-4, sea state 4 with 1m swell at times.
East: Cloudy with sunny spells, wind NW 2-3, sea state 3-4 with slight swell.

Summary of sightings:

Marine mammals:
Harbour Porpoise 17
Common Dolphin 28
Bottlenose Dolphin 3
Grey Seal 5

Seabirds:
Gannet
Shag
Guillemot
Razorbill
Great Black-backed Gull
Herring Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Kittiwake
Black-headed Gull
Mediterranean Gull
Manx Shearwater
Fulmar
Oystercatcher

Birds seen in the River Torridge:
Little Egret
Grey Heron
Curlew
Oystercatcher
Cormorant
Black-headed Gull
Mediterranean Gull
Peregrine Falcon

Lundy terrestrial birds:
Peregrine Falcon
Meadow Pipit
Rock Pipit
Wheatear
Skylark
Starling
Raven
Carrion Crow
House Sparrow
Swallow
Robin
Linnet
Goldfinch
Blackbird
Mallard

Today's WLO trip departed from Bideford with a full boat at a little after 08:30 under grey skies with the threat of a shower of rain. Fortunately, the rain stayed away and as we sailed down the River Torridge, we observed Curlew, Oystercatcher and Grey Heron on the far bank and as we passed Northam on our port side, in the trees, Little Egret could be seen.

We headed out into the Bristol Channel and once over the sand bar, the sea state picked up making it a little challenging for surface observations. However, I pick out 5 Harbour Porpoise from 3 sightings and 16 Common Dolphin from 3 sightings, this included a mother and calf right in the Landing Bay as we approached Lundy to the delight of those on the port side that saw them. Also in the Landing Bay was the Tall Ships Youth Trust vessel, the Stavros S Niarchos.

Stavros S Niarchos Rick Morris 01
Stavros S Niarchos (Rick Morris)

I spent my time on the island visiting the Old Battery, then back to the south side before stopping at the Marisco for lunch. As I still had a few hours to while away and with a stiff northwesterly wind blowing, I decided to spend some time at the 'Ugly' for a seawatch. There were many Gannet and Manx Shearwater feeding way out in the tidal race, possibly with Harbour Porpoise. Shortly before I decided to go down to the Landing Bay, a Peregrine Falcon gave a fly by before disappearing towards the South Lighthouse.

Back on board the Oldenburg, we set off for home at 18:30 with a few Grey Seal keeping an eye on us. Within minutes of leaving, I picked up around 30 Gannet diving in to feed and I told those passengers close by to keep an eye on the surface, as this was a good indicator of possible cetacean presence. As we continued to observe and we drew a little closer, there was indeed Harbour Porpoise present and I managed to count 9 animals.

Harbour Porpoise Rick Morris 05
Harbour Porpoise (Archive photo: Rick Morris)

Leaving Lundy behind us, after around 45 minutes, a small group of Common Dolphin came racing down the port side to the excitement of a couple of families with small children that saw them. Around 20 minutes later I picked up a large group of Gannet and Manx Shearwater feeding about a mile ahead of the ship, even at that distance I could clearly see the Gannet diving in. Again, I told everyone in earshot to keep watching the 'birds' and again there were cetaceans present, this time 3 Bottlenose Dolphin, with one animal clearing the water with big leaps. I wondered if these could be the same 3 animals I observed a couple of weeks earlier on the monthly survey!

Another 15 or 20 minutes passed by and a Harbour Porpoise 'popped up' with another a little further on. Nearing the sand bar a passenger next to me shouted "dolphins" and another small group of Common Dolphin went down the side, with 4 of them clearly seen playing in the wake.

Common Dolphin Rick Morris 10
Mother and calf Common Dolphin (Archive photo: Rick Morris)

As we sailed up the River Torridge, daylight was failing, but still enough light to give a great view of a Peregrine Falcon in the trees on our starboard side, followed by lots of Little Egret and a few Grey Heron roosting in the trees. Over on the far side, now to our port, 20+ Curlew were seen, with some flying past the bow giving their distinctive call.

Passing under the A39 road bridge I pointed out to some children the mermaid that has been painted on one of the support structures, before we drew up alongside our berth.

My thanks to Paul, Vernon and the crew of the 'Oldenburg' and to all on Lundy and the shore offices.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘MS Oldenburg’ Ilfracombe-Lundy 5 August 2017

Posted 11 August 2017

MARINElife/Lundy WLO Annette Dutton

Weather: Sunny/cloudy, wind SW, sea state calm-moderate

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals
Grey Seal 25+
Common Dolphin 3+

Seabirds
Herring Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Shag
Oystercatcher
Kittiwake
Razorbill
Gannet
Cormorant
Manx Shearwater

Wildlife seen on Lundy
Meadow Pipit
Rock Pipit
Skylark
Wheatear
House Martin

Ilfracombe harbour was buzzing with activity when I arrived as the preparations for the annual Birdman Festival were underway with stalls and a music stage being setup. The passengers were already boarding so I joined the queue, said hello to Julian who was collecting tickets and went up to the Bridge where Captain Paul was on duty. After a quick chat, I collected my Hi-Viz jacket and took up position on the upper deck.

Common Dolphin Annette Dutton 03
Common Dolphin (Archive photo: Annette Dutton)

As we left the harbour and I could see several Gannets feeding but no sign of Harbour Porpoise. The boat started to roll a bit as we passed Capstone and moved onwards towards Lundy but otherwise the crossing was fine. As we neared Bull Point I saw a large group of around 15 Gannets feeding, we passed them on the starboard side and amongst them I saw 2 Common Dolphins much to the delight of the passengers nearby.

As we headed into the channel a passenger alerted everyone to another Common Dolphin on the port side but there was only the one and it soon disappeared out of sight. I spotted a couple of Manx Shearwater and then several more plus a lone Razorbill as we started to near Lundy.

Approaching the landing stage I saw the line of Shag atop Rat Island and over 25 Grey Seals hauled out on the rocks below. I disembarked and said hello to Sian and Rob who kindly took me up to the village in the Land Rover.

Meadow Pipit Annette Dutton 02
Meadow Pipit (Annette Dutton)

I collected some supplies from the shop and wandered back past St Helena's Church to the path which took me to my favourite bench by Hanmers holiday cottage overlooking the Landing Bay. As I was finishing my sandwiches I noticed something white in the bay below and knew it was an Ocean Sunfish, something I was hoping to see during my trip. It moved further out then tipped up and swam away with its distinctive fin waving about. I also noted a couple of seals still on the rocks and two more in Devil's Kitchen plus several Gannets feeding at the north end of the Island.

After sitting for a while enjoying the warm sun and peace and quiet, I walked over to Castle Keep and checked the rocks below for seals but the tide had moved them along. There were lots of House Martins flitting about and many butterflies.

I walked along to the Rocket Pole and the pond before making my way back to the village then back down to the landing bay where I sat for a while on the rocks in Devils Kitchen. The tide was coming in and a seal was bobbing about watching us watching it.

Grey Seal Annette Dutton 09
Grey Seal (Annette Dutton)

We left Lundy and I could see a large group of seabirds feeding in the distance but too far away to identify or see cetaceans amongst them. I saw the same seabirds on the way back along with a seal and as we passed Bull Point there were several Gannets again but no dolphins this time.

The Birdman Festival was still going on as we docked and I said thank you and goodbye to Paul, Vernon and Julian before disembarking and making my way through the crowds.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘MS Oldenburg’ Bideford-Lundy 29 July 2017

Posted 02 August 2017

MARINElife/Lundy WLO: Alison Shearer

Weather: Overcast with heavy rain at times, light winds, sea state moderate and slight on return

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals
Harbour Porpoise 4
Grey Seal 28

Seabirds
Manx Shearwater
Fulmar
Gannet
Cormorant
Shag
Great Black-backed Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Herring Gull
Kittiwake
Oystercatcher

Terrestrial Birds
Kestrel
Skylark
Swallow

Despite the overcast day it was fairly busy on the Oldenburg with lots of first time visitors. The crossing over had quite a cross swell which made finding any cetaceans a bit tricky but we did manage to spot a couple of Harbour Porpoise just as we left Bideford.

Harbour Porpoise Peter Howlett 20
Harbour Porpoise (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

Bird sightings were a bit thin at first but Manx Shearwater numbers increased as we got nearer mid-way. There were also a few Gannet of various ages and moulting Guillemot resting on the surface.

As we docked at the landing stage there were numerous Grey Seals sleeping in the water by Rat Island - despite it being high tide. We enjoyed a lovely walk up to the pub for lunch and then on to the shop and visitor centre to catch up with the Lundy staff.

Afterwards we walked down to the castle to watch the seals hauling out in their favourite spots as the tide went out, always an entertaining sight. We came back via the old lighthouse enjoying the stunning coastal views on the way. There were various landbirds to be seen including a Kestrel hovering over a kill.

Grey Seal Ruth Griffith 04a
Grey Seals (Archive photo: Ruth Griffith)

On the way back down to the landing stage we paused to look for the Lundy Cabbage and were lucky to find a few plants still in flower. With time to spare we were able to indulge in a bit of rock-pooling - the pools on Lundy being particularly good for this pastime. There was a good number of Grey Seals asleep on the rocks around the landing, including one sleeping on the rocks at Devil's Kitchen beach who was undisturbed by our bit of rock-pooling.

The crossing back was much calmer but was overcast with heavy rain, conditions not really conducive to looking for wildlife. Despite the weather we managed to see a few Gannet, Guillemot, Fulmar, Manx Shearwater and another two Harbour Porpoise.

A usual we had a wonderful and tranquil day and our thanks to the welcoming and wonderful staff on the island, in the ticket office and on the MS Oldenburg.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘MS Oldenburg’ Ilfracombe-Lundy 22 July 2017

Posted 27 July 2017

MARINElife/Lundy WLO Lucy Grable

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals
Common Dolphin 5
Bottlenose Dolphin 3
Grey Seal 8

Seabirds
Manx Shearwater
Fulmar
Gannet
Shag
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Herring Gull
Kittiwake
Oystercatcher

Terrestrial Birds
Wren
Raven
House Sparrow
Starling
Peregrine Falcon
Rock Pipit
Meadow Pipit
Wheatear
Carrion Crow
Little Egret
Linnet
Skylark

Other Wildlife
Six Spot Burnet Moth
Meadow Brown Butterfly
Clouded Yellow Butterfly
Highland Cattle
Soay Sheep
Lundy Goat
Moon Jellyfish
Compass Jellyfish

The sun was shining as I collected my ticket from the shore office and boarded MS Oldenburg, which was a pleasant surprise given the miserable weather the day before! I briefly popped up to the bridge to say hello to this month's MARINElife research team, Rick and Annalisa, before heading out to the top deck to introduce myself to the passengers.

The outward journey was relatively quiet with just a few sightings of Gannet, Fulmar, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Kittiwake and Herring Gull. There was also a very brief visit from five Common Dolphin on the starboard side of the boat roughly half way through the journey. Approaching Lundy Island, we saw over 400 Manx Shearwater flying around Landing Bay which was definitely one of the highlights of the day! Three grey seals were also spotted hauled out on the rocks joined by a number of noisy Oystercatcher.

Manx Shearwater Peter Howlett 02
Manx Shearwater (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

After disembarking, I made my way to Jenny's Cove along the central path joined by Rick and Annalisa. We had a quick look at Pondsbury, the largest pond on the island, and spotted two Little Egret. Continuing on our way we also saw two Peregrine Falcon circling near the halfway wall. We stopped for lunch at Jenny's Cove and looked to see what breeding seabirds remained with our fingers crossed for a few straggling Puffin - unfortunately none were to be seen. We did spot what looked to be an auk species at the bottom of the ledge. I was later told by a MARINElife supporter who had been on the island four days that the Puffins were seen rafting out at sea the day before and so we had only just missed them! During our lunch we did see a few seabirds including Kittiwake, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Herring Gull, Gannet, Manx Shearwater, Shag and a Fulmar with a chick.

On the walk back to the jetty we saw a number of terrestrial birds including juvenile Linnet, Wheatear, Rock Pipit and Meadow Pipit. There was also a sleepy Grey Seal bottling close to Landing Bay and a couple more seals sleeping near the rocks.

BND Mike Bailey 02a
Bottlenose Dolphin (Archive photo: Mike Bailey)

As we came to leave I spotted large numbers of Compass Jellyfish and Moon Jellyfish which interested many passengers. Conditions were perfect for cetacean spotting on the return journey and we had a fantastic encounter with three Bottlenose Dolphin putting on acrobatic displays of leaps, giving many passengers excellent views of them. A number of people then approached me to ask me what species they were and I explained how to distinguish between the most common dolphin species and also porpoises. The rest of the journey was fairly quiet on the sightings front with good numbers of Manx Shearwater and Herring Gull.

As we arrived back in Ilfracombe I thanked and said my farewells to the crew. I look forward to my next trip in August!

MARINElife Survey Report: ‘MS Oldenburg’ Ilfracombe-Lundy 22 July 2017

Posted 25 July 2017

Rick Morris and Annalisa Renee, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884)

Weather:
Westbound: Cloudy with sunny spells, wind NW 2-3, sea state 4, swell 1-2m
Eastbound: Cloudy with sunny spells, wind SW 1-2, sea state 2-3, swell 0-1m

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals:
Harbour porpoise Phocoena phocoena 1
Common Dolphin Delphinus delphis 5
Bottlenose Dolphin Tursiops truncatus 3
Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus 1

Seabirds:
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 6
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 542
Gannet Morus bassanus 11
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 3
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 3
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 4
Puffin Fratercula arctica 1
Guillemot Uria aalge 17
Larus Gull sp. 30
Auk sp. 4

We arrived in Ilfracombe on a somewhat cloudy morning with the threat of the odd shower; thankfully it was much better than the previous day's high winds and torrential rain!

As we made ourselves ready, Lucy Grable (MARINElife's WLO) made an appearance and after a brief catch-up made her way out to greet the passengers.

We reversed off our mooring on the harbour outer wall and came about to head toward Lundy Island and we started our survey with Annalisa recording our first effort entry into the records.

Manx Shearwater Rick Morris 07
Manx Shearwater flock in Landing Bay (Rick Morris)

As expected, with most having left the breeding ledges, seabird numbers were low throughout the survey with the exception of some 400+ Manx Shearwater in the Landing Bay as we neared the island. As for cetaceans, a small group of 5 Common Dolphin popped up just off the bow in the heavy swell and proceeded to head off down the starboard side.

Once on the island, we decided to walk up to Jenny's Cove to see if there were (wishful thinking) any Puffin left on their breeding ledge, but alas none were to be seen. In fact, the whole of Jenny's Cove was devoid of all the auks with just a few Herring Gull, Shag and a Fulmar on the ledge with a chick.

Back on board the 'Oldenburg' we resumed the survey shortly after leaving the landing jetty under the watchful eyes of a couple of female Grey Seal. Around 30 minutes had passed when a single Harbour Porpoise gave a brief sighting on the port side followed 10 minutes later with Annalisa spotting a Grey Seal 'bottling' on the starboard side. About 20 minutes later, whilst I was recording some gulls, Vernon (Oldenburg's first mate) told me there were splashes and white water some 500m off the port side. I looked intensely and finally a big splash caught my eye followed by 3 Bottlenose Dolphin leaping high out of the water giving us great profiles for identification.

BND Peter Howlett 26
Bottlenose Dolphin (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

The rest of the survey was spent recording a few seabirds until we returned to Ilfracombe, where we gathered up our equipment and said our farewells to Jason and his crew.

Our thanks to Jason, the Oldenburg's crew, shore staff, and all on Lundy for all the help and support.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘MS Oldenburg’ Bideford-Lundy 15 July 2015

Posted 23 July 2017

MARINElife/Lundy WLO: Andy Gilbert

Weather: sea state 4-5, clear visibility on outward and fog/mist on return.

Summary of Sightings:

Marine Mammals:
Harbour Porpoise 2
Common Dolphin 29
Grey Seal 15+

Seabirds:
Cormorant
Shag
Guillemot
Razorbill
Kittiwake
Herring Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Manx Shearwater
Gannet
Swallow
House Sparrow
Starling
Oystercatcher
Rock Pipit
Meadow Pipit
Wheatear
Skylark
Carrion Crow
Raven
Goldfinch
Mallard
Shelduck
Little Egret
Grey Heron
Curlew

Today's trip from Bideford to Lundy certainly turned out to be a day of two halves with lovely clear skies in the morning followed by fog for the second half of the day. Despite this we had some excellent sightings.

The crossings from Bideford are always longer days as the Oldenburg has to cruise up the Taw and Torridge estuary and these crossings are governed by the tides more than the Ilfracombe route is. As we headed towards Appledore in the morning, we passed the Little Egret and Grey Heron roost on our port side with a dozen of these large birds in the trees. A couple of Harbour Porpoise showed very briefly but clearly beside the ship as we exited the estuary into open water.

Common Dolphin Andrew Gilbert 01
Common Dolphin (Andrew Gilbert)

The crossing was a little choppy but thankfully the weather was dry and 40 minutes in we picked up 8 Common Dolphin riding the wake of the ship. Kittiwake, Guillemot, Razorbill, Manx Shearwater and Great Black-backed Gulls accompanied us for the voyage and another 45 minutes later even more dolphins appeared. Over twenty Common Dolphin raced into the ship from the starboard side and many of the passengers managed to get good views of their acrobatics as they breached and played around us and the completely full ship was buzzing afterwards. We continued on and seabird numbers increased as we got closer to the island. On Rat Island, next to the landing bay, a couple of Grey Seals were hauled out on the rocks enjoying the sunshine.

I spent a couple of hours walking the lower cliff path on the eastern side of the island and enjoyed Meadow Brown and Small Heath butterflies and many Six-spot Burnett moths.  Linnets, Rock Pipits and Meadow Pipits flitted around the cliffs whilst Raven, Lesser Black-backed Gull and a pair of calling Peregrines soared above the skyline. As I climbed back up to the plateau amidst Skylarks and dozens of juvenile Wheatear the fog rolled in and shrouded the island in a steady drizzle which continued for the rest of the afternoon.

Grey Seal Andrew Gilbert 01
Grey Seal (Andrew Gilbert)

A large contingent of MARINElife supporters boarded the Oldenburg for the return journey after spending 5 days on the island undertaking surveyor training and other wildlife themed activities.  The crossing provided a single Common Dolphin sighted next to the ship along with Gannet and Manx Shearwater and the excellent day ended with a good number of Curlew on the estuary before we docked at Bideford at 9.30pm.

As always, many thanks to the crew of the Oldenburg for accommodating and supporting our work so cheerfully.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report ‘MS Oldenburg’ Ilfracombe-Lundy 8 July 201

Posted 18 July 2017

MARINElife/Lundy WLO: Stephie Millin

Weather: Sunny spells, sea state calm

Summary of Sightings:

Marine mammals:
Common Dolphin
Harbour Porpoise 6
Grey Seal 14

Seabirds:
Manx Shearwater
Fulmar
Gannet
Shag
Herring Gull
Lesser Black-Backed Gull
Great Black-Backed Gull
Kittiwake
Guillemot
Razorbill
Puffin

Arriving at Ilfracombe harbour I was pleased to see the sun breaking through the thin clouds and a very calm sea. On this particular trip to Lundy I happened to be accompanied by 11 other MARINElife volunteers so I was feeling hopeful for plenty of sightings with so many binoculars at the ready.

We boarded the MS Oldenburg, settled down on the port side and as we departed I left the keen-eyed volunteers to wander around the boat and talk to passengers.

Too busy chatting to passengers I managed to miss the first 3 sightings of Harbour Porpoise which were typically always on the opposite side to where I was standing. I'm told that with time you can develop the art of talking and spotting at the same time. I was however readily spotting plenty of Guillemot and their young as well as Razorbill, Herring Gull and a Kittiwake and a solo Gannet.

Catching up with the MARINElife volunteers I found there were also sightings of Common Dolphin, 6 Manx Shearwater and a single Puffin!

Shag Stephie Millin 01
Shag (Stephie Millin)

Back with the other passengers again as we were less than 30 minutes from Lundy I was determined to make my own sighting of a cetacean. The majority of sightings had been on the port side so I wasn't feeling lucky stood starboard. As I chatted away about the lack of Basking Shark sightings around the south west I saw a fin, a bold dark triangle against the perfectly calm waters with Lundy in the distance. A positive ID of a Harbour Porpoise and thankfully also seen by 6 or 7 of the passengers around me too.

As we approached Lundy we could see 7 Grey Seals on a rock and then another 7 on the next rock and probably plenty more swimming around in the waters. Additionally, Shag, Oystercatcher, Great Black-backed Gull and Lesser Black-Backed Gull were all spotted around the shoreline and landing bay.

With 4 hours on the Island before boarding for the return I was straight up the hill and over to Jenny's Cove for the famous Puffin sightings. I was amazed that it actually was predominantly Puffin in this cove but staying in one spot for a good 45 minutes I also saw more Guillemot and a couple of Fulmar to add to the list. Happy with these sightings I crossed over to the east of the island and sat on the cliff close to Tibbetts building watching the seals. One seal in particular caught my attention as it appeared to be tangled in some orange rope. It was hard to tell if it was enjoying playing with the rope, spinning round and round, or trying to get rid of it but eventually the rope and the seal were separated. Over to my right I saw the lifeboat from the Oldenburg with two crewmembers on board, the small motor had attracted the attention of two curious seals, which swam around the boat and followed them wherever they would go. As it neared 3 o'clock and I was nearly 2 miles from the landing bay I started walking back, still spotting seals and Oystercatcher along the east side.

Waiting to board at the landing bay several people in the queue had their binoculars aimed towards Rat Island, I wondered if they were just spying on the swimmers in the shallows but then up popped the head of a Grey Seal. A nice close spotting, even for people without binoculars. As we boarded, all along the side of the ship you could see a couple of Compass Jellyfish and lots of Moon Jellyfish which have been multiplying and swamping the coasts of Devon and Cornwall this week.

Harbour Porpoise Stephie Millin 01
Harbour Porpoise (Stephie Millin)

Onboard and homeward bound in beautiful calm waters myself and my fellow passengers still had enough energy to keep an eye out for marine life.  Almost straight away we had a sighting of a Harbour porpoise.  It appeared 3 or 4 times giving me time to direct people's attention to the port side. I moved to the back of the ship and had another sighting of a Harbour Porpoise in the wake. As we travelled back along the coastline towards Ilfracombe, there were still plenty of Guillemot floating around and a Herring Gull accompanied us back into the harbour. A great day of sightings and a great opportunity with MARINElife to be back on Lundy Island.

Big thanks to the crew of Oldenburg and to all the lovely passengers I had the pleasure of talking to about their Lundy experiences.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘MS Oldenburg’ Ilfracombe-Lundy 1 July 2017

Posted 08 July 2017

MARINElife/Lundy WLO Ruth Griffith

Weather: Sunny on outward, cloud/drizzle on homeward. Sea state slight.

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals
Common Dolphin 8
Harbour Porpoise 1
Grey Seal 1

Seabirds
Manx Shearwater
Fulmar
Gannet
Cormorant
Shag
Guillemot
Razorbill
Herring Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Kittiwake

The sun was shining as I made my way to the shore office at Ilfracombe to collect my ticket. I boarded the ship and said hello to Jason and the crew. As we departed, I made my way around the decks introducing myself as Wildlife Officer and answering any initial questions that passengers had.

Manx Shearwater ~Ruth Griffith 02
Manx Shearwaters (Ruth Griffith)

Just 10 minutes into the journey I spotted a Harbour Porpoise surfacing on the starboard side off the stern, and pointed it out to the passengers I was talking to at the time. As we travelled along the coast I sighted auks such as Guillemot and Razorbill along with Herring Gull. Not long after, I caught a brief glimpse of a single Common Dolphin off the port side. About half way into the journey some splashing in the distance caught my eye off the starboard side and I alerted nearby passengers to see a group of 4-5 Common Dolphin leaping out of the water. I could see there was at least 1 juvenile in the group. As we neared Lundy I picked up Manx Shearwater, Kittiwake, Shag and Fulmar. After we docked at Lundy I caught up with Dean, the warden before making my way up towards the village. As I made my ascent towards the village, a curious Grey Seal popped up in the Landing Bay.

Robin Ruth Griffith 01
Robin (Ruth Griffith)

On the Island, I walked along the east coast before finding a spot to sit and have lunch. From there I spent a while watching a flurry of seabird activity in a nearby cove; many Manx Shearwater, along with Lesser and Great Black-backed Gull, auks, Shag and Fulmar. Further out, Gannet were diving into the sea, but alas, no cetaceans below. Throughout my observations, I was accompanied by a very friendly Robin.

The homeward journey began with sightings of Manx Shearwater in large numbers, Guillemot and Gannet. Visibility wasn't as good on this journey but despite this, about an hour in, I caught sight of 2 single Common Dolphin off the starboard side travelling in the opposite direction to the boat. As we neared Ilfracombe I also saw Shag and Herring Gull. Once at Ilfracombe I said farewell to Jason and the crew.

Many thanks to all of the lovely crew of the MS Oldenburg for their kindness and hospitality.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report ‘MS Oldenburg’ Ilfracombe-Lundy 24 June 2017

Posted 28 June 2017

 

MARINElife/Lundy WLO: Rick Morris

Weather:
West: Cloudy, wind WSW 3-4, ea state 3-4 with 1m swell at times.
East: Cloudy with sunny spells, wind SW 3, sea state 2-3 with slight swell.

Summary of sightings:

Marine mammals:
Harbour Porpoise 2
Grey Seal 2

Seabirds:
Gannet
Shag
Guillemot
Razorbill
Puffin
Great Black-backed Gull
Herring Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Kittiwake
Manx Shearwater
Fulmar
Oystercatcher

Lundy terrestrial birds:
Meadow Pipit
Rock Pipit
Wheatear
Skylark
Starling
Pied Wagtail
Raven
Carrion Crow
House Sparrow
Swallow
Robin
Linnet
Goldfinch
Chiffchaff
Mallard

Upon arriving at the long stay car park in Ilfracombe, I made my way to the shore office to let Jacqui and Kate know I was here before joining the passengers to board.

It was a cooler morning than the recent mini heatwave, with grey skies, drizzly rain and breezy. This, however, didn't dampen mine or the passengers spirits as we made our way on board, greeted as always by the friendly crew of the 'Oldenburg'. After a brief visit to the bridge to say hello to Jason, the Captain, I made my way around the very busy outer decks, informing folk onboard why I was here and what MARINElife do.

Kittiwake Rick Morris 01
Kittiwake (Rick Morris)

Leaving our mooring the rain ceased and we were soon heading along the North Devon coast and as we were passing Lee Bay, a solitary Harbour Porpoise was seen in the challenging sea state. Seabird numbers were again quite low with solitary encounters of Gannet, Guillemot, Razorbill, Puffin, Fulmar and Kittiwake. Manx Shearwater were also seen in small groups from just off shore of Bull Point and continued to show all the way to around a kilometer off Lundy. Shag were seen feeding in the Landing Bay and Oystercatcher could be heard and seen as they flew along the shoreline.

Puffin Rick Morris 05
Puffin with a Razorbill in Jenny's Cove (Rick Morris)

On landing, I made my way up to Jenny's Cove via the central path, joined by my son-in-law and granddaughter who together with other family members were visiting Lundy for the day. Here we stopped for a while to look at the Puffin and other seabirds on the breeding slopes before heading back.

Raven Rick Morris 04
Raven (Rick Morris)

Although I only walked the central path to and from Jenny's, I did manage to see a good variety of land birds with the most entertaining being this Raven playing in the updraught. The walk down to the Landing Bay from the village via Millcombe Valley gave sightings of Goldfinch, Chiffchaff and Blackbird.

Upon rejoining the 'Oldenburg', we left the jetty under the watchful eyes of a solitary female Grey Seal 'bottling' just off Rat Island and Lesser Black-back Gull circling overhead.

LBB Gull Rick Morris 01
Lesser Black-backed Gull (Rick Morris)

Sea conditions on the return were better, with occasional sunny spells. Sightings were of the same mix of seabirds with the addition of a Grey seal and Harbour Porpoise around half way back.

Back in Ilfracombe, I said my farewells to Jason and his crew and headed straight to the Lynbay fish and chip shop for an excellent portion of locally sourced fish and chips!

My thanks to Jason, Vernon and the crew of the 'Oldenburg' and to all on Lundy and the shore offices.

MARINElife Survey Report: ‘MS Oldenburg’ Ilfracombe-Lundy 17 June 2017

Posted 20 June 2017

Rick Morris and Peter Merry, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884)

Weather: Out: clear, wind NW 1-2, sea state 1-2. Return: clear, wind NW 1-2, sea state 1-2

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals:
Harbour porpoise Phocoena phocoena 3
Common Dolphin Delphinus delphis 12
Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus 2

Seabirds:
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 6
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 18
Gannet Morus bassanus 4
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 1
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 10
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 9
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 1
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 4
Puffin Fratercula arctica 2
Guillemot Uria aalge 46
Razorbill Alca torda 13
Auk species 3

After a pleasant drive down to Ilfracombe, we arrived under blue skies and not a cloud in sight. Joining the queue to collect our tickets, we met up with Ruth who was today's MARINElife WLO.

Upon boarding the MS Oldenburg, we made our way straight to the bridge and were welcomed on board by Jason the captain. We left just after 10 am and headed out into a calm sea with a light northwesterly wind.

After around half an hour into the survey, we had our first Common Dolphin sighting, a small group of four animals with another five separate sightings consisting of Common Dolphin, Harbour Porpoise and Grey Seal before reaching Lundy.

Guillemot Rick Morris 04
Guillemot (Rick Morris)

Seabird sightings were low with auks being the most prominent species seen, especially as they stood out on the surface of the calm sea.

On arrival at the landing stage we stopped briefly for a catch up with Dean Lundy's Warden before making our way up top. We decided to walk along the central path as far as the Halfway Wall. Here we turned left and headed to Jenny's Cove where we stopped to have lunch and watch the charismatic Puffin coming and going from the breeding ledges.

We left Lundy at 4.30pm and settled in to start the return leg of the survey. Again, seabird numbers were low with most sightings being of single birds.

Common Dolphin Rick Morris 07
Common Dolphin (Archive photo: Rick Morris)

We did not have to wait too long for the dolphins to make an appearance, with four adults and a juvenile visiting the bow, (Ruth informed us that more were at the stern, but we could not include these on the survey). The next half hour produced two Harbour Porpoise from two sightings.

We ended the survey nearing Ilfracombe and upon our arrival alongside the harbour wall we said our farewells to Jason and his crew.

Our thanks to Jason, the Oldenburg's crew, shore staff, and all on Lundy for all the help and support.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report ‘MS Oldenburg’ Ilfracombe-Lundy 17 June 2017

Posted 19 June 2017

MARINElife/Lundy WLO Ruth Griffith

Weather: Sunny, sea state calm

Summary of Sightings:

Marine mammals
Common Dolphin 17
Harbour Porpoise 6
Grey Seal 8
Seabirds
Fulmar
Herring Gull
Greater Black-backed Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Kittiwake
Gannet
Razorbill
Guillemot
Manx Shearwater
Puffin

I arrived at Ilfracombe harbour on a lovely sunny day and as I collected my ticket from the shore office, I met up with Rick and Peter who were conducting the monthly survey. We boarded the MS Oldenburg and greeted Jason the Captain before I headed out onto the decks to introduce myself as Wildlife Officer to a full boat of passengers.

We departed with fantastic conditions; excellent visibility and a sea state of 1. As we travelled along the coast we picked up Herring Gull, Fulmar, Guillemot and Razorbill. I was explaining to some interested passengers the different wildlife that can potentially be sighted on the crossing, when I noticed a number of passengers gathering on the starboard side and as I went over to investigate I saw 3-4 Common Dolphin surfacing in the wake of the boat. A number of people then approached me to ask me whether they were porpoise or dolphins and how to distinguish the difference between them.

Common Dolphin Ruth Griffith 04
Common Dolphin (Ruth Griffith)

Following this, I had brief sightings of two groups of two Harbour Porpoise off the port side, one after the other. As the journey continued I also picked up Lesser Black-backed Gull, Kittiwake, a number of single Manx Shearwater in flight, auks sat on the water and a couple of Gannet. As we neared Lundy, I spotted another Common Dolphin, this time one on its own. Shag and Oystercatcher were around the landing bay as we docked.

We arrived on Lundy and Rick introduced me to Dean the warden who updated us on the recent bird activity on the Island. When on the Island, I walked the lower path along the east coast of the Island. At various points along the coast I could see individual seals bottling or swimming by the shore, as well as Great Black-backed Gull and juvenile Kittiwake flying past. At Halfway Wall I could see five seals swimming around in the bay below. I crossed over the Island to the west coast to see the Puffins at Jenny's Cove before heading back down to the Landing Bay to dip my feet in the water to cool off before boarding the ship.

Manx Shearwater Ruth Griffith 02
Manx Shearwater (Ruth Griffith)

The return journey began with sightings of Razorbill and Guillemot and the Fulmar. We then came across a large number of Manx Shearwater near the boat and not long after this, Common Dolphin sightings began, with approximately 4 groups of 3-4 individuals sighted sporadically off both sides of the ship and in the wake. As we travelled back along the coast towards Ilfracombe, I sighted two single Harbour Porpoise. On both journeys I noticed a lot of jellyfish; Moon, Compass and Lion's Mane, of which a number of passengers commented on and asked about. As we came into the harbour a couple of the passengers came over to say that they thought MARINElife WLO was a great idea and thanked me for my wildlife guidance and help during the crossing.

On arrival at Ilfracombe we thanked Jason and the crew of the MS Oldenburg for their kindness and assistance.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘MS Oldenburg’ Ilfracombe-Lundy 3 June 2017

Posted 09 June 2017

MARINElife/Lundy WLO Annette Dutton

Weather: Sunny with cloud increasing, wind SW, sea state calm

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals
Common Dolphin 12+
Grey Seal 3

Seabirds
Herring Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Greater Black-backed Gull
Shag
Oystercatcher
Guillemot
Kittiwake
Fulmar
Gannet
Cormorant
Manx Shearwater

Wildlife on Lundy
Lundy Ponies
Meadow Pipit
Rock Pipit
Skylark
Swallow
Wheatear
House Martin

It was sunny with a cloudy patches when I arrived at Ilfracombe harbour, I joined the queue and boarded the Oldenburg saying hello to Julian and the crew who were collecting tickets. I went up to the bridge to have a quick chat to Jason, the Captain, left my belongings and picked up a hi-viz jacket before taking up position on the upper deck before departing.

As we left the harbour, I spoke to passengers about the wildlife I expected to see on the crossing and what to see on Lundy, many of them were interested in MARINElife and the work we do.

Common Dolphin Annette Dutton 03
Common Dolphin (Annette Dutton)

My first sightings were of a Gannet and Razorbill as we passed Lee Bay then I spotted a Manx Shearwater as we approached Bull Point. I continued talking to the passengers and after about an hour I spotted 2 Common Dolphins on the port side then shortly afterwards another group of about 6-8 approached from the starboard side and were swimming alongside the boat and bow riding much to the joy of the passengers. I also noticed a large group of various seabirds feeding nearby.

Shortly after the sea got rather choppy and a heavy shower forced me to move down to the lower deck for about 10 minutes but I was soon back up on the top deck. By now we were approaching Lundy and I spotted several Shag on Mouse Island and a Grey Seal in the landing bay.

I collected my belongings and left the Oldenburg, Dean the Warden was there so I stopped to say hello and he kindly said I could have a lift up to the village in the Land Rover.

Arriving at the village I headed past the Church and over to Hanmers Cottage to sit on the nearby bench for lunch. The clouds had passed over and it was lovely and warm and sunny so I stayed a while, checking the sea below for cetaceans but I only saw a Grey Seal in Devil's kitchen and several Gannet feeding. However, I was rewarded with some lovely butterflies and the ever present sound of the Skylark.

Grey Seal Annette Dutton 08
Grey Seal (Annette Dutton)

I wandered around the Castle to scan the sea again and walked along the path for a while before returning to the village to make my way down to the landing stage where a Grey Seal was entertaining the passengers.

As we left Lundy I saw the odd Gannet, Razorbill and a small group of Manx Shearwaters then very little until about half way over when Vernon alerted me to Common Dolphins approaching the Oldenburg on the port side. They were moving quickly and passed the bow of the Oldenburg before heading towards Lundy. I only saw 2 but when I spoke to the passengers there were maybe 3 or 4.

The rest of the journey was quiet as far as sightings were concerned and we cruised along the coast to arrive at Ilfracombe Harbour on time. I returned to the bridge to collect my belongings and thanked Jason and the crew for their help.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘MS Oldenburg’ Ilfracombe-Lundy 27 May 2017

Posted 08 June 2017

MARINElife/Lundy WLO Alison Shearer

Weather: Dry but very windy with wind moderating in the afternoon.

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals
Common Dolphin 6
Grey Seal 5 (3 male, 2 female)

Seabirds
Manx Shearwater
Fulmar
Gannet
Cormorant
Shag
Herring Gull
Lesser Black- backed Gull
Greater Black- backed Gull
Kittiwake
Guillemot
Razorbill
Puffin
Oystercatcher

Wildlife on Lundy
Sika Deer
Lundy Ponies
Soay Sheep
Highland Cattle
Skylark
Swallow
Rock Pipit
Meadow Pipit
Carrion Crow

A fairly busy crossing with lots of new excited visitors who were here for half term and very interested in the wildlife. As well as the day visitors there were people going to stay on Lundy and also a group who had come for a few days to survey Lundy's breeding population of Manx Shearwater.

The crossing over was quiet for the first ten minutes or so with just a few Guillemot bobbing in the water but after that there was heaps to see with something in range everywhere you looked! There were lots of Manx Shearwater which always make people smile once they quickly learn to identify them. There were also good numbers of Razorbill and Guillemot on the water.

It was a sudden, magical, surprise as I was pointing a Razorbill out to a lady when six Common Dolphin leapt right out of the water a few times exactly where we were looking. They were with us very briefly and I was pleasantly surprised that such a large number of delighted passengers had managed to see them!

Grey Seal Alison Shearer 01
Grey Seal (Alison Shearer)

As we docked there was a lone male Grey Seal over on the rocks by landing bay and on Rat Island there were many Oystercatchers calling loudly.

A lovely walk up to the pub and shop and then on up towards the halfway wall taking in the atmosphere, wildlife and scenery. Always a wonderful feel of wilderness and solitude despite the volume of visitors on the boat!

At Jenny's Cove the wind was so fierce it was difficult to hold the camera for great shots but with binoculars you could see the auks were swarming both in the water and on and around the cliffs. A mix of Razorbill and Guillemot on the rocks and Puffin by their burrows on the grass above.

Lundy Cliffs Alison Shearer 01
Auks on the cliffs at Jenny's Cove (Alison Shearer)

We walked back via the old lighthouse and saw lots of Skylark and Meadow Pipits on the way.

As we came to leave there were two male sleepy Grey seals bottling by Mouse Island and a female near the rocks by the landing bay and one sleeping in the centre of the swell at Devil's Kitchen beach.

The crossing back was much calmer. A gorgeous sunny evening with a fairly, constant stream of fantastic, interesting seabirds as before but less frequent and less in number.

A wonderful day as always and many thanks to the welcoming and wonderful staff on the island and the MS Oldenburg.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘MS Oldenburg’ Ilfracombe-Lundy 20 May 2017

Posted 25 May 2017

MARINElife/Lundy WLO Annette Dutton

Weather: Drizzly with a slight breeze, Wind SSE, Sea State calm

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals
Grey Seal 2

Seabirds
Herring Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Greater Black-backed Gull
Shag
Oystercatcher
Guillemot
Kittiwake
Gannet
Cormorant
Puffin
Manx Shearwater

Wildlife seen on Lundy
Soay Sheep
Highland Cattle
Lundy Ponies
Meadow Pipit
Rock Pipit
Skylark
Swallow
Wheatear
House Martin

There was a bit of light drizzle as I arrived at Ilfracombe Harbour but it was fairly warm so I was hoping it would brighten up during the morning. There was a long queue at the quayside which didn't surprise me as I was already aware that there were over 230 passengers booked on the crossing.

I boarded the Oldenburg and saw some familiar faces from the Lundy Field Society who were over for four days for a meeting and a workshop. After a quick chat, I went up to the bridge to collect my jacket and say hello to Jason, the Captain, before returning to the top deck to find somewhere to stand.

We left the harbour and headed along the coast and I was joined by Dr Keith Hiscock, the Lundy Field Society Chairman, during our chat we didn't see any seabirds or cetaceans. Then about half way across the bay, I saw black clouds looming and it started to rain quite heavily and I was forced down to the lower deck to escape the downpour.

Grey Seal Annette Dutton 07
Grey Seal (Annette Dutton)

It was then that the crew were asking the passengers to either move to the top deck or down below in order to leave the rear of the Oldenburg free as a Coastguard Helicopter was on the way as one of the passengers had fallen ill.

It was very crowded on the top deck which made it difficult to see any thing but I managed to engage with people nearby and I started to spot the odd Manx Shearwater, auks, Kittiwake and a Gannet.

The helicopter came and dropped off a large bag which I presumed contained a stretcher and other items to make ready the casualty for picking up on the Island.

Lundy Cabbage Annette Dutton 01
Lundy Cabbage (Annette Dutton)

Approaching the landing bay there was the usual Shags and Oystercathcers and a Grey Seal in the Devil's Kitchen. I left the Oldenburg and wandered up to the village stopping to look at the Lundy Cabbage which is found nowhere else in the world.

I got some supplies from the shop and headed over to Jenny's Cove along the main track. It was sunnier now and made for an enjoyable walk until I turned at the halfway wall and was heading into a strong breeze. There were a few people at Jenny's Cove and I sat on a rock and soon spotted the Puffins in their usual place on the grassy slopes alongside the many Guillemots nearby and on the ledges.

Jennys Cove Annette Dutton 2017-01
Puffins and Guillemots in Jenny's Cove (Annette Dutton)

I returned to the village via the Old Light and it started to rain again as I walked through the village and down to the Oldenburg for the return trip. The rain stopped and it was brighter as I waited in the queue and one of the passengers spotted a Grey Seal in Devil's Kitchen and another one near the landing stage by the rocks.

The journey back was pretty uneventful with sightings of small groups of Manx Shearwater, auks and the odd Gannet then as we passed Bull Point I noticed several Gannets and a lone Manx Shearwater but sadly still no cetaceans.

As ever, many thanks to Captain Jason and the crew of the 'Oldenburg' for their help and assistance.

MARINElife Survey Report: ‘MS Oldenburg’ Bideford-Lundy 13 May 2017

Posted 18 May 2017

James McCarthy and Ruth Crundwell, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884)

Weather: Sunny outbound, cloudy for the return, wind W 4-5, sea state 4, visibility good.

Summary of sightings:

Seabirds:
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 2
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 408
Gannet Morus bassanus 14
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 1
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 8
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 2
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 14
Puffin Fratercula arctica 2
Guillemot Uria aalge 10
Razorbill Alca torda 20

The MARINELife Lundy survey of May 13 started early out of Bideford and we were soon steaming to the island.

Puffin Peter Howlett 14
Puffin (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

Unfortunately, the calm conditions forecast a few days earlier had been replaced by a lumpy sea making viewing uncomfortable. As we moved away from the mainland, the swell calmed somewhat as the first seabirds came close to the MS Oldenburg. Good numbers of Manx Shearwaters gave spectacular views as they flew parallel to the ship - the day's highlight - with Puffin coming across the bows in a group of Guillemot as a supporting cast. Sadly, despite all the wishing, no fins broke the waters and we completed the outward-bound trip, cetacean free.

The island was blessed with sunshine but with a stiff westerly wind. Despite this migrant birds were in good numbers with a count of between 25-30 Spotted Flycatchers being a multi-year high count. A handful of Willow Warblers, 2 Garden Warblers and a decent number of hirundines made up for a pleasant stop on the land.

Manx Shearwater Peter Howlett 11
Manx Shearwater (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

The journey home was again cetacean free, a personal first after 10 years of MARINElife surveys! More Manx Shearwaters and auks kept us busy but in general the trip back was choppy and uneventful.

As always we would like to thank the crew of the MS Oldenburg for their hospitality.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘MS Oldenburg’ Bideford-Lundy 13 May 2017

Posted 15 May 2017

MARINElife/Lundy WLO: Maggie Gamble

Weather: Sunny and dry to start, wind SW, sea state slight to moderate

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals
Grey Seal

Seabirds
Herring Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Greater Black-backed Gull
Shag
Oystercatcher
Guillemot
Razorbill
Kittiwake
Gannet
Fulmar
Manx Shearwater

Wildlife seen on Lundy
Spotted Flycatcher
Meadow Pipit
Skylark
Swallow
Wheatear
House Martin
Blackbird
Linnet
Goldfinch

It was an early morning sailing from Bideford which gave maximum time on the Island so there was plenty of time for the more energetic to walk to the dramatic north end of Lundy.  For the trip out, a cool dull start improved and the two hour crossing to Lundy was sunny and clear. Conditions were perfect for Manx Shearwater and we had several small groups alongside the Oldenburg giving many passengers excellent views of their wonderful banking, gliding flight just above the wave surface.

Smaller numbers of auks were also seen hurrying to and fro especially closer to Lundy and a few passengers spotted Puffins. There were a couple of feeding aggregations mainly of Kittiwakes but no cetaceans this time. Strolling up the path from the pier I paused for breath and to take a picture of the moored Oldenburg in the sunshine.

Landing Bay Lundy Maggie Gamble
Oldenburg alongside in Landing Bay (Maggie Gamble)

It was a special occasion for any philatelist on Lundy this weekend as the new stamps were being issued. The beautiful artwork was by North Devon artist Sharon Read and shows some iconic Lundy birds in their Island setting.  I particularly liked the Manx Shearwater which I used to send a Puffin post card to America. As it was the "First Day of Issue" there was a busy pop up post office in the Marisco Tavern manned by Lars Liwendahl. Here you could buy first day covers or post letters and post cards with a first day frank on them.

Lundy pop up Post Office Maggie Gamble
The pop-up Post Office (Maggie Gamble)

After a sustaining cup of tea in the Tavern I made my way over to the old battery which is situated low down on the west side cliffs and gives excellent views of the passing seabirds. An added bonus was a mass of thrift in full flower on the grassy slopes. From the battery I carefully scanned a feeding aggregation of mainly Kittiwakes with a few auks and shearwaters. Beneath them was a small fish boil but no sign of any fins that I could see.  On their walks around the Island some people had enjoyed watching a pair of canoeists with an attendant flotilla of curious Grey Seals following behind.

The weather turned cooler for the return trip and unfortunately no cetaceans were spotted, although there was still plenty of bird life to admire.

As ever, many thanks to the captain crew of the 'Oldenburg' for their help and assistance.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report ‘MS Oldenburg’ Bideford - Lundy Saturday 29 April 2017

Posted 05 May 2017

MARINElife/Lundy WLO: Steve McAusland

Weather: Warm and sunny to start becoming overcast, warm, sea state 2

Summary of sightings:

Marine mammals
Grey seal 2

Birds at sea
Manx Shearwater
Shag
Fulmar
Guillemot
Razorbill
Gannet
Kittiwake
Puffin
Herring Gull
Great Black-backed Gull

Birds on Lundy
Teal
Willow Warbler
Pied Wagtail
Oystercatcher
Linnet
Wheatear
Whitethroat
Buzzard
Peregrine
Kestrel
Raven
Meadow Pipit
Skylark
Robin
Blackbird
Dunnock
Blackcap
Chiffchaff
Goldfinch
House Sparrow
Mallard

Arriving early in Bideford for my first Lundy trip of 2017 as Wildlife Officer I was made very welcome at the shore office and was soon on the quay waiting to board MS Oldenburg along with a great many passengers. Here I also met Simon Dell a well-known professional tour guide who I have met on many occasions, he was going to the Island and we chatted for some time whilst waiting our turn to board. Once on board Jason the Captain also greeted me and I made ready for speaking to passengers that showed an interest in wildlife and discussed MARINElife and what the charity does.

As the ship left the quay, we passed Crow Point on the starboard side and then a few minutes later Northam Burrows to the port side. Once clear of the sand bank, Oldenburg's engine was opened up and we were soon making good speed. Almost half way towards Lundy the engines were cut to an almost stop for quite some time as a mayday message was received from a yacht that had lost engine power. Communication with the Ilfracombe lifeboat made sure that is was soon on its way to assist and we then continued towards Lundy.

Puffin Steve McAusland 02
Puffin in Jenny's Cove (Steve McAusland)

Sadly no cetaceans were seen this trip, however the birds at sea were Gannet, Fulmar, Guillemot, Razorbill and the spectacular Manx Shearwaters that have returned to breed on Lundy following their journey all the way from Patagonia!

As we reached Landing Bay on Lundy the passengers disembarked. Before I made my way up to look for migrant birds, I introduced myself to Dean the new Warden and his assistant. After scanning the wooded areas for possible rare migrants, I made my way see the Lundy Puffins for the first time this year.

At Jenny's Cove, I counted 53 Puffins and caught up again with Simon Dell who had led his party to see the famous sea parrots. Sadly, a carcase of a Porpoise could be seen floating on the sea below - surrounded by gulls 'the circle of life continued'.

Leaving the Island, the journey back gave sightings of the same birds with a few Swallows along the way.

Bristol Channel waves Steve McAusland 01
Surf over the sandbank (Steve McAusland)

As the ship passed through the sand bank on route to Bideford we were treated to some awesome waves crashing through.

When alongside, I thanked Jason, Vernon, and crew for another superb trip and their continued support for MARINElife. I look forward to my next trip to Lundy, which is in July when this time I will be staying on the Island for four days along with some of the other regular MARINElife Wildlife Officers.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report ‘MS Oldenburg’ Ilfracombe-Lundy Saturday 22 April 2017

Posted 29 April 2017

MARINElife/Lundy WLO: Annette Dutton

Weather: Sunny and dry, wind NW, sea state slight

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals
Harbour Porpoise 1
Common Dolphin 1

Seabirds
Herring Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Greater Black-backed Gull
Shag
Oystercatcher
Guillemot
Kittiwake
Gannet
Cormorant
Fulmar
Manx Shearwater

Wildlife seen on Lundy
Soay Sheep
Meadow Pipit
Rock Pipit
Skylark
Swallow
Wheatear
House Martin

I walked down to Ilfracombe harbour looking forward to the crossing to Lundy as the weather was set to be sunny with little wind. I boarded the Oldenburg and went up to the Bridge to get my hi-viz jacket and to say hello to Jason, the Captain, before returning to the top deck to talk to the passengers.

As we left the harbour and cruised towards Lundy I saw a couple of Gannet and a Fulmar then no further sightings until we reached the open sea when someone shouted 'dolphin' and I spotted it in time to see that it was a Harbour Porpoise.

Closer to Lundy, two Swallows flew over the Oldenburg and more seabirds such as Manx Shearwater, Guillemot, Razorbill, Fulmar, Kittiwake appeared and we also saw a Barrel Jellyfish.

Lundy Annette Dutton 09
Old Light and gorse (Annette Dutton)

As we landed at the island I saw several Shag on the top of Mouse Island and a couple of Oystercatchers flying about the rocks.

I decided not to go to Jenny's cove on this visit so I made my way up towards the village and took the path past Hanmers holiday cottage to sit on the nearby bench for lunch. I could see a Grey Seal below in Devil's Kitchen and also saw Swallows, House Martins and a Meadow Pipit.

Walking over to Castle Keep it was very warm and I sat down again in the sun to scan the sea for cetaceans but only saw a Grey Seal swimming along. There were many Wheatear, Swallows and Skylark flying around and I carried on along the coastal path to Shutter Point passing Seals Cave where I saw another Seal and when I arrived at Shutter Point I had another look for cetaceans but only saw a Grey Seal, a Gannet and a couple of Shag.

Walking back towards St Helen's Church the smell of the gorse was lovely and the bells started to peal as there were groups of bell-ringers on the island.

I arrived back in the village and wandered down to the landing stage to board the Oldenburg for the return journey. Shortly after leaving I began to see small groups of Manx Shearwater, Guillemot and Razorbills and a very brief glimpse of a Common Dolphin swimming towards Lundy. I also saw lots of Barrel Jellyfish as we cruised along.

common dolphin Peter Howlett 24
Common Dolphin (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

The sightings of seabirds continued until we reached the coast then I spotted a Gannet by Bull Point and two Swallows flew over as we passed Lee Bay.

We arrived back in Ilfracombe and I returned to the Bridge to say thank you and goodbye to Jason and Vernon.

MARINElife Survey Report: MS Oldenburg Bideford-Lundy 15 April 2017

Posted 18 April 2017

Hannah Claydon and Hazel Munt, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884; Registered Company No. 5057367)

Weather: Wind NW, sea state 2-4, visibility good

Summary of sightings:

Seabirds
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 37
Gannet  Morus bassanus 2
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 5
Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus 1
Sanderling Calidris alba 20
Herring Gull  Larus argentatus 98
Kittiwake  Rissa tridactyla 6
Guillemot  Uria aalge 10
Razorbill Alca torda 13
Gull sp.  4

Terrestrial Birds
Swallow Hirundo rustica 1

It was a bright and fresh start to the day, with weather forecast to be fine and dry; ideal for the crossing as well as spending the day on Lundy. Hazel and I first met at the Lundy Island booking office where we joined up with Rick Morris, who was representing MARINElife as the Wildlife Officer for the day. We were then welcomed aboard the MS Oldenburg by Captain Paul and the crew and made our way to the bridge.

This was mine and Hazel's first visit to Lundy Island and the first survey of the season, so we were both optimistic for what we might be able record out at sea.

Kittiwake Peter Howlett 09
Kittiwake (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

Having left the harbour at 08:30, the ship was soon greeted by a sea state 4 which made spotting cetaceans a little tricky, however a number of seabirds were observed, including Manx Shearwater, Herring gull, Shag and some rafting Razorbill as we entered the Landing Bay. We were also fortunate to sight a lovely Kittiwake, Gannet and Guillemot. In terms of cetaceans, none were observed during the outward crossing.

The survey across to Lundy took roughly two hours, allowing approximately six hours on the island to enjoy before returning to the jetty and boarding the MS Oldenburg for the homeward bound survey.

Conditions during the return journey were much calmer, which enabled 20 Sanderling to be sighted as well as several Manx Shearwater shearing gracefully in front of the ship. As we neared Bideford harbour, a group of 41 juvenile and 24 adult Herring gulls were sighted. Again no cetaceans were observed from the bridge, however, from the deck Rick reported a sighting of a deceased Harbour Porpoise.

Manx Shearwater Peter Howlett 02
Manx Shearwater (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

Our thanks go to the staff and crew of MS Oldenburg who were very accommodating and made the crossing an enjoyable experience.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘MS Oldenburg’ Bideford-Lundy 15 April 2017

Posted 17 April 2017

Rick Morris MARINElife Lundy Wildlife Officer (WLO)

Weather: Overcast with sunny periods, wind NE 2-4 sea state 3-4 with 1m swell at times

Summary of sightings

Marine mammals:
Harbour Porpoise 3 + 1 dead
Grey Seal 30+ (around island trip)

Seabirds:
Gannet
Shag
Guillemot
Razorbill
Puffin
Great Black-backed Gull
Herring Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Kittiwake
Manx Shearwater
Fulmar

Estuary birds
Little Egret
Grey Heron
Oystercatcher
Cormorant
Shelduck
Mute Swan
Cormorant
Wader Sp.

Lundy terrestrial birds:
Peregrine Falcon
Meadow Pipit
Rock Pipit
Willow Warbler
Wheatear
Skylark
Starling
Raven
Carrion Crow
House Sparrow
Swallow
Robin
Goldfinch
Mallard

This was my first Wildlife Officer (WLO) trip for 2017 although I did visit the Island last month to meet Dean the new warden. Arriving in Bideford on an overcast morning and chilly NW breeze, I collected my ticket and upon joining the rest of the passengers waiting to board I met up with this month's MARINElife survey team, Hazel and Hannah. Hazel's mum and Hannah's friend came along for the trip and joined the passengers on deck whilst we popped up to the bridge and after getting myself ready, made my way out on deck to introduce myself.

We left our mooring in the River Torridge and headed downstream just after 08:00. An Oystercatcher was heard and Grey Heron, Little Egret and Shelduck were seen, also seen were several groups of 2nd and 3rd year Herring Gull. Swallow were seen heading inland and on nearing the sandbar I spotted 3 Harbour Porpoise of which those passengers close by had a brief sighting.

Once out in the channel we were getting sightings of small groups of Razorbill and Guillemot plus the odd Gannet. Also seen were the occasional Kittiwake and Fulmar and once out around the halfway point, Manx Shearwater were seen in groups ranging from just a few birds to one group of around 50+.

Willow Warbler Rick Morris 01
Willow Warbler (Rick Morris)

We were greeted at the jetty by Dean (Warden) and Rob (Manager), I then made my way up top, joined by Hazel and her Mum and we decided to walk around the west side where we saw a couple of black Rabbit. Reaching Jenny's Cove, we stopped for lunch and watched the small number of Puffin that were present together with Guillemot, Razorbill, Kittiwake, Fulmar and gulls.

The NE breeze made it chilly to stay at Jenny's for too long, so Hazel and Mum went on to the north end whilst I made my way back as I said I would help out with the planned round the island trip aboard the 'Oldenburg'. During my walk back I observed Willow Warbler, Meadow Pipit and Skylark amongst others! I also came across Sika Deer, Soay Sheep, Highland Cattle and Lundy Ponies.

Reaching the Marisco Tavern I stopped for a welcome mug of tea and a quick catch up with Grant before heading down to the Landing Jetty. There were still no Grey Seal to be seen in the Landing Bay and at 16:00 we set sail for the cruise around the island. We made our way around in an anti-clockwise direction, taking in the east side first and it wasn't too long before we started to see seals, especially in Gannets Bay. It was just after passing here that I noticed a seal that was smaller and different from all the Grey Seal and this animal turned out to be a Common (Harbour) Seal, not so 'common' in these parts!

Common Seal Rick Morris 01
Common Seal (Rick Morris)

We continued on around the north end taking a wide birth of the 'Hen and Chickens' giving good views of the North Lighthouse before continuing along the west side. More seals were seen and we all enjoyed the sight of the seabird colonies - Guillemot, Razorbill, Puffin and Kittiwake along the way. After rounding the southern end, passing Rat and Mouse islands, we arrived back at the Jetty ready to collect those passengers waiting to go back to Bideford.

The return crossing was peppered with Guillemot, Razorbill and Manx Shearwater and quite a few juvenile Kittiwake. The only cetacean seen was that of a dead Harbour Porpoise around three quarters of the way back, a truly sad sight for all those that saw it.

Thanks to Paul, Vernon and the crew of the 'Oldenburg' and to all on Lundy and the shore offices.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report ‘MS Oldenburg’ Ilfracombe-Lundy 8 April 2017

Posted 13 April 2017

MARINElife/Lundy WLO Annette Dutton

Weather: Sunny and dry, wind SE, sea state slight

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals
Harbour Porpoise 1

Seabirds
Herring Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Greater Black-backed Gull
Shag
Oystercatcher
Guillemot
Puffin
Kittiwake
Gannet
Cormorant
Fulmar
Manx Shearwater

Wildlife seen on Lundy
Soay Sheep
Sika Deer
Highland Cattle
Meadow Pipit
Skylark
Swallow
Wheatear
Oystercatcher
House Martin

The weather was forecast to be glorious and I wandered down to Ilfracombe harbour in the warm sunshine, when I arrived I saw that it was already busy as nearly 200 passenger had booked for the trip over to Lundy Island.

I boarded the Oldenburg and went up to the bridge to get my hi-viz jacket and say hello to Jason, the Captain, before I went back onto the deck to position myself so the passengers could see where I was.

We left on time and sailed along the North Devon coast passing Capstone, Tunnels Beaches, Lee Bay and Morte Point but all I saw was a solitary Fulmar.

Many of the passengers were staying on Lundy so I gave advice about the wildlife, walks on the island and where to go to see the Puffins. I was chatting to the Reverend Brenda Jacobs, Vicar of St Helens Church, who was going over for a meeting when I was alerted to a dolphin sighting but sadly I didn't see it. However, Vernon, the First Mate saw it and thought it was the Risso's Dolphin he had seen on a previous trip.

The sea was lovely and calm but void of cetaceans and seabirds as we glided towards Lundy.  As we got nearer I saw a several Shag, Razorbill, Guillemot and a couple of Barrel Jellyfish floating by.

We arrived at the Landing Bay and I was disappointed that there were no Shag along the top of Mouse Island and also no Grey Seals on the rocks or in the water.

I left the Oldenburg and walked up to the village then along the main track where I was followed by swirling and noisy Skylarks. I reached Halfway Wall and crossed over to Jenny's Cove and was surprised to see how few birds were on the ledges compared to my visit last week. There were no auks rafting on the sea below but after a short while I spotted a couple of Puffins bobbing about in the sea. I also saw my first Swallow and Wheatear as I sat in the lovely sunshine.

Wheatear Annette Dutton 02
Wheatear (Annette Dutton)

I walked back to the village along the lower path passing the Battery and then over to the Old Lighthouse before walking down to the Landing Stage for the return journey.

Back on the Oldenburg I sat on the starboard side in the sun and chatted to Grant Sherman from the Marisco Tavern who was traveling back to the mainland. We saw lots of Barrel Jellyfish as we cruised along and after 20 minutes into the journey I spotted a Harbour Porpoise but it was gone before I could alert the passengers.

As we neared the coast I started to see more seabirds such as Razorbill, Guillemot, Kittiwake, Fulmar and Manx Shearwater but a noticeable lack of Gannet around Bull Point.

We arrived back in Ilfracombe and I returned to the bridge to collect my belongings and to say goodbye to Jason and to thank him for an enjoyable trip.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report ‘MS Oldenburg’ Bideford-Lundy 1 April 2017

Posted 09 April 2017

MARINElife/Lundy WLO Annette Dutton

Weather: Sunny with showers, Wind NW, sea state slight

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals
Grey Seal 2

Seabirds
Red-throated Diver
Manx Shearwater
Gannet
Shag
Cormorant
Herring Gull
Oystercatcher
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Greater Black-backed Gull
Kittiwake
Sandwich Tern
Guillemot
Puffin

Wildlife seen on Lundy
Soay Sheep
Sika Deer
Lundy Pony
Highland Cattle
Meadow Pipit
Rock Pipit
Skylark
House Martin

This was the first WLO trip of 2017 and I was looking forward to going back to Lundy Island, this time with my husband for company. The sun was shining as we walked from the car park to the Oldenburg and Julian greeted us as we boarded then I made my way over to the bridge to have a quick chat with Jason, the Captain before returning to the deck.We departed from Bideford Quay on time and as we cruised along the Estuary, I started my tour of the decks introducing myself to the passengers and talking about the work of MARINElife and what wildlife we were likely to see on the journey and on the Island.

I didn't notice anything as we made our way towards the channel but spotted a Cormorant as we passed Westward Ho! There were few seabirds about until we got about halfway across when I saw diver, identified as a Red-throated Diver by one of the passengers who is a regular visitor to Lundy and who then spotted a Sandwich Tern on a piece of wood.

The weather stayed reasonably fine although we did get a couple of showers which produced a lovely rainbow and provided some of the passengers with a photo opportunity.

As we got nearer Lundy I saw a lone Manx Shearwater then started to pick up the odd Gannet, Guillemot, Fulmar and several Oystercatchers. As we arrived at the landing stage it was nice to see the usual line up of Shag along the top of Mouse Island.

We left the Oldenburg and walked up towards the village, turning to follow the road and onto the path leading up past Hanmers holiday cottage to my favourite bench and viewpoint. The sound of Skylarks filled the air and House Martins flew by and I saw a seal in the bay below while we ate our lunch in the sunshine.

First stop after lunch was a stop at the Castle to scan the sea to see if any cetaceans were about but sadly saw none so we carried on walking back to the village and along the main track where we saw the Sika Deer in a field next to the Highland Cattle then we passed the Lundy Ponies before crossing over to Jenny's Cove.

Grey Seal Annette Dutton 06
Grey Seal (Annette Dutton)

It was nice to sit at Jenny's Cove in the sun especially as it was not too windy. There were already quite a few Guillemots on the ledges along with a some Kittiwakes and Herring Gulls. There were groups of auk rafting on the sea below and amongst them I could just about make out a Puffin or two.

We started to walk back towards the Old Light, stopping to look in the Lamp Room then across to the Marisco Tavern for a drink and a chat to regular birders who told me that they had seen over 30 Puffin in Jenny's Cove earlier on in the day. Walking down towards the Landing Bay I saw a seal swimming about and a group of Oystercatchers flying past.

The return journey started off with sightings of small groups of Manx Shearwater, Guillemot and Razorbill which continued until we reached the estuary then, as we neared the North Devon coast, we were treated to a lovely sunset.

Bristol Channel sunset Annette Dutton 01
Photo: Annette Dutton

We arrived back in Bideford and I returned to the bridge to collect my belongings and to say goodbye to Jason, Vernon and Julian and to thank them for an enjoyable trip.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘MS Oldenburg’ Ilfracombe-Lundy Saturday 22 October 2016

Posted 23 October 2016

MARINElife/Lundy WLO Annette Dutton

Weather: Dry and sunny, Sea State slight, Wind Easterly

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals
Common Dolphin 2
Grey Seal 2

Seabirds
Herring Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Greater Black-backed Gull
Shag
Oystercatcher
Kittiwake
Gannet

Wildlife seen on Lundy
Wheatear
Meadow Pipit
Starling

This was my last trip over to Lundy for 2016, it was dry and sunny and the sea looked calm so I was hoping to see cetaceans. I collected my ticket, boarded the Oldenburg and went up to the bridge to sort out my belongings and collect my Hi-Viz jacket. Paul, the Captain was not around so I went out onto the deck and started chatting to the passengers.

We left Ilfracombe Harbour and I scanned the area around Capstone for Porpoise as I usually see them there but I didn't see any, although a Gannet flew by as we passed Lee Bay. I moved down to the lower deck to speak to the passengers, handing out MARINElife leaflets, explaining what we do and what to see on the journey and on Lundy.

Lundy Annette Dutton 08
Lundy cliffs (Annette Dutton)

I was at the rear of the Oldenburg when I suddenly spotted something dark in the ship's wake and realised it was 2 dolphins, I shouted and several passengers came over to see but they were gone. We passed several Guillemots bobbing about and the odd Razorbill but alas saw no more dolphins.

As we neared Lundy there were masses of feeding seabirds including Gannet, Kittiwake, in vain I searched the area for cetaceans but saw none. There were a couple of regular visitors to Lundy on board so I asked if they had spotted anything but they hadn't either.

We arrived at the Landing stage and I got off the Oldenburg  pretty sharpish as I wanted to walk up to Gannet's Bay to look for seals. I sat on a bench by the shop to eat lunch then headed up the main track to three quarter wall, passing a large flock of Starling, Highland cattle and Lundy ponies, as I approached Tibbets, a flock of Soay sheep ran past.

Lundy cow Annette Dutton 01
Highland calf (Annette Dutton)

I arrived at Gannet's Bay but it was high tide so I couldn't see any seals so I finished my lunch and started to make my way back along the track. There was an easterly wind which had started to pick up so the usually sheltered eastern side of the Island was chilly and by the time I reached the village it was quite windy.

I wandered down to the landing bay and spotted a Grey Seal in the waves, the wind was fairly strong by now and the Oldenburg was rolling about. As I was waiting to board I saw another Grey Seal high up on the rocks and another one swam over and settled below.

Grey Seal Annette Dutton 05
Grey Seals in Landing Bay (Annette Dutton)

I said a silent goodbye to Lundy as we left, there were still lots of feeding seabirds and again passed several Guillemots and Razorbills plus the odd Gannet as we made our way towards the North Devon coast.

Arriving at Ilfracombe, I said my goodbyes to Paul, Vernon, Justin and the crew before leaving the Oldenburg for the last time in 2016. This was my third year volunteering for MARINElife and I would like to thank everyone who has made this possible, see you again in 2017.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘MS Oldenburg’ Ilfracombe-Lundy Saturday 15 October 2016

Posted 17 October 2016

MARINElife/Lundy WLO Steve McAusland

 

Weather: partially overcast, good visibility, light westerly breeze force 1 or 2

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals
Grey Seal 9

Seabirds
Fulmar
Manx Shearwater
Gannet
Shag
Herring Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Lesser Black Backed Gull
Guillemot
Shag
Herring Gull

Terrestrial Birds
Pied Wagtail
Sparrowhawk
Cormorant
Meadow Pipit
Kestrel
Meadow Pipit
Oystercatcher
Wood Pigeon
Skylark
Dunnock
Robin
Blackbird
Great Tit
Starling
Magpie
Jackdaw
Carrion Crow
Raven
Linnet

This was my last trip of 2016 as MARINElife Wildlife Officer and I was so looking forward to being out on the sea as the August and September trips were cancelled due to storms!

I arrived at the quay early and before collecting my ticket I had a walk around the area checking out the sea and any birds that might be around. Meadow Pipit, Pied Wagtail and the usual gulls were seen. A Sparrowhawk caught my eye gracefully hugging the contours of the car park before flying over towards the trees on the other side of Ilfracombe harbour.

Gannet Steve McAusland 03
Gannet (Steve McAusland)

Soon after, I boarded MS Oldenburg in bright autumnal weather conditions bound for Lundy. Jason the Captain and First Mate Vernon welcomed me aboard and I was soon amongst the passengers chatting and assisting some with bird identifications. As with all trips you always get to meet people from different parts of the world and today was no exception. I had a really interesting conversation with a gentleman from South Africa who told tales of his great trips that produced cetaceans that I have yet to see.

During the crossing Gannets were observed diving not too far from Morte Point, also on the crossing were Fulmar, Manx Shearwater, the usual gulls and Guillemot. Sadly no cetaceans were seen, however, a passenger did tell me that he had seen five Harbour Porpoise.

Grey Seal Steve McAusland 09
Grey Seal (Steve McAusland)

As we came towards the Lundy jetty five Grey Seal were observed both in the sea and hauled up on the rocks of Mouse Island.

I disembarked and proceeded to walk up to the wooded area around Milcombe house and finally stopping off at the 'Ugly' - a stone shelter with a corrugated iron roof and an excellent view out to sea - for lunch. I was joined here by a party of five people who had been staying on the Island, we were soon chatting about their time over the last few days and my trips and experiences of Lundy. The weather rapidly turned from bright sunshine and clouds to what could be described as a monsoon storm, heavy rain and wind battered the Island for three hours and we were all glad that the Ugly was there to keep us from the elements!

As I walked back to the jetty for the return sailing the weather changed for the better again and the sun was soon out and the wind had dropped to a slight breeze. Sadly my last trip didn't produce any cetaceans, but I look forward to next year and hopefully the opportunity to volunteer for more Lundy trips?

Before leaving the ship I thanked Jason the Captain and his crew for their hospitality this year and for supporting MARINElife.

MARINElife Survey Report: MS Oldenburg Ilfracombe-Lundy 1st October 2016

Posted 05 October 2016

Ruth Crundwell and Annette Dutton, Research Surveyors for MARINElife


Weather: Outward - overcast, light rain at first, moderate visibility: Westerly wind 4-5. Sea state 4-6.  Return - brighter, good visibility: Westerly wind changing to Easterly 4-5. Sea state 5

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 1

Seabirds
Gannet Morus bassanus 12
Guillemot Uria aalge 4
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 8
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 3
Juvenile gull Sp. 2
Auk Sp. 16

Annette and I met outside the Lundy Island Company booking office and greeted Alan Altoft, the Marinelife Wildlife Officer and Marinelife's Rick Morris who was undertaking the trip with his family. We were welcomed aboard the 'MS Oldenburg' by captain Jason and the crew and made our way to the bridge.

This was Annette's first survey (she also volunteers as a Wildlife Officer on this route) and as it was the final survey for the season, so hopes were high that we would get good sightings of cetaceans and seabirds that we knew were in the area.

Leaving at 10.00, we left the shelter of the harbour, but the conditions soon became challenging as we headed toward Lundy, so no cetaceans were seen, we did manage some sightings of seabirds including Gannet and Auk species, Rick also reported seeing a Storm Petrel on the outward journey.


Gannet Rick Morris 07
Gannet (Archive photo: Rick Morris)

We spent our 3 hours on Lundy enjoying watching the sea on the west coast from the comfort of the Old Light sun room before visiting St Helens church.

On the way back to the landing stage we met members of the Lundy Field Society who had been on the island for a week undertaking various surveys and activities.


Kittiwake juv Mike Bailey 04
Juvenile Kittiwake (Archive photo: Mike Bailey)

The return journey was smoother and speedier than the outward one, this gave a brief glimpse of a Harbour Porpoise and a number of seabirds including Gannet, Kittiwake (including a juvenile) and juvenile Guillemot with adults on the water. Rick observed 50-60 Gannets feeding with possibly porpoises in attendance just as we left Lundy and also reported seeing a Great Skua and juvenile Kittiwake on the homeward journey.

Many thanks to the crew of the Oldenburg, especially Vernon who looked after Annette and I so well during the outward journey when we found conditions challenging.

Ruth Crundwell and Annette Dutton, Research Surveyors for MARINElife

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘MS Oldenburg’ Ilfracombe-Lundy 17 September 2016

Posted 23 September 2016

MARINElife/Lundy WLO Annette Dutton

Weather: Wind SW, dry and sunny, sea state slight

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals
Grey Seal 10+

Seabirds
Herring Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Greater Black-backed Gull
Shag
Oystercatcher
Kittiwake
Gannet
Manx Shearwater

Wildlife seen on Lundy
Wheatear
Meadow Pipit
Linnet
Swallow
House Martin

The sea looked a bit choppy as I arrived at Ilfracombe but once onboard Jason,  the Captain, assured me it was going to be a good crossing. I left my belongings and went on to the deck and started chatting to some of the passengers, among them was a group from the Lundy Field Society who were going over for a working holiday.

Oldenburg Annette Dutton 01
View from the bridge of the Oldenburg (Annette Dutton)

As we left Ilfracombe I spotted a Manx Shearwater then a Gannet and after Julian had made the tannoy announcement regarding my presence onboard, several passengers came over to ask me lots of questions about the wildlife we might see and the work of MARINElife . It was quite bumpy at first but as we passed Morte Point the crossing became more enjoyable and it remained warm and sunny.

I had seen lots of dolphins and porpoises on my recent trips to Lundy so I had told the passengers to look out for them amongst groups of feeding Gannets but on this occasion there were none to be seen although a couple of passengers told me they had seen cetaceans. However, it was difficult to distinguish between fins and waves as the sea was choppy plus there was the glare of the sun too.

As we had made good time, the Oldenburg headed towards the north of the island and cruised along the coast to the Landing Stage which gave me the opportunity to look for seals and enjoy a close up of the sailing vessel Irene. There were a few seals hauled out on the rocks but I couldn't get an accurate count.

Meadow Pipit Annette Dutton 01
Meadow Pipit (Annette Dutton)

After leaving the Oldenburg I said hello to Becky, the Warden before making my way up to my favourite bench by Hanmers holiday cottage to have lunch and a bit of a seawatch. I was surrounded by Swallows and House Martins flitting about and I was also joined by a cheeky Meadow Pipit.

I could see a couple of seals in the landing bay but I didn't spot anything else so I wandered over to Castle Keep and along the path towards the Devil's Limekiln stopping to enjoy the view back towards the Devon coast before continuing to the Old Light then making my way back to the Oldenburg.

Lundy Annette Dutton 07a
Lundy coast (Annette Dutton)

We departed from Lundy and I was invited to join the crew on the bridge to improve my chances of spotting cetaceans but while I was there I only saw the odd Gannet. Then as we passed Bull Point there were several Gannets flying along the coast but I couldn't see any Harbour Porpoise.

We arrived back at Ilfracombe and I said goodbye to Jason, Vernon and Julian and thanked them for an enjoyable trip.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘MS Oldenburg’ Ilfracombe-Lundy 10 September 2016

Posted 14 September 2016

MARINElife/Lundy WLO: Maggie Gamble

Summary of sightings:

Cetaceans:
Common Dolphin 5
Harbour Porpoise 1

Seabirds:
Herring Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Black-headed Gull
Kittiwake
Fulmar
Guillemot
Razorbill
Shag
Gannet
Manx Shearwater
Common Scoter

I drove the down the M5 to Ilfracombe in heavy rain, hoping that the forecast fine day was to become a reality - it did thankfully.

Leaving Ilfracombe with a moderate sea state was not conducive to spotting the diminutive and shy  Harbour Porpoise which are often seen around this part of the coast and so it proved. Farther out from shore we had a few Common Dolphin approach the Oldenburg from behind and then quietly fade away but fortunately quite a few passengers still managed to see them. There is something about spotting a wild cetacean which never fails to make people smile.

Common Dolphin Steve McAusland 03
Common Dolphin (Archive photo: Steve McAusland)

For the birds there was a few Fulmar, Gannet, Guillemot, Razorbill, Manx Shearwaters and a variety of gulls throughout the trip. A surprise sighting was a distinctive low flying skein of Common Scoter, a large dark sea duck. Nearer to Lundy one of the passengers picked up the erratically waving fine fin of an Oceanic Sunfish, a unique and fast growing fish, which can grow to three or metres across. The smaller ones seen in UK waters follow the warm water currents to our shores in pursuit of their prey - jelly fish.

From the track leading down to the landing dock I watched an elegant two masted sailing vessel (a ketch) approaching under sail to moor in the bay. Once back on board the Oldenburg for the return to Ilfracombe the captain made a slight detour on departure so as to pass closer to the Irene giving ample opportunity to admire this lovely vessel which was originally built in Bridgwater. It was a fairly quiet trip back but as we approached Ilfracombe a single Harbour Porpoise was spotted by at least one passenger.

Ketch Irene Maggie Gamble 2016
The Irene (Maggie Gamble)

As ever, many thanks to the crew of the 'Oldenburg' for their help and assistance.

MARINElife reports: MS Oldenburg Ilfracombe-Lundy 3 September

Posted 05 September 2016

There was no WLO trip and monthly survey undertaken on the 3rd due to severe weather.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘MS Oldenburg’ Ilfracombe-Lundy 27 August 2016

Posted 28 August 2016

MARINElife/Lundy WLO Ruth Crundwell

Summary of sightings:

Cetaceans:
Common Dolphin 12
Harbour Porpoise 1
Dolphin sp. 1 (passenger sighting)

Seabirds:
Manx Shearwater
Herring Gull
Gannet
Shag
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Auk sp.
Storm Petrel (passenger sighting)
Great Skua (passenger sighting)

We left Ilfracombe harbour on a slightly cloudy Bank Holiday Saturday, with a fresh easterly breeze making the sea state 4 with some white caps to the waves. However, with reports of cetacean sightings on recent sailings I was optimistic we would we see some on this one.

Manx Shearwater Tim Balmer 01
Manx Shearwater (Archive photo: Tim Balmer)

Heading out into the channel, I made my way around the decks to introduce myself to the passengers, explaining how MARINElife is working in partnership with the Landmark Trust, who manage Lundy Island, to enhance the crossing by giving guidance and help.

The outward journey was relatively quiet with just a few sightings of Gannet and Manx Shearwater halfway across to Lundy, although a passenger later informed me he had seen the fin of single dolphin and a Storm Petrel. Approaching Lundy we passed a raft of Herring and Lesser Black-backed Gulls made up of adults and their recently fledged young. We also saw Shags flying past heading further offshore to feed. Reaching Lundy, I stayed around the south end of the island for lunch.

common dolphin Peter Howlett 26
Common Dolphin (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

The return trip back to Ilfracombe was a little more exciting. Things kicked off with spotting the fin of a lone Harbour Porpoise, which only came up once on the starboard side. Then, while looking at Manx Shearwaters on the port side, we were treated to the sight of Common Dolphin in pairs heading towards the boat on the starboard side on two occasions.

Other bird sightings on the return jounrey included many juvenile gulls, auks in winter plumage and a juvenile tern and a passenger mentioned he had seen a Great Skua.

As ever, huge thanks to the crew of the Oldenburg for their help and assistance.

MARINElife Survey Report: ‘MS Oldenburg’ Bideford-Lundy 6 August 2016

Posted 10 August 2016

Fiona McNie and Alan Sumnall; Research Surveyors for MARINElife
Westward: sea state mainly 1 and 2. Return: sea state 2 and 3

Marine Mammals
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 1
Common Dolphin (Short-beaked) Delphinus delphis 36

Seabirds
Gannet Morus bassanus 67
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 5
Guillemot Uria aalge 76
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 8
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 54
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 47
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 2
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 7
Gull sp. 123
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 6
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 1

Terrestrial Birds
Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos 5

The survey kicked off with a Harbour Porpoise sighting not far from shore and as we approached Lundy we encountered three distinct Common Dolphin groups.  There were potentially a few larger dolphins nestled in the group, possibly males, but we were unable to get a clear view of them for confirmation.

Birds were also steady on the journey with lots of sightings of Kittiwake and Guillemot, and it was really lovely to see quite a few adult Guillemot with their chicks.

Guillemot Adrian Shephard 01

Guillemot parent and chick (Adrian Shephard)

Off effort sightings were also excellent, and these started with a Peregrine Falcon, in the estuary under the bridge, swooping down towards the water.  Also within the estuary were numbers of Little Egret resting on trees, accompanied by Grey Heron, most likely a heron colony which egrets were utilising. The birds on Lundy themselves were really good too, and with the great bird expertise of Alan, we spotted Wheatear, Dunnock, Meadow Pipet, a few remaining Puffin, Wren, Swallow, Kestrel, and even one more sighting of Common Dolphin spotted from Lundy Island when walking along the coast path.

Swallow Adrian Shephard

Swallow (Adrian Shephard)

In addition, a nature tour group on the Oldenburg, led by a well-known local ecologist were lucky enough to spot 2 Leatherback Turtle as the vessel was coming into Lundy.  These would have been in a very similar place to where we saw the Common Dolphin, so unfortunately had been missed by the surveyors, but it's exciting to know they were there.

So all in all a great day, and our thanks go to the staff and crew of the Oldenburg who were very accommodating as ever.

Fiona McNie and Alan Sumnall; Research Surveyors for MARINElife