Ilfracombe or Bideford-Lundy

Recent Sightings

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

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

Posted 09 August 2016

MARINElife/Lundy WLO Vicky Dewar-Fowler

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals:
Common Dolphin 30+
Grey seal

Seabirds:
Herring Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Cormorant
Fulmar
Guillemot
Puffin
Gannet
Manx Shearwater

Other birds:
Little Egret
Grey Heron
Peregrine
Kestrel
Meadow Pipit
Wheatear

I arrived in Bideford on a bright sunny day for my first trip as a wildlife officer and my first solo trip to Lundy. Once on board the MS Oldenburg I made my way to the bridge to be greeted by the crew, this was also where I bumped into the MARINElife survey team.

As we left Bideford, to head down the Torridge estuary, I began to make my way around the ship to introduce myself to the paying passengers, explaining the work that MARINElife is carrying out and to let them know I would be on hand to answer any questions they may have about any of the wildlife seen on the crossing.

As I was making my rounds I was approached by Simon Dell, a Lundy tour guide, who told me about the wildlife he had seen on the crossings in the past few weeks and showed me the photos he had taken of Common Dolphin. With his knowledge we soon spotted a Peregrine on one of the uprights of the high bridge over the Torridge, along with a number of Little Egret and a few Grey Heron before reaching Appledore.

common dolphin Peter Howlett 21
Common Dolphin (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

Once we reached the channel I began my rounds again introducing myself to as many passengers as possible and heard reports of dolphins being spotted in the north Devon area only the day before. I had a lot of interest from a number of passengers wanting to know more about what they may see, particularly regarding the cetaceans and the Puffins on the Island and was engaged in conversation for the majority of the journey.

In the channel we started to pick up numerous species of gull, both adults and juveniles, Fulmar and Manx Shearwater. About an hour and a half into the journey I was alerted to something being spotted in the water (bringing a cetacean discussion with a couple of passengers to an end), the survey team had spotted a pod of 30+ dolphin, which became easily identifiable as Common Dolphin. As the boat neared the pod the excitement built up and the pod split with good views of the dolphins now being seen from either side of the ship. A little further on I spotted a few more dolphin a greater distance out on the port side. As we reached Lundy, Gannet and Manx Shearwater were spotted.

Once on Lundy I joined the Survey team for lunch before heading out of the village to walk up the east side of the island. From the path we spotted a small pod of dolphin out in the distance and numerous Grey Seals hauled out on the rocks. We were also joined on our walk by a number of bird species including Kestrel, Peregrine, Cormorant, Meadow Pipit and Wheatear. Half way up the island I left the survey team heading north and crossed the island in the hope of catching a glimpse of any remaining Puffin at Jenny's cove. After some time scanning the rocks I caught a glimpse of a pair of distinctive orange feet and saw a pair of Puffin tucked in amongst the cliffs surrounded by gulls.

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

I then headed back down to the harbour ready for the return crossing. As the queue was building the crowd were entertained by some Grey Seals a the quayside. Once on the Oldenburg, Simon, the Lundy guide, informed me that he had seen two Leatherback Turtles from the island.

The return crossing was quieter than the journey out with gulls, Gannet and Manx Shearwater being seen. A number of Guillemot were seen resting on the water as we approached the mouth of the estuary mouth and a large number of juvenile gulls were disturbed by the MS Oldenburg within the estuary.

Many thanks to the crew of the 'Oldenburg' for their help and assistance.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘MS Oldenburg’ Ilfracombe-Lundy 30 July 2016

Posted 03 August 2016

MARINElife/Lundy WLO Steve McAusland

Weather: Bright sunshine and westerly breeze, sea state 2

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals
Common Dolphin 15
Harbour Porpoise 1
Grey Seal 6

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

Terrestrial birds
Meadow Pipit
Wheatear
Starling
Carrion Crow
Jackdaw
House Sparrow
Wood Pigeon
Swallow
Linnet
Oystercatcher
Skylark
Goldfinch
Spotted Flycatcher
Pied Wagtail
Cormorant

This week's Wildlife Officer trip to Lundy Island began in Ilfracombe, the sun was shining and the crew of MS Oldenburg were soon welcoming the many passengers on board. With me this trip was Ruby, my fiancée who like me, was looking forward to another excellent trip. Before boarding Emma who, along with her husband had recently attended a MARINElife training day, introduced herself and we chatted in the queue for the ship. Although primarily interested in volunteering to take part in the MARINElife surveys I took the opportunity to tell her about the role of wildlife Officer and what was involved.

After a brief chat on the bridge with Jason the ship's captain and Vernon the first mate, I began my tour around the upper and aft deck introducing myself to as many interested passengers as possible. Within 10 minutes of leaving Ilfracombe a single Harbour Porpoise made a few passengers run to the port side to catch a glimpse of this small cetacean.

Fulmar Peter Howlett 16
Fulmar (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

The first birds of note were Gannet, followed by Fulmar and Manx Shearwater. All three species were seen within a mile of the harbour. We soon had sightings of Kittiwake, Herring and Lesser Black-backed Gull and a single Great Black-backed Gull.

As we approached Lundy landing bay the first of six Grey Seal was seen. Our afternoon was spent in the wooded area around Milcombe house looking for birds of note, here a Spotted Flycatcher showed itself. Stopping for lunch on the eastern side of the Island, we conducted an hour of sea watching. Looking down to the sea there were many Razorbill, Guillemot, Gannet and the usual gulls.

Wheatear Steve McAusland 01
Wheatear on Lundy (Steve McAusland)

There were also numerous Goldfinches seen, perhaps not surprising as the species is one of the true success stories with a huge increase in their population throughout the UK. In the surrounding area the gorgeous sound of Skylark was heard and I watched many fly very high continuing their song. Linnet, Meadow Pipit and both adult and juvenile Wheatear were plentiful too.

During our descent towards the landing bay we stopped off to watch a very large shoal of Mullet that were very close inshore. As we expected, a playful Grey Seal soon appeared to start moving through them, it didn't take any of the fish, which suggests it was already full from an earlier meal.

During the return sailing two separate pods of Common Dolphin thrilled everyone on board. Firstly a pod of 12 individuals, then within 10 minutes 3 more were breaching within 500 metres of the ship.

Common Dolphin Steve McAusland 02b
Common Dolphin (Archive photo: Steve McAusland)

For me, volunteering as a MARINElife Wildlife Officer is always a great privilege as we get to meet some wonderful like-minded people interested in cetaceans and birds. However, when you point out a Porpoise or dolphin to passengers that have never seen a cetacean before, it is always a thrill for both them and me!

We arrived back in Ilfracombe harbour where the day's trip concluded, I thanked Jason and his crew for another successful day on behalf of MARINElife and I look forward to my next Lundy Wildlife Officer trip in August.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘MS Oldenburg’ Bideford-Lundy 23 July 2016

Posted 27 July 2016

MARINElife/Lundy WLO Annette Dutton

Weather: Wind southwesterly, sea state slight, dry, warm and sunny

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals
Grey Seal 17
Common Dolphin 2
Harbour Porpoise 10

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

Terrestrial birds
Little Egret
Meadow Pipit
Kestrel
Wheatear
Peregrine Falcon

I was looking forward to the trip from Bideford as there is more time to spend on the island giving us the opportunity to walk to the northern tip of Lundy. Joining me today was my husband and we arrived at Bideford, parked up then wandered down to where the MS Oldenburg was docked. There was a long queue and by the time we boarded there were no seats and even the standing room was limited. I went up to the bridge and introduced myself to Paul, the Captain and to collect my hi-viz jacket.

The Oldenburg left Bideford and started to make her way up the Torridge estuary passing Appledore and Instow then out to sea. I started to go round the decks and chat to the passengers then a tannoy announcement was made telling the passengers that a WLO was on board for this trip and people came over to speak to me. A lot of the passengers were eager to see the Puffins and I advised where they would find them.

North Light Lundy Annette Dutton
North Light, Lundy (Annette Dutton)

There were few sightings along the estuary then as we reached the open sea one of the regular passengers we were chatting to spotted something below in the water and he and my husband agreed it was an Ocean Sunfish although I didn't see it. Another passenger I spoke to on the lower deck who was also a regular visitor to Lundy told me he had just seen two Sandwich Terns.

I saw the odd Gannet, Guillemot, Kittiwake and Shag and I also had a very brief sighting of two Common Dolphin. As we neared the landing stage, I saw the large male Grey Seal that usually hangs around the bay and the row of Shag along the top of Mouse Island.

By now it was lovely and sunny and we left the Oldenburg to wander up to the village and along the main track stopping at Gannet's Bay to look at the seals below and to watch the Peregrine flying about. We continued to the top of the island where the views were fantastic, there were more seals in the sea below and we sat for a while overlooking the North Light.

There was a 'round the island' trip scheduled for 3.30 but as we wanted to explore the North of the island we decided to leave it and made our way along the coast path passing the Soay Sheep and over to Jenny's Cove to see the Puffins. A passenger alerted us to a Peregrine sat on top of the stack in front on the grassy slope where there must have been over 100 Puffins. The masses of Guillemot I had seen on the ledges on my previous trips had gone and I spotted a Kittiwake and it's chick hidden on a ledge.

Puffin Annette Dutton 02
Puffin at Jenney's Cove (Annette Dutton)

After a while the Puffins flew off the slopes and rafted on the sea below so we left and wandered back to the village for a quick pint in the Marisco Tavern before walking down to the landing stage.

The Oldenburg was arriving back from the 'round the island' trip and we boarded, managing  to find a spot by the railings on the port side to do some sea watching. The conditions were good as we left Lundy and we had only just left the island when I saw a group of four Porpoise swimming nearby then as we moved along we saw a further six much to the joy of the nearby passengers who saw them.

Again, seabird sightings were similar to the outward trip and as we approached Bideford I saw lots of Little Egret in the trees. The Oldenburg spun around to face seawards before docking and I went to the bridge to collect my belongings and to say goodbye to Paul and Vernon and to thank them for their help and support on the journey.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘MS Oldenburg’ Ilfracombe-Lundy 16 July 2016

Posted 21 July 2016

MARINElife/Lundy WLO Neil Spencer

Summary of sightings:

Marine mammals
Grey seal 4

Seabirds
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Kittiwake
Fulmar
Guillemot
Razorbill
Common Tern
Shag
Gannet
Manx Shearwater

I arrived in Ilfracombe on an overcast day and after collecting my ticket joined the queue of 150 other passengers waiting to board the Oldenburg. This was my first trip as a solo WLO but once on the bridge Skipper Jason was friendly and welcoming. He told me that recent crossings had been quiet in terms  sightings, although they had seen some Puffins recently but no Gannets.

The sea conditions were slight and with the overcast skies the sea colour was a dull grey, not the easiest condition to spot marine life. Heading out into the channel, I made my way around the decks to introduce myself to the passengers, explaining the work of MARINElife and the partnership with the Landmark Trust who manage Lundy Island.

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

As we started to make our way across we began to see gulls and numerous Manx Shearwater. The Manx Shearwater provided many good opportunities to actively engage passengers in spotting their characteristic flight behaviour. Although the conditions were not the best for spotting cetaceans the crossing out to Lundy did provide a chance to see Shag, Guillemot, Kittiwake, Lesser and Great Black-back Gull, as well as the shearwaters.

On reaching Lundy there were 3 or 4 Grey Seals in the harbour which were enjoyed by the passengers, again this provided more opportunities to engage passengers in conversations about marine wild life on Lundy.

After seeing the seals in the harbour I made my way along the east coast footpath with the intention of seeking out an opportunity to spot any Peregrine Falcon. I was not disappointed and I was able to watch the Peregrines in action as well as seeing them resting on rocks above the quarry.

Peregrine Peter Howlett 03
Peregrine Falcon (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

The return back to Ilfracombe was fairly quiet with sporadic sightings of gulls, Common Tern, Manx Shearwater, Guillemot, Razorbill and several juvenile Gannet who seemed to be following us.

Many thanks to the crew of the 'Oldenburg' for their friendly help and assistance.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘MS Oldenburg’ Bideford-Lundy 9 July 2016

Posted 11 July 2016

MARINElife/Lundy WLO: Julie Hatcher

Summary of sightings:

Mammals
Grey Seal

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

Waders
Little Egret
Grey Heron
Curlew

Having collected my ticket I waited on the quayside at Bideford while the passengers boarded the MS Oldenburg, everyone seemed excited in anticipation of the trip. Although overcast it appeared fairly calm as we headed down the river and out of the estuary. Passing the saltmarsh as we headed down-river to the open sea I saw several Little Egret, a Grey Heron and a flock of very well camouflaged Curlew.

I spoke to a few people as I made my way around the decks to introduce myself to the paying passengers. Everyone wanted to know what sort of animals we might see on the crossing. As we left the estuary behind the swell picked up and I pointed out a couple of juvenile Gannet flying low over the waves. Small numbers of Guillemot, Razorbill and a Fulmar passed us and as we started to near Lundy their numbers increased.

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

Groups of 20 or so Manx Shearwater were active on either side of the ship, shearing gracefully over the waves in the strong wind. We spotted several pairs of what appeared to be adult and fledgling Guillemots sitting on the water and paddling away as the boat approached.

Although we all watched keenly we did not spot any cetaceans but as we sailed into the sheltered waters of the cloud-topped island there were 3 or 4 Grey Seal popping their heads up to watch us tie up to the quay.

Low cloud was covering the top of the island and very strong winds battered the west side. After a short walk around the southwest corner of the island and saying hello to the little piglets in the farm I took shelter in the warmth of the Marisco Tavern for lunch and then headed back down to explore the rock pools and seashore close to the landing bay.

GBB Gull Peter Howlett 08
Great Black-backed Gull (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

The first half of the return voyage was exhilarating but the strong wind and big waves made cetacean spotting tricky. However, we were entertained instead by close views of Manx Shearwater, Gannet, Guillemot and Razorbill as well as several Great Black-backed and Herring Gull that followed the ship. Several passengers also spotted jellyfish as we neared the mainland. As we enjoyed the calm and shelter of the estuary and approached Bideford I made my way to the bridge to thank Captain Jason and his crew for their help and assistance.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report ‘MS Oldenburg’ Ilfracombe-Lundy 2 July 2016

Posted 08 July 2016

MARINElife/Lundy WLO: Annette Dutton

Weather: Dry with sunny periods, sea state moderate, wind northwesterly

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals
Common Dolphin 2 (mother and calf)
Grey Seal 4

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

Wildlife seen on Lundy
Lundy Goat
Soay Sheep
Lundy pony
Wheatear
Meadow Pipit
Linnet
Swallow
House Martin

I arrived at Ilfracombe Harbour, collected my ticket from the office then waited in the queue to board the Oldenburg. After a short hold up due to an incident with the mobile gangway we all boarded and I went up to the bridge to say hello to Jason, the Captain and to sort my belongings out.

I started to go round the decks as soon as we left the harbour as I could see it was going to be a bit rough and we had already started to roll about a bit. The announcements were made then Julian announced my presence as MARINElife WLO and I waved at everyone which made it a lot easier to introduce myself. Many of the passengers were keen to find out what they may see on the journey and on Lundy, especially the Puffins.

Common Dolphin Charles McGibney 01
Common Dolphin (Archive photo: Charles McGibney)

My first sighting was of a Gannet followed by a Manx Shearwater and an auk although. About half way across one of the nearby passengers alerted me to a couple of dolphins to the starboard side of the ship which I saw were a mother and her calf. The sightings of Gannet, Manx Shearwater and auks continued until we neared Lundy then a Razorbill hovered over us for a while providing a photo opportunity for one of the passengers and someone shouted 'Penguin'.

 

On the final approach to the Island I saw a Puffin bobbing about and as we were turning towards the Landing Stage I noted two Guillemot, four Manx Shearwater, a Gannet and a Shag. There were also two Grey Seal below the rocks of Mouse Island.

 

Leaving the Oldenburg, I stopped for a quick chat to Becky, the Warden, who was on the Landing Stage then wandered up towards the village. Although Becky had told me of the huge numbers of Puffin at Jenny's Cove, I decided to explore the south of the Island and took the road up to the Castle then followed the track past Hanmers cottage and stopped for lunch on the nearby bench. By now the skies were clear and it was lovely and warm on the sheltered eastern side of the Island but a passing couple told me it was quite windy on the western side.

Lundy Annette Dutton 07
Hanmers Cottage and the Lundy coast (Annette Dutton)

After lunch I walked along the southwest of the Island for a while and it was a lot cooler and quite windy which made cetacean watching tricky. I headed back towards St Helens Church and crossed back over to Shutter Point where I met a couple of the passengers who pointed out some rafting auks below, on closer inspection there were 12 Razorbill. Nearby I noticed a Grey Seal down below in the water and a Kestrel hovering nearby. I started to make my way back to the village, stopping to say hello to a Lundy foal before carrying on down to the Landing Stage.

The journey back was still a bit bumpy but it was sunny and warm and many of the passengers were having a snooze in the sun. I saw the same seabirds as on the way over with the usual Gannet by Bull Point and a juvenile Gannet passing Lee Bay but sadly no cetaceans this time. We arrived at Ilfracombe and I went back to the bridge to collect my bag and said goodbye to Jason and the crew as I left the Oldenburg.

 

MARINElife Survey Report: ‘MS Oldenburg’ Ilfracombe-Lundy 2 July 2016

Posted 02 July 2016

This survey was cancelled for logistical reasons.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘MS Oldenburg’ Bideford-Lundy 25 June 2016

Posted 29 June 2016

MARINElife/Lundy WLO Lucy Grable

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals
Common Dolphin 2
Harbour Porpoise 2
Grey Seal 6

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

Terrestrial Birds
House Martin
Skylark
Starling
Common Swift
Swallow
Linnet
Jackdaw
Meadow Pipit
Wheatear
House Sparrow
Blackbird
Peregrine Falcon
Pied Wagtail
Mallard
Coot

Lundy wildlife
Sika Deer
Highland Cattle
Soay Sheep

After excitedly collecting my ticket from the shore office, I proceeded to board the beautiful MS Oldenburg where I was welcomed aboard by Jason the ship's Captain and his crew. I placed myself on the very popular outer decks to greet the passengers and tell them about the various marine wildlife often seen on the crossing.

Once leaving Bideford, the weather soon brightened up and I was very hopeful for a glimpse of some cetaceans. Unfortunately, the sea state soon crept up to a 4 which made this difficult. I did however spot a couple of Harbour Porpoise fins amongst the white caps, but they were too far away to alert the passengers. The outward journey to Lundy was fairly quiet to begin with. Once in the channel, small numbers of Manx Shearwater, Gannet, Herring Gull, Guillemot and Razorbill were seen, but it was not until we approached the island that the numbers really began to pick up.

Puffin Peter Howlett 02
Puffin (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

Arriving on Lundy, a large number of passengers that were last to disembark stopped along the jetty and joined me watching a few Grey Seals playing around Landing Bay. It was a beautiful day for a walk so I set off along the west coast of the island for magnificent views all around. I stopped for a quick pit stop at Jenny's Cove where there were large numbers of Puffin, Guillemot and Razorbill. A majority of the passengers were able to see the Puffins here and for many it was the highlight of their day. I then carried on walking along the island until I reached the three quarter wall before taking the central track back. Five Sika Deer were leaping and bounding across the track just ahead which was a delight to see as well as frequent Highland Cattle and Soay Sheep. A huge variety of bird species were spotted on my walk including Skylark, Swallow, Meadow Pipit, Wheatear, Pied Wagtail and a single Peregrine Falcon.

Whilst waiting to board the Oldenburg for the return journey, I noticed a huge abundance of Moon Jellyfish and a single Compass Jellyfish floating in the Landing Bay. As we left Lundy behind us, a large number of Gannet were seen feeding which pleased the many photographers on-board. We were also treated to spectacular displays of Manx Shearwater for the majority of the return leg as well as the occasional floating auk.

Common Dolphin Ruth Griffith 02a
Common Dolphin (Archive photo: Ruth Griffith)

The cetacean front was looking very quiet and as I was doing the rounds one lovely lady named Sally asked me if I had seen any marine mammals yet. Low and behold at that exact moment two Common Dolphin leapt out of the water 20 metres in front of us. Later, I asked Sally to ask me the same question again, but alas no more cetaceans appeared.

The return leg was much busier with queries from the passengers, however. Questions such as "how do dolphins sleep?" and "how do dolphins talk?" were answered as well as general identification questions.

Oldenburg Lucy Grable 01
Oldenburg in Landing Bay (Lucy Grable)

Just as we were approaching Bideford, I was greeted by Beccy Macdonald, Lundy's resident warden, and we had a quick chat about all things marine before disembarking. I had a fabulous first trip to Lundy and I cannot thank the Landmark Trust, Oldenburg crew and Beccy enough.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘MS Oldenburg’ Ilfracombe-Lundy 18 June 2016

Posted 23 June 2016

MARINElife/Lundy WLO: Steve McAusland

Weather: Cloudy but clearing to sunny, westerly breeze, sea state 2

Summary of sightings:

Marine mammals
Grey Seal 3

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

Terrestrial birds
Meadow Pipit
Wheatear
Starling
Carrion Crow
Jackdaw
House Sparrow
Wood Pigeon
Feral Pigeon
Swallow
Linnet
Blackbird
Dunnock
Oystercatcher
Skylark
Goldfinch

This week's Wildlife Officer Trip to Lundy Island began in Ilfracombe, the morning started cloudy but as we made our way towards Lundy the weather brightened up and soon the sun was shining.

The crew of MS Oldenburg welcomed the many passengers on board in their customary cheery manner. This particular voyage also had the people going to the island for the four day MARINElife experience led by Rick Morris and MARINElife Patron Maya Plass.

Gannet Steve McAusland 06
Gannet (Steve McAusland)

After a brief chat on the bridge with Jason, the ship's captain, I began my tour around the upper and lower decks introducing myself to as many interested passengers as possible. As usual the conversations were positive and it's always great to hear other likeminded people's wildlife experiences.

As the ship left Ilfracombe harbour, the first birds of note were Gannet, followed by Fulmar and Manx Shearwater, all were seen within a mile of the harbour. We soon had many Kittiwake, Herring Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull and a few distant Great Black-backed Gull.

As the Oldenburg approached the Lundy landing bay the first of three Grey Seal was seen bobbing effortlessly. My afternoon was spent at Jenny's Cove scanning the nesting birds, here there were good numbers of Puffin, Guillemot, Razorbill and Kittiwake.

Puffin Steve McAusland 01
Puffin (Steve McAusland)

Just before we left Lundy Rat Island provided a further Grey Seal. The return sailing was rather quiet but six rafting Puffin were seen off the port side, much to many peoples delight.

We arrived back in Ilfracombe harbour and I thanked Jason, the captain and his crew, for another successful day on behalf of MARINElife and I look forward to my next Lundy Wildlife Officer trip in July.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘MS Oldenburg’ Ilfracombe-Lundy 11 June 2016

Posted 12 June 2016

MARINElife/Lundy WLO: Rick Morris

Weather: Cloudy with sunny periods. Winds SW 1-3

Summary of sightings:

Marine mammals:
Common Dolphin 4
Harbour Porpoise 13
Grey Seal 2

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

Terrestrial Birds on Lundy:
Swallow
Starling
Carrion Crow
Jackdaw
Raven
Meadow Pipit
Rock Pipit
Wheatear
Skylark
Pied Wagtail
House Sparrow
Mallard
Rock Dove
Greylag Goose
Peregrine Falcon
Kestrel
Robin

The drive down to Ilfracombe had me wondering if I was going to get wet today as there were several showers on the way but upon reaching the harbour the dark skies lightened, the rain stopped and it stayed dry all day.

After popping into the shore office to say hello to Jacqui and Kate I joined the passengers waiting to board the 'Oldenburg' and once aboard went to the bridge to equip myself with camera and binoculars and headed out to talk to those on-board about the diversity of wildlife we see on the crossings to Lundy and on the island itself.

Rock Pipit Rick Morris 01
Rock Pipit - a common bird around Lundy's cliffs (Rick Morris)

We slipped our mooring at 10:00 under an overcast sky with light winds and a fair sea state offering good chances of spotting cetaceans! We had just left Bull Point behind us when 4 Common Dolphin appeared around 300m off the stern with a couple of passengers able to get views. Shortly after this the first Harbour Porpoise were seen with further sightings on the journey out to Lundy, thanks to a sea state of 2. This did increase to a 3 around the halfway point, but still good enough to pick out rafting auks, gulls and Manx Shearwater. Gannet numbers were still very low with only 8 seen throughout the whole day.

A Grey bull Seal was seen 'bottling' watching us watching him and again I managed to get lots of passengers to see.  We continued to get plenty of auks with the occasional charismatic Puffin as we headed into the Landing Bay under the watchful eye of another Grey Seal.

Puffin Rick Morris 04
Puffins in Jenny's Cove (Rick Morris)

I decided to walk straight up to Jenny's Cove (now under blue skies) and take in the stunning views whilst consuming the contents of my lunchbox. I was joined on my walk by a few different folk that wanted to know I bit more about our work and what to see on the island.

It was soon time to return to the ship and I made my way back via the 'Old Light', the village and down through Millcombe Valley. Having arrived at the landing jetty with plenty of time to spare, I popped into 'Devil's Kitchen' and sat watching a couple of seals with Oystercatcher noisily flying around. The wind and sea had picked up slightly for the return making it a little more difficult for distant sightings but Harbour Porpoise and a good variety of seabirds were still observed. A passenger alerted me to a single shearwater and, once I got onto it, I was able to see that in fact it was a juvenile Gannet. Shortly afterwards the 'round the world' yacht 'Challenge Wales' appeared off the port side offering great views.

Lundy path Rick Morris
The main track on Lundy (Rick Morris)

Arriving at Ilfracombe, Jason (captain) skillfully maneuvered us past some yachts to get to our mooring and once tied off, I said my thanks and joined the passengers to alight. My thanks to the crew, the Landmark Trust, shore office and island staff for all their help and support.

MARINElife Survey Report: ‘MS Oldenburg’ Ilfracombe-Lundy 4 June 2016

Posted 08 June 2016

Rick Morris and Ruth Crundwell, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884)

Weather: Out: overcast with reduced visibility, wind easterly 1-2
Return: cloudy with sunny spells, good visibility, wind easterly 1-2

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals:
Harbour porpoise Phocoena phocoena 19
Common Dolphin Delphinus delphis 60
Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus 2

Seabirds:
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 3
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 38
Storm Petrel Hydrobates pelagicus 4
Gannet Morus bassanus 9
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 3
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 20
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 7
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 2
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 2
Puffin Fratercula arctica 3
Guillemot Uria aalge 137
Razorbill Alca torda 66
Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus 2
Gull sp. 1
Auk sp. 6

We arrived in Ilfracombe on a warm misty Saturday morning, meeting Annette the WLO for this trip outside the shore office. Boarding the MS Oldenburg we made our way to the bridge and were greeted by Jason the Captain. We also met Beccy Macdonald, Lundy's resident warden who had been staying on the 'mainland' for a few days.

We left around 10 am, heading out into a near flat sea with a light sea mist. Just as we were leaving the harbour before the survey had officially started, Harbour Porpoise were seen around the headland much to the delight of those on board and on shore. After that hopes of sighting more cetaceans were high.

Common Dolphin Rick Morris 04
Common Dolphin (Rick Morris)

The flat calm sea made it easy to see even single birds just loafing on the water. Beccy helped out with sightings too and we observed a good number of seabirds including Guillemot, Razorbill and Gannet throughout the outward journey. A Grey Seal was sighted at 10.35 near Bull Point, then the welcome sight of a fin belonging to a Harbour Porpoise at 11.05. This was closely followed by sightings of more Harbour Porpoise and also Common Dolphin - at times on both sides of the ship which kept us busy until we landed on Lundy. A surprise sighting of 4 Storm Petrels two of which were together also added to the excitement and were the bird highlight of the day.

Moon jellyfish could be seen in the harbour near the jetty as we made our way up the hill to walk to Jenny's Cove, where we had our lunch watching puffins and other auks on their cliff nesting spots.

The return journey was equally as busy with sightings of Harbour Porpoise, Common Dolphin as well as a variety of auk species, Manx Shearwater, Fulmar, Gannet and gulls.

Common Dolphin Rick Morris 05
Common Dolphin (Rick Morris)

After arriving back in Ilfracombe we said our thanks to the crew of MS Oldenburg particularly Jason and Vernon who had looked after us so well and set off for a fish supper at the Lynbay chippy and to reflect on a fantastic survey.

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

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report ‘MS Oldenburg’ Ilfracombe-Lundy Saturday 4 June 2016

Posted 07 June 2016

MARINElife/Lundy WLO: Annette Dutton

Weather: Overcast, Sea State slight, Wind light

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals
Grey Seal 1
Common Dolphin 60+
Harbour Porpoise 10+

Seabirds

Herring Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Greater Black-backed Gull
Shag
Oystercatcher
Guillemot
Razorbill
Kittiwake
Gannet
Manx Shearwater
Storm Petrel
Puffin

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

It was a bit overcast when I arrived at Ilfracombe Harbour but the sea state was calm so I was hopeful of spotting cetaceans on the way over to Lundy Island. I met up with Rick Morris and Ruth Crundwell who were doing the monthly survey then we boarded the Oldenburg and went up to the bridge to say hello to Jason, the Captain and to deposit my belongings. Becky MacDonald, the Lundy Warden was on board returning to the Island so we had a quick chat before I went back onto the deck.

Shortly after leaving Ilfracombe Harbour and whilst waiting for the tannoy announcements to finish, I spotted 2 Harbour Porpoise in the distance looking towards the Welsh Coast, a mother and calf. As we headed offshore the cloud cleared and it was sunny and warm as I started my tour of the decks to engage with the passengers. I soon started to note the many Guillemot and Razorbill I would see on the crossing along with regular sightings of Gannet. About half way across Bideford Bay I noticed movement on the water towards Hartland Point and made out a couple of Common Dolphin but they were too far away to alert the passengers.

Common Dolphin Annette Dutton 01
Common Dolphin (Annette Dutton)

As we neared Lundy Island the sea state became very calm and glassy, I spotted some disturbance in the distance over on the starboard side which on closer inspection was several Common Dolphin then a group of passengers were pointing to the north of the island where there was a large number of them feeding along with several Manx Shearwater. Then a passenger alerted me to a small seabird flying past which he thought was a Storm Petrel, luckily he had an impressive camera and from the photos we initially thought it might have been a Wilson's Petrel but further investigation by Becky proved it to be a juvenile Storm Petrel. The Oldenburg stopped for several minutes to allow the passengers to enjoy the spectacle then carried on to the landing stage.

I re-joined Rick and Ruth and we made our way up to the village and over to Jenny's Cove for lunch. We sat in the warm sunshine watching the spectacle of the many Puffin along with Guillemot, Razorbill, Kittiwake, Fulmar and other seabirds, we also spotted a male Grey Seal in the bay and heard the call of the Peregrine Falcon.

Puffin Annette Dutton 01
Puffins (Annette Dutton)

After lunch and taking many photographs we walked back to the village and down to the landing bay, stopping at the Marisco Tavern to say hello to head barman Grant Sherman.

There were more passengers on the journey back and the Oldenburg glided through the glassy sea. Again, we passed many Guillemot and Razorbill along the way then after about 35 minutes I spotted a couple of Common Dolphin in the distance from the port side then suddenly a larger group were fast approaching the Oldenburg and swam around the bow to the starboard side. The passengers were ecstatic as the dolphins played in the bow waves then in the wash at the rear of the Oldenburg. Afterwards, one of the passengers pointed out a huge Bull Grey Seal bobbing about then I had another brief glimpse of a couple of Porpoise.

The auks stayed with us until we neared Bull Point where the sky was now overcast and it was a lot cooler. During the rest of the journey I only saw a single Gannet along the coastline around Lee Bay.

On the approach to Ilfracombe Harbour I re-joined Rick and Ruth on the bridge and we gathered our belongings, said our goodbyes to Jason and thanked him and the crew for their help and hospitality on the trip.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘MS Oldenburg’ Ilfracombe-Lundy 28 May 2016

Posted 03 June 2016

MARINElife/Lundy WLO: Andy Gilbert

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals
Grey Seal 3

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

Lundy Birds
Oystercatcher
Goldfinch
Blackbird
Chiffchaff
Raven
Wren
Carrion Crow
Peregrine Falcon
Skylark
Kestrel
Wheatear
Meadow Pipit
Wood Pigeon
Starling
House Sparrow

With the SS Oldenburg almost full to capacity on this bank holiday weekend, we cruised out of the harbour and into the Bristol Channel to find a millpond - sea state zero. Excited at the perfect cetacean spotting conditions, and having toured the decks introducing myself, I set myself up on the top deck with a number of passengers ready to make the most of the conditions.

Grey Seal Peter Howlett 03
Grey Seal (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

After a couple of Razorbill and Fulmar we spotted a male Grey Seal in the water checking us out as we passed by. Unfortunately soon after that the sea mist descended and we were shrouded in fog for the rest of the journey with little more sighted than a few more auks and a Manx Shearwater disappearing into the fog.

However, once on Lundy I climbed the path from the landing bay and emerged through the fog into beautiful sunshine and the island in all its spring glory. I walked the eastern coast path past Bluebells, Sea Pinks and Red Campion and spotted lots of Green-veined White butterflies on the wing in the sunshine. I could see and hear a Chiffchaff in one of the copses and came across a group of Sika Deer quietly observing my passing.  As I approached Quarter Wall I could hear a Peregrine calling and spent some time locating it on the cliff.

Peregrine Peter Howlett 02
Peregrine Falcon (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

After eating my lunch on the cliffs I headed up onto the central plateau and found a Kestrel hunting above the heath studded with the tiny yellow flowers of Tormentil. Many Skylark flew and sang as I crossed the island to take a seat above Jenny's Cove and watch the Puffin, Fulmar and Guillemots.

Back at the landing beach a couple of Grey Seals popped out of the water to observe us as we queued to board the ship for the return journey. The fog had cleared for the trip back to Ilfracombe and the sea state had risen a little. However, that didn't help matters and it was a very quiet journey back.

Many thanks to Captain and crew of the Oldenburg for always making us welcome and supporting our work.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘MS Oldenburg’ Ilfracombe-Lundy 21 May 2016

Posted 24 May 2016

MARINElife/Lundy WLO Annette Dutton

Weather: Overcast, wind southerly, sea state moderate

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals
Grey Seal 4

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

Wildlife seen on Lundy
Lundy Pony
Lundy Goat
Swallow
House Martin
Peregrine Falcon

It was damp and drizzly when I reached Ilfracombe Harbour and I wondered what the visibility was going to be like on the crossing over to Lundy Island. I boarded the Oldenburg and went up to the bridge to say hello to Jason, the Captain, and to collect my MARINElife jacket.

The sun had made an appearance as we left the Harbour and I waited until the tannoy announcements had been made along with the additional announcement regarding the presence of a MARINElife WLO on board before making my way around the decks to chat to the passengers. I immediately saw a Gannet then shortly afterwards Julian, one of the crew came over and said he had just seen a Porpoise. I carried on talking to the passengers about the work of MARINElife and what wildlife we could see on the crossing and on the Island.

Lundy Old Light Annette Dutton 01
The Old Light on Lundy (Annette Dutton)

The sea state made moving around the decks a bit challenging and as we moved away from the coastline towards Bideford Bay it began to rain and this put a stop to my tour. I was unable to use my binoculars but managed to see several Gannet, Manx Shearwater and Great Black-backed Gull on the journey.

We approached the landing stage from the north of the island so I was unable to see if there were any seals on the rocks but I could see the row of Shag along the top of Mouse Island. As we landed the rain stopped but I could see the top of the Island was enveloped in cloud.

I made my way up to the village, keeping an eye out for seals in the bay on the way and stopping to say hello to Becky, the Warden. As I walked up a Peregrine Falcon flew by much to the delight of those on the guided walk who were behind me. I arrived at the village and the visibility was grim so I wandered over to the Old Light which was invisible until I was almost upon it. I was accompanied by the many Swallows and House Martins on the island but I didn't see or hear any other birds. I arrived at the Lighthouse and sat and ate my lunch in the newly refurbished lower light room which is an ideal place to shelter from inclement weather.

Lundy goat Annette Dutton 01
An impressive Lundy Goat (Annette Dutton)

The visibility still hadn't improved after lunch so I didn't go to Jenny's Cove as planned and made my way back to the village and over to the Castle. The mist lifted as I approached the village and I could see the sea and the Devon coast again. At the Castle I saw several Lundy Goat sat below on the grass and I noticed several Gannet flying over the sea, I scoured the waves for cetaceans but sadly saw none. I then noticed two Grey Seals in Devil's Kitchen below and as I walked back along the path down to the road I saw 2 more further along the coast.

We left Lundy and soon had regular sightings of Manx Shearwater, Gannet, Guillemot and the odd Razorbill along the way. As we passed Bull Point I saw what I thought was either a piece of wood or a seal bobbing on the water but as we got nearer it turned out to be a Great Skua. I saw several more Gannet along the coastline around Lee Bay but again no Porpoise.

We arrived back at Ilfracombe and as I had already collected my belongings, I managed to be first off the Oldenburg. Thanks again to Jason, Vernon, Julian and the crew for their help and kindness on the trip.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘MS Oldenburg’ Ilfracombe-Lundy 14 May 2016

Posted 19 May 2016

MARINElife/Lundy WLO Rick Morris

Weather: Mostly sunny with light easterly winds

Summary of sightings

Marine mammals:
Harbour Porpoise 2
Grey Seal 1

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

Terrestrial Birds on Lundy:
Swallow
Starling
Carrion Crow
Jackdaw
Raven
Meadow Pipit
Rock Pipit
Wheatear
Skylark
Pied Wagtail
House Sparrow
Mallard
Peregrine Falcon
Linnet
Robin
Wren
Dunnock
House Martin

It was a glorious sunny morning when I arrived in Ilfracombe with light easterly winds. I walked down to the harbour from the long stay car park and looking out to sea was pleased to see it looked quite calm and so I was hopeful of some cetacean sightings.

We set off on time at 10am and I made my way around the decks to have a chat with the passengers. I try to get folk to keep an eye out toward land as we head out toward Morte Point as we often get Harbour Porpoise in this area, unfortunately we saw none, although a solitary Grey Seal was seen feeding just over the halfway point. Seabirds were also very low on the outward trip (many are now on the breeding sites), with most noticeably no Gannet or Manx Shearwater seen.

Jennys Cove Rick Morris 01
Seabirds on the ledges in Jenny's Cove (Rick Morris)

Once on Lundy I decided to walk straight to Jenny's Cove to have lunch and watch the Puffin coming and going from their burrows, with a total of 57 counted. Also in good numbers on the ledges were Guillemot  together with Razorbill, Fulmar and Kittiwake. Around me you could hear the resident Meadow Pipit and Skylark and on the rocks beside me I had a Rock Pipit and Linnet for company.

For the walk back I chose the west side path to look into some of the bays in the hope of seeing seals and this produced a couple sightings. Reaching the village I stopped for a chat with some of the staff before heading down to the ship via Millcombe valley.

Puffin Rick Morris 02
Puffins on the sea in Jenny's Cove (Rick Morris)

Bird numbers increased for the return to Ilfracombe with regular sightings of Guillemot, Razorbill, Kittiwake, Gannet and a few small groups of Manx Shearwater. Upon reaching the North Devon coast I again gave more attention to looking toward land and this time was rewarded with 2 Harbour Porpoise swimming leisurely along past Lee Bay toward Bull Point. The sighting was all the more rewarding as I managed to get a good number of passengers onto them.

Arriving back into Ilfracombe Harbour (again in full sunshine), I popped onto the bridge to say farewell to Jason and Vernon and made my way home.

My thanks to the crew, the Landmark Trust, shore office and island staff for all their help and support.

Verity Rick Morris 02
Verity, Ilfracombe (Rick Morris)

MARINElife Survey Report: MV Oldenburg Ilfracombe-Lundy 7 May 2016

Posted 17 May 2016

Fiona McNie and Elizabeth Hall  Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884; Registered Company No. 5057367)

Weather: Wind E-SE 3-4, sea state 3, visibility very good, mainly cloudy.

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals
Bottlenose Dolphin Tursiops truncatus 1
Common Dolphin Delphinus delphis 1

Seabirds
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 14
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 1
Gannet Morus bassanus 11
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 4
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 60 (50 on cliffs)
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 11
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 2
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 15
Guillemot Uria aalge 19
Razorbill Alca torda 43
Gull sp.  8
Tern sp.  1
Auk sp.  8

Terrestrial birds
Swallow Hirundo rustica 1

The journey out to Lundy was exciting as usual, but perhaps from recent rain, a very large amount of natural debris such as branches and logs were floating on the surface. It's amazing how many dorsal fin shapes there are in logs, and more than one log had us fooled and excited - though just for a few seconds!

BND Peter Howlett 07
Bottlenose Dolphin (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

On approaching Lundy, the captain decided to head for the north of the island and travel down the length of it to the harbour, allowing passengers and surveyors the chance to see birds nesting in the cliffs on Lundy.  On the way back we experienced a large spring tide, which lead to so some rougher areas of sea in the races and also the Oldenburg travelling effortlessly back at very fast speeds of around 17 knots, which lead to a slightly shorter than normal return survey.

Although the crew have not been seeing many dolphins, we were graced with two sightings of dolphins - once on the journey out and once on the way back and, although not seen by the survey team, the WLO on board also managed to spot some Harbour Porpoise which some passengers on the deck saw.

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

The birds kept us busy, with a steady flow of auks, shearwater, and gulls, though not in high numbers. The birds also took advantage of the floating logs with many seen using them as resting platforms.

Thanks again to the crew on the Oldenburg, for allowing us to survey, and for being so hospitable to surveyors.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘MS Oldenburg’ Ilfracombe-Lundy 7 May 2016

Posted 14 May 2016

MARINElife/Lundy WLO Steve McAusland

Weather: Sea state was force 1 to 2 with westerly winds. Cloudy at first then hot and sunny on Lundy

Summary of sightings:

Cetaceans
Common Dolphin 1
Harbour Porpoise 4
Grey Seal 1

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

Birds on Lundy
Puffin
Meadow Pipit
Wheatear
Starling
Raven
House Sparrow
Wood Pigeon
Swallow
Robin
Blackbird
Oystercatcher
Skylark
Wren
Carrion Crow
Chaffinch
Goldfinch
Jackdaw
Mallard
Pied Wagtail
Chiffchaff
Willow Warbler
Whitethroat
Spotted Flycatcher

I arrived in Ilfracombe at 9:30am for my second Lundy trip of 2016 where the weather was dry and cloudy. I collected my ticket from the Landmark Trust office and proceeded to board the MS Oldenburg. Upon making my way up to the bridge I was welcomed on-board by Jason the ship's Captain. Entering the bridge's office I met up with Fiona McNie and Liz Hall who were on board to do this month's survey.

Steve McAusland WLO
Steve McAusland hard at work on the Oldenburg

Following introductions I left and proceeded to start my tour around the upper and lower decks introducing myself to the passengers. As the Oldenburg got under way I started to chat to many passengers about the possibility of seeing cetaceans. It's always a great moment when you explain to passengers that there is a good chance of spotting dolphins, porpoises, seals and much more. The ones I did speak to were very interested in the work of MARINElife and took a leaflet with a view to logging on to the website and to hopefully support the charity in the future.

One of the passengers was Charles McGibney who also volunteers for MARINElife whom I met last year when he did a Lundy survey. Charles was going to the island and staying for a number of days to do university research work relating to the Lundy seals.

Grey Seal Steve McAusland 08
Grey Seal (Steve McAusland)

As the ship passed Morte Point on the mainland we had our first sightings of Harbour Porpoise. Two animals about five minutes apart. During the crossing there were lots of trees and large branches floating by, one in the distance even looked like a tail fluke which got everyone's attention for a few seconds, sadly it was just the remains of another tree! Birds of note were Manx Shearwater and Gannet along with Guillemot and Razorbill rafting as the ship passed them by. The usual common gulls were seen along with Kittiwake and Fulmar.

As the Oldenburg made its way slowly towards the landing bay there was no sign of any seals on the rocks, however, I did see one before returning to the ship. As the 208 passengers disembarked, they began making their way up to the higher levels. I joined up with Fiona and Liz and we had lunch outside the island's shop. As Liz hadn't seen Puffins before we took the central track towards halfway wall, arriving at Jenny's Cove, I got my scope on to a total of fifteen Puffins both on the rocks and rafting on the sea. While we enjoyed the many birds and the stunning view we managed to assist over sixteen people in getting to see their very first Puffin. After a good hours spotting we began our walk back to meet up with Fiona for a cold drink in the Marisco Tavern, as we did, we saw Skylark, Meadow Pipit and many beautiful Wheatear.

Sika Steve McAusland 01
Sika Deer on Lundy (Steve McAusland)

Whilst walking back, the islands Sika Deer were spotted in a small group, the Lundy Ponies were grazing as too were the Highland Cattle. Other animals observed were the usual sheep and wild goats. The crossing back to Ilfracombe was a pleasant one and I got to chat to more people about MARINElife and I'm sure that there will certainly be a few Lundy day trippers looking to attend one of the training days that are organised for 2016.

Before disembarking I thanked Captain Jason for his and his crews' continued support for MARINElife. I look forward to my next trip in June.

 

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘MS Oldenburg’ Ilfracombe-Lundy 30 April 2016

Posted 04 May 2016

MARINElife/Lundy WLO Tony Chenery

Summary of sightings:

Cetaceans:
Harbour Porpoise 1

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

I arrived at Ilfracombe in good time, excited to be embarking on my first Lundy trip and my first outing as a MARINElife WLO. As the Oldenburg started on its way, I made my way around the decks to introduce myself to the passengers trying to spot the wildlife enthusiasts among the many bank holiday trippers. Setting out from Ilfracombe harbour the sun shone and it was comfortable out on deck. With a sea state 2, conditions were very favourable for sighting cetaceans.

Harbour Porpoise Mike Bailey 02a
Harbour Porpoise (Archive photo: Mike Bailey)

Leaving Ilfracombe we encountered Herring Gulls and heading out to sea we came across Great and Lesser Black-backed Gulls. Further on we saw Guillemot, Razorbill and Kittiwake. Approaching Lundy we encountered a single Harbour Porpoise, the Captain alerted me to its presence in front of the bow but it quickly trailed off to the port side. Coming up to the landing on Lundy we past several Shags and a lone Swallow flew past heading for the Island.

On Lundy I made my way around enjoying the scenery and wildlife, in particular a fall of Blackcaps and Willow Warblers that were flitting around in the sunlight among the available tree cover.

The return Journey quickly became exciting when we encountered several mixed feeding parties of Manx Shearwater, auks and Kittiwakes. As the feeding parties gradually grew smaller then disappeared we encountered Razorbill and Guillemot auks in ones, twos and threes.  Later these were added to by some Fulmar, several of which were intriguingly dark in colouration on the wings and back.

Razorbill Peter Howlett 07
Razorbill (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

I very much enjoyed my first trip as WLO. The return leg was particularly rewarding in terms of birdlife and it was interesting talking to some of the passengers that had been staying on Lundy, some of whom were particularly keen to hear about the work of MARINElife.

Thanks to the crew of the 'Oldenburg' for their help and assistance on my first trip as WLO.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘MS Oldenburg’ Ilfracombe-Lundy 23 April 2016

Posted 28 April 2016

Annette Dutton MARINElife WLO

Summary of sightings

Marine Mammals
Grey Seal 1

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

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

It was sunny but cool as I walked down to Ilfracombe Harbour and the sea looked fairly calm so I was hopeful for some cetacean sightings. I boarded the Oldenburg and went up to the bridge to say hello to Jason, the Captain, and to collect my MARINElife jacket.

I waited until the tannoy announcements had been made (including one about the presence of a MARINElife WLO on board) before making my way around the decks to chat to the passengers who were keen to know what wildlife they might see on the crossing and on Lundy when they arrived.

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

I saw very little until we passed Morte Point then one of the passengers pointed out a feeding frenzy of around a dozen Manx Shearwaters, I thought I saw a fin amongst them but sadly it was a piece of wood floating on the water.

The journey was surprisingly calm and it was quite warm so many of the passengers were enjoying the trip on the outer decks. As we got nearer to Lundy, I saw several Guillemot and a lone Grey Seal bobbing about on the calm sea then as we approached the landing stage there were several Shag in their usual spot along the top of Mouse Island and a couple of Oystercatchers flew away from the rocks below.

After leaving the Oldenburg I walked up to the village and headed towards half way wall. It was like a summers day and I was accompanied by Swallows and House Martins flitting about with regular appearances of Wheatear and Skylarks.

Guillemot Annette Dutton 01
Guillemot colony at Jenny's Cove (Annette Dutton)

At half way wall I stopped to take some photos of the Highland Cattle and Soay Sheep with their lambs before turning towards Jenny's Cove. I found a perch looking down into the cove and soon spotted the many Guillemot on the cliff ledges along with a few Herring Gull and the odd Kittiwake. Amongst the Guillemot rafting on the water below I managed to make out several Puffin, a Peregrine called from close by but I wasn't quick enough to see it.

I ate my lunch whilst enjoying the view and the warm sun then I headed back towards the Old Light stopping now and again to see if I could spot any cetaceans in the calm sea - sadly there were none to be seen.

Wheatear Annette Dutton 01
Wheatear (Annette Dutton)

Walking down towards the Landing Bay I saw a Kestrel fly by and Oystercatchers on the rocks below.

The return journey started off with sightings of a Gannet and a lone Kittiwake followed by regular appearances of Guillemot. As we passed Morte Point four Gannet flew by low over the water so I searched for Porpoise but no joy then another three Gannet flew by but still no Porpoise.

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 a pleasant trip.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘MS Oldenburg’ Ilfracombe-Lundy 16 April 2016

Posted 17 April 2016

Rick Morris MARINElife WLO

Summary of sightings:

Marine mammals:
None seen

Seabirds:
Great Skua
Common Tern
Great Black-backed Gull
Herring Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Manx shearwater
Gannet
Kittiwake
Fulmar
Shag
Guillemot
Razorbill

Terrestrial Birds
Ring Ouzel
Swallow
Starling
Carrion Crow
Jackdaw
Raven
Meadow Pipit
Rock Pipit
Wheatear
Skylark
Pied Wagtail
House Sparrow
Mallard
Peregrine Falcon
Willow Warbler
Linnet
Goldfinch
Robin

I arrived at Ilfracombe just after the last of the showers that now gave way to a lovely sunny morning, but with a very cold northerly wind.

After collecting my ticket and a catch up with Jacqui and Kate in the shore office I made way across the harbour to board the 'MS Oldenburg'. A quick visit to the bridge to say hello to Jason and Vernon, then out onto the decks to greet the passengers and tell them about the wildlife we may get to see.

Common Tern Martin Gillingham 02
Common Tern (Archive photo: Martin Gillingham)

It was obvious from the very start of the trip that cetacean sightings were going to be a real challenge in the sea state 5, whipped up by the stiff northerly wind, this proved the case as none were seen today. On the plus side this clean air blowing down from the Arctic made for excellent visibility, giving good distant views of Lundy Island and the Welsh coast.

Seabird numbers were very low throughout with just a few auks, a couple of Herring Gull, a solitary Gannet and the welcome sight of returning Common Tern but the highlight was a solitary Great Skua around the halfway point. Surprisingly I didn't see any Manx Shearwater considering there are good numbers around and that they have started to visit the burrows at night on the island.

Arriving on Lundy, I decided to walk along the south end and head north along the west coast and make Jenny's Cove my destination for lunch. Along the way I had the company of the ever present Meadow Pipit and Skylark as well as Wheatear, Rock Pipit and a solitary Willow Warbler. As I neared Pilots Landing I was looking at a couple of Raven that flew into view when a bird perched on the cliff caught my eye, this turned out to be a Ring Ouzel and so thought this was worthy of a photo, but trying to steady the camera even on a monopod was quite hard in the wind!

Ring Ouzel Rick Morris 01
Ring Ouzel (Photo: Rick Morris)

Nearing Jenny's Cove I heard a Peregrine and after a short while managed to locate it as it was flying over the cliff edge heading northward and I suspect it was probably hunting! Reaching Jenny's Cove I settled down to escape the wind and have lunch and look to see if the Puffin were around. Unfortunately the 'cove' was very quiet with the only residents being a few Herring Gull on the slopes and a few Kittiwake in the air.

I headed back along the halfway wall then south down the central path back to the village and then down to the boat. Along the way in Millcombe Valley, I spotted Blackcap, Linnet and Goldfinch.

The return crossing was pretty much the same as far as the weather, but seabird numbers were much better with Shag, Fulmar, Gannet, Great Black-backed and Lesser Black-backed Gull and good numbers of Guillemot, Razorbill and Kittiwake seen, as well as small groups of Manx Shearwater.

Nearing the North Devon coast a naval exercise was underway. It was the French destroyer 'Cassard' with a Royal Navy supply ship and helicopter carrier, this drew quite a lot of interest from the passengers.

French destroyer Rick Morris 01
French destroyer 'Cassard' (Photo: Rick Morris)

Heading along the coast from Morte Point to Ilfracombe, Kittiwake, Gannet and Herring Gull were seen and once in the Harbour, I said farewell to Jason and Vernon and made my way home.

My thanks to the crew, the Landmark Trust, shore office and island staff for all their help and support.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘MS Oldenburg’ Bideford-Lundy 9 April 2016

Posted 15 April 2016

Steve McAusland MARINElife Lundy Wildlife Officer.

Weather: sea state was 4 to 5 with westerly winds. Rain to begin with, sunny and warm all afternoon.

Summary of sightings:

Cetaceans:
Harbour Porpoise 1 (Brief glimpse as we passed the Saunton Hotel)
Grey Seal 7

Birds at Sea:
Manx Shearwater
Fulmar
Gannet
Black-headed Gull
Shag
Great Skua
Herring Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Kittiwake
Guillemot
Razorbill
Puffin

Estuary Birds:
Teal
Little Egret
Oystercatcher
Redshank
Swallow

Birds on Lundy:
Mallard
Peregrine Falcon
Wood Pigeon
Willow Warbler
Chiffchaff
Meadow Pipit
Wheatear
Starling
House Sparrow
Swallow
Robin
Blackbird
Dunnock
Skylark
Wren
Carrion Crow
Jackdaw
Goldfinch
Pied Wagtail

I arrived in Bideford at 07:30am for my first Lundy trip of 2016. As I collected my ticket from the Landmark Trust office I had a quick conversation with Beccy MacDonald the Island's Warden who was returning to Lundy. Following this, I proceeded to board the MS Oldenburg where I was welcomed aboard by Jason the ship's Captain. As I started my tour around the upper and lower decks the rain had ensured that many of the 108 passengers were below in the saloons, as such there was only a handful of people to talk to.

Great Skua Peter Howlett 06
Great Skua (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

The one and only cetacean sighting happened as the ship had passed over the reef which is just outside the mouth of estuary, here a brief glimpse of a single Harbour Porpoise was good to see. Birds of note were Manx Shearwater, Gannet along with Guillemot and Razorbill rafting as the ship passed them by. The usual common gulls were seen along with Kittiwake, Fulmar and a Great Skua.

As the Oldenburg made its way slowly towards the landing bay there was no sign of any seals on the rocks of Rat Island, however I did see two during my time on the island from the higher levels. As the passengers disembarked, the sun came out and everyone made their way up to the higher levels. My route this visit was to pass the wooded areas to look out for migrant birds, here I saw Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff.

Onwards towards halfway wall I spotted my first Wheatear of the year, both male and female. Arriving at Jenny's Cove, named after a ship that was wrecked off the rocks, I soon had sight of my first Puffin for 2016 along with many Guillemot, Razorbill and Kittiwake.

Puffin Peter Howlett 05a
Puffin (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

After lunch I made to make my way back to the jetty, passing the old light. Along the way were Skylark, Meadow Pipit and many more beautiful Wheatear.

Also whilst walking back, the island's Sika Deer were spotted, plus the Lundy Ponies were seen grazing over on the eastern side of the island. Other animals observed were the usual sheep and wild goats.

The crossing back to Ilfracombe was a quiet one with the same birds being seen along the way. Before disembarking I thanked Jason the Captain and Vernon the ship's first mate for his and the crews' continued support for MARINElife. I look forward to my next trip in May, this time I hope to see some of the Common and Bottlenose Dolphin that are regularly seen and even the possibility of a Minke Whale, Basking Shark or Sunfish.

MARINElife Survey Report: MS Oldenburg Ilfracombe-Lundy 2 April 2016

Posted 06 April 2016

Julie Hatcher and Charlotte Altass, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884; Registered Company No. 5057367)

Weather:
Outward - intermittent rain with moderate to good visibility, wind southeasterly force 4
Return - fine and bright with good visibility, wind southeasterly force 3-4

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals
Harbour porpoise Phocoena phocoena 1

Seabirds
Fulmar  Fulmarus glacialis 7
Manx Shearwater  Puffinus puffinus 17
Storm Petrel  Hydrobates pelagicus 3
Gannet  Morus bassanus 8
Cormorant  Phalacrocorax carbo 1
Shag  Phalacrocorax aristotelis 1
Herring Gull  Larus argentatus 18
Lesser Black-backed Gull  Larus fuscus 2
Great Black-backed Gull  Larus marinus 8
Kittiwake  Rissa tridactyla 2
Guillemot  Uria aalge 23
Razorbill  Alca torda 21
Gull sp. 6

Terrestrial birds
Swallow Hirundo rustica 3

We boarded the MS Oldenburg in light rain and were immediately shown to the bridge by the crew and welcomed by Captain Jason Mugford. Once out of Ilfracombe Harbour we took up our station for the survey on either side of the bridge as we headed along the North Devon coast. The sea was rather lumpy, making observation a little difficult but we could just make out Lundy Island in the distance.

Oldenburg Lundy Julie Hatcher 01
MS Oldenburg at the landing stage on Lundy (Julie Hatcher)

Herring and Great Black-backed Gulls followed as we left Ilfracombe behind and we were delighted to spot a few early Swallows too. As we left the North Devon coast and headed offshore we passed little groups of Razorbills and Guillemots sitting on the water and as we neared Lundy a number of Manx Shearwaters were shearing backwards and forwards across the waves in front of the boat. A couple of Fulmars and juvenile Kittiwakes also crossed our path.

As we disembarked we were met by the Lundy Warden and we joined her for a guided tour of the southwestern corner of the island. She pointed out a small specimen of the Lundy Cabbage and explained the work that has been going on to conserve this endemic plant. We also visited the Anthony Gormley sculpture temporarily installed on the island to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Landmark Trust. After an enjoyable wander on the island we returned to the pier for the return journey.

Harbour Porpoise Mike Bailey 02a
Harbour Porpoise (Archive photo: Mike Bailey)

The weather had improved for the return trip and we left Lundy in bright and much calmer conditions. Manx Shearwaters, Razorbills and Guillemots kept us busy for the first part of the crossing and we were delighted to spot a single Harbour Porpoise which crossed just in front of the bow, surfacing a couple of times. As we drew nearer to the mainland, gulls and Gannet took over and we later learned that the Wildlife Liaison Officer and a number of passengers had spotted a couple more Harbour Porpoise.

We would like to thank Captain Mugford and his crew for their kindness and for making it such an enjoyable trip.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘MS Oldenburg’ Ilfracombe-Lundy 2 April 2016

Posted 05 April 2016

Rick Morris MARINElife WLO

Summary of sightings:

Marine mammals:
Harbour Porpoise 3
Grey Seal 1

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

Terrestrial Birds
Swallow
Starling
Carrion Crow
Meadow Pipit
Rock Pipit
Wheatear
Skylark
Pied Wagtail
House Sparrow
Mallard
Graylag Goose

Arriving at Ilfracombe Harbour on a rather wet and cold morning, I met up with Neil Spencer who will be joining the WLO team and also Julie Hatcher and Charlotte Altass who were conducting this month's MARINElife survey.

We boarded the MS Oldenburg and made our way to the bridge where we were greeted by the Oldenburg's new Captain, Jason Mugford and first mate Vernon. Neil joined me as I made my out on deck to have a chat with the passengers to explain the role of the Wildlife Officer and what wildlife we may encounter on the sailing. We left our mooring at 10:00  with the hope we might sight some Harbour Porpoise as we neared Morte Point, but the force 5 sea state made this difficult!

Seabird numbers were fairly low to start with, although we did see small groups of Swallow heading out toward Lundy. Once in the channel we were seeing auks in small numbers along with the odd Kittiwake, Fulmar and Gannet. As we reached the halfway point it was great to observe Manx Shearwater, these birds are truly masters of the air and they never cease to amaze me as they shear in and out of the wave troughs. Reaching Lundy a couple of Shag were busily fishing in the Landing Bay but the normal welcome party of Grey Seal were absent.

Manx Shearwater Rick Morris 03a
Manx Shearwater (Archive photo: Rick Morris)

Arriving on Lundy we were greeted by Beccy (Lundy warden) and Neil, Julie and Charlotte joined her on a guided walk whereas I was advised to go up in the Land Rover due to a bad knee! Arriving at the top I made my way to Jenny's Cove to see if I could see any of the 80+ Puffin that had arrived, unfortunately I failed to see any. Along the way Mallard, Graylag Goose, House Sparrow, Wheatear, Skylark, Meadow Pipit, Carrion Crow and Swallow were seen. I also encountered some of Lundy's land mammals - Sika Deer, Highland Cattle, Lundy Pony and Soay Sheep with recently born lambs.

Soay Sheep Rick Morris 02
Soay Lamb (Photo: Rick Morris)

Looking down into Jenny's Cove whilst trying to find the Puffin a Harbour Porpoise popped up and showed well for a couple of minutes. I spent around 30 minutes here and after eating my lunch, made way back to the Marisco Tavern taking a look at Pondsbury on route.

After a much needed mug of hot coffee I met up with Beccy and we made our way down to the Landing Bay for the return back to Ilfracombe. The wind had dropped slightly with a sea state 4 for the return but despite this some of the passengers and I did manage to spot a solitary Grey Seal and 2 Harbour Porpoise. Arriving back at Ilfracombe Harbour, we said our farewells and made our way home.

Grey Seal Rick Morris 10
Grey Seal (Archive photo: Rick Morris)

Although the weather was not great, this was still a good trip and I feel privileged to be able see the fantastic diversity of wildlife to be found between North Devon and Lundy Island.

My thanks to the crew, the Landmark Trust, shore office and island staff for all their help and support.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘MS Oldenburg’ Bideford-Lundy 17 October 2015

Posted 19 October 2015

 

Rick Morris MARINElife Lundy Wildlife Officer

Summary of sightings

Marine mammals:
Harbour Porpoise 1
Grey Seal 3

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

Estuary birds
Black-tailed Godwit
Redshank
Dunlin
Little Egret
Grey Heron
Oystercatcher
Cormorant
Shelduck
Mute Swan

Lundy terrestrial birds:
Merlin
Song Thrush
Fieldfare
Meadow Pipit
Skylark
Starling
Raven
Carrion Crow
House Sparrow
Swallow
Robin
Dunnock
Mallard

This was the last Wildlife Officer (WLO) trip for 2015 and for this crossing I had arranged to meet up with surveyor Ruth Crundwell, Ruth will be joining the WLO team next season and so joined me to see what the role entails. We arrived in Bideford on an overcast morning and chilly ENE breeze, collected our tickets and promptly made our way onto the 'MS Oldenburg'. After a brief visit to the bridge to say hello to Jerry, we made our way out on deck, here we met Kevin Doble, who a few weeks earlier had attended MARINElife's ID course at Plymouth Aquarium.

Grey Seal Rick Morris 09
Grey Seal (Rick Morris)

We slipped our mooring in the River Torridge and headed downstream and straight away we were seeing Black-headed Gull, Little Egret, Mute Swan, Redshank, Black-tailed Godwit, Dunlin, Oystercatcher, Grey Heron and Shelduck. Nearing the sandbar, Cormorant were observed, likely returning from fishing. We also saw a couple of large flocks of waders on the sand, but they were too far off to positively identify, although we feel they could have been Green Sandpiper!

It was a quiet trip across to Lundy with no cetaceans seen and bird numbers fairly low, but we did get sporadic sightings of small groups of Razorbill and Guillemot plus the odd Gannet and gull.

Arriving on Lundy we accepted the offer of a lift up top in the Land Rover from Beccy the warden. Once on top, we decided to walk around the west side, this gave us sightings of various birds plus feral Goat and Soay Sheep and a brief sighting of a Harbour Porpoise as we stopped for lunch near the 'Battery'. Making our way, we headed over to the east side and by the halfway wall we encountered a couple of Fieldfare together with a solitary Song Thrush. Walking along the main path a raptor caught my attention as it was using the wind to hover over the ruins of the quarry cottages, further observation revealed it to be a Merlin.

Fieldfare Rick Morris 01
Fieldfare (Rick Morris)

Reaching the Marisco Tavern we decided to stop for a welcome cup of tea before heading down to the Landing Jetty. Grey Seal were seen looking toward the beach, we thought they might have been keeping an eye on pups, although we did not see any.

The return crossing was again quiet and shortly after entering the river section the sun set and so we popped onto the bridge to collect our bags and say our farewells to Jerry and the crew.

Thanks to Jerry and the crew of the 'Oldenburg' and to all on Lundy and the shore offices for making this another great Wildlife Officer season. See you all in 2016!

MARINElife Survey Report: ‘MS Oldenburg’ Ilfracombe-Lundy survey 10 October 2015

Posted 16 October 2015

Jess Mead & Maggie Gamble, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884; Registered Company No. 5057367)

Summary of species recorded

Marine Mammals
Common Dolphin Delphinus delphis 2

Seabirds
Gannet Morus bassanus 7
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 3
Great Black-Backed Gull Larus marinus 5
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 1
Guillemot Uria aalge 7
Razorbill Alca torda 48
Auk sp.  3
Gull sp.  6
Unidentified passerines  8

After collecting out tickets from the office in Ilfracombe we boarded MS Oldenburg and introduced ourselves to the extremely friendly and accommodating Captain and crew. It was a fairly windy and choppy morning making the conditions less than ideal for cetacean spotting. Despite this there were several shouts of 'fin' from the passengers and we recorded a Common Dolphin just off the front of the boat. Only a few species of seabirds were seen, the most numerous being Guillemot and Razorbill and Gannet.

Common Dolphin Peter Howlett 01
Common Dolphin (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

As we moored up on Lundy we saw a mother Grey Seal close to the jetty visiting her pup on the beach. It was a lovely sight to see and we were told that pupping on the island was well under way and we hope it will be a successful year for them.

The return survey in the afternoon was much rougher than the outward journey and our viewing even more restricted than the outward journey. We did manage to catch a glimpse (but nothing more!) of a Common Dolphin close to the ship. Very few seabirds were seen on the return trip until we reached the relative shelter of the mainland where we saw Gannet along with a few Great Black-backed and Herring Gull.

Thanks again to the Captain and crew for their help and enthusiasm throughout the day.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘MS Oldenburg’ Ilfracombe-Lundy 10 October 2015

Posted 12 October 2015

MARINElife/Lundy WLO Keith Morgan
Sea state 4-5 Easterly wind

Summary of Sightings
Marine Mammals:
Unidentified Dolphin 2
Grey Seal 1

Seabirds:
Gannet
Razorbill

Along with about 90 passengers I set out from Ilfracombe on a rather cloudy Saturday. I made my way around decks to introduce myself, finding a mix of first-time voyagers and repeat passengers. A group of volunteers were heading for a week assisting with whatever tasks the Warden might find for them, such as scrub clearance, fence repairs etc.  All were thoroughly looking forward to it.

Gannet Cliff Morrison 02
Gannet (Cliff Morrison)

Another group were experienced birdwatchers heading for a week's camping and spotting migrants.  As we left Ilfracombe harbour their eagle eyes were highly surprised to find a Great Egret on the rocks to the north.

Unfortunately bird sightings thereafter were few and far between - a few distant Gannets and a Razorbill bobbing on the waves.

My shouts of "fin" did manage to alert passengers to passing unidentified dolphins [one to starboard, one to port heading in the opposite direction to the ship] and at least a few caught a brief glimpse of activity.

Approaching Lundy we found a mother seal wallowing in the shallows just off the beach by the jetty [apparently her youngster was hidden nearby] and we were told that no access to beaches was allowed at present as there were many pups about.

Grey Seal Ruth Griffith 05
Grey Seal (Ruth Griffith)

Along with the other MARINElife volunteers I joined a guided tour of part of the island with the assistant ranger that took us to the village, the church, the castle, the Anthony Gormley statue and the old lighthouse.  We heard tales of the island's past, saw a number of Kestrel stalled at ease in the wind off the west coast and found lots of large, hairy Fox Moth caterpillars beside the paths.  The climb up the old lighthouse was well worth it, with excellent views in all directions.

The return to Ilfracombe was a bit more lively than the journey out.  As we headed into the waves spray broke across the boat, sending many people to shelter below deck but keeping others in amused anticipation of the next drenching!  Above deck, one solitary Gannet was seen.  Below deck, Scotland triumphed over Samoa in the Rugby World Cup.

Many thanks to the crew of the 'Oldenburg' for their help and assistance.

MARINElife/Lundy WLO Keith Morgan

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘MS Oldenburg’ Ilfracombe-Lundy 1 October 2015

Posted 08 October 2015

MARINElife/Lundy WLO Peter Jones

Summary of sightings
Cetaceans:
Common Dolphin 3
Harbour Porpoise 16
Grey Seal 5

Seabirds:
Great Northern Diver
Herring Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Kittiwake
Guillemot
Shag
Gannet

Terrestrial birds:
Peregrine
Kestrel
Sparrowhawk
Swallow
House Martin
Robin
Wren
Blackbird
Song Thrush
Raven
Starling
Common Redstart
Chiffchaff
Blackcap
Chaffinch
House sparrow
Meadow Pipit
Pied wagtail
Wheatear
Stonechat
Goldcrest

We set sail from Ilfracombe in excellent weather and calm seas, and almost immediately had our first sighting of a Harbour Porpoise. This was to continue throughout the outward sailing with over 15 animals sighted.

Harbour Porpoise Adrian Shephard 04
Harbour Porpoise (Adrian Shephard)

Birds seen during the outward crossing were a Great Northern Diver, several Guillemot on the water, plus Kittiwake and Gannet overhead. A small flock of Swallow migrating over the sea was a nice sight, and as we approached Lundy, larger groups of migrating Swallow and House Martin were seen circling over the island. A number of Grey Seal were seen around the harbour, and several Shag were sitting on rocks.

The small sheltered valleys on Lundy were alive with birds. Blackcap, Robin, Chiffchaff and Goldcrest were all showing well. A brief glimpse of a superb Male Redstart was a highlight. On the higher ground, Meadow Pipit, Stonechat, Skylark, and Wheatear were seen.

Kittiwake Adrian Shephard 02
Kittiwake (Adrian Shephard)

The return journey started well with Harbour Porpoise surfacing below circling Gannet, and we continued to enjoy regular Porpoise sightings. Three Common Dolphin showed very briefly close to the boat but unfortunately didn't linger for better views. The day's sightings were completed by a Peregrine hunting along the Devon coast.

On arrival back at Ilfracombe, I thanked the Captain and his crew for their hospitality, and returned to shore after a very enjoyable day.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘MS Oldenburg’ Ilfracombe-Lundy 26 September 2015

Posted 01 October 2015

MARINElife/Lundy WLO Julia Benson

Summary of sightings

Cetaceans:
Unidentified dolphin species 2
Harbour Porpoise 5

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

Wildlife on Lundy:
Lundy Pony
Highland Cattle
Soay Sheep

Terrestrial birds:
Swallow
Robin
Peregrine Falcon
Raven
Starling

What a fantastic day for a boat trip! Glorious warm sunshine, a gentle wind and a sea state of 2. Summer was back! I was really looking forward to my first trip to Lundy Island.

We left the harbour heading out into the Bristol Channel. I made my way around the decks of the Oldenburg making conversation with the many passengers about what we could possibly see during the crossing and about MARINElife.

Lundy Julia Benson 01
Lundy coastline (Julia Benson)

Apart from a number of gulls in the harbour, it was a fairly quiet crossing with only a few more to be seen as well as the occasional Gannet and auk, and as we approached Lundy, a few Shag appeared. Unfortunately, I did not see any cetaceans, however, the Captain and his crew briefly saw five Harbour Porpoise not long after we left Ilfracombe and on arrival at Lundy. Also, a couple of passengers I'd been talking to during the crossing said they had briefly seen two dolphins swimming close to the boat. Apparently, I had only just missed them as I had been standing where they swam past just a few minutes before.

On arrival at Lundy I went for a long walk to take in the wildlife and the beauty of the Island. It was warm sunny and so peaceful. During my walk I met a birder who told me there had been around 5,000 swallows on the Island the day before which was an amazing sight to see. I too saw Swallows as I walked around, though only several in number at a time, flying low to the ground like aerial acrobats catching flies. I also encountered several Lundy ponies grazing on the lush grass, as well as Soay sheep and a few Highland cattle. A large hairy black and orange caterpillar also crossed my path which I believe is that of a Fox Moth.

It was time to head back to the boat and whilst waiting to board we were entertained by a couple of Grey Seals. A female, who was as curious about us as we were about her, kept popping her head out of the water taking a good look at us each time. The bull, however, wasn't in the least bit interested as he preferred to relax, bottling in the warm sunshine.  A few of the waiting passengers also had the same idea and were taking a refreshing dip on the other side of the jetty.

Fox Moth caterpillar Julia Benson 01
Fox Moth caterpillar (Julia Benson)

On the return crossing the wind had picked up creating many whitecaps which made sighting of any cetaceans a little difficult. The same species of seabirds were seen as on the outward crossing and as we approached the coast of Devon, several Gannet were circling in the sky. I watched them intently hoping they would perform their spectacular dives and also keeping a close eye on the water expectantly waiting to see a fin break the surface. Unfortunately, there were none to be seen but it's always a treat to watch these beautiful graceful birds.

Thank you so much to Captain Jerry and his crew for their hospitality. It was a very enjoyable day talking to the passengers, including Warren, who is taking one of our ID courses next week, and a team from The Lundy Field Society who had been conducting research on the island for a week.

MARINElife Survey Report: ‘M.S. Oldenburg’ Bideford-Lundy 19 September 2015

Posted 27 September 2015

Nick Adams and Charles McGibney, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884; Registered Company No. 5057367)

Weather: SW-W 1, sea state 0-1, sunny and clear all day

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals
Common Dolphin  Delphinus delphis 21
Harbour Porpoise  Phocoena phocoena 6
Grey seal Halichoerus grypus 14

Seabirds
Common Scoter  Melanitta nigra 24
Fulmar  Fulmarus glacialis 1
Manx Shearwater  Puffinus puffinus 1
Gannet  Morus bassanus 37
Cormorant  Phalacrocorax carbo 5
Shag  Phalacrocorax aristotelis 1
Black-headed Gull  Chroicocephalus ridibundus 1
Mediterranean Gull  Larus melanocephalus 1
Herring Gull  Larus argentatus 27
Great Black-backed Gull  Larus marinus 8
Guillemot  Uria aalge 86
Unidentified Auk sp.  15
Unidentified large gull sp. 2

Terrestrial birds at sea
Meadow pipit Anthus pratensis 1
Swallow Hirundo rustica 3

Having arrived at the quayside in Bideford, we quickly boarded the Oldenburg and introduced ourselves to the Captain, Jerry. As we went down the Taw/Torridge estuary we saw quite a few Little Egret roosting in trees as well as a selection of waders including Common Sandpiper, Curlew, Oystercatcher, Ringed Plover and Dunlin.

Common Dolphin Charles McGibney 01
Common Dolphin (Charles McGibney)

The sea conditions were perfect for cetacean spotting and shortly after leaving the estuary we saw the first of three Harbour Porpoise on the outward trip. Good numbers of Guillemot were still around and Gannets were passing by too. The highlights were three Common Scoter and a juvenile Mediterranean Gull as we arrived at Lundy. As we tied up a number of Grey Seals were there to meet us.

Once we were ashore we did a partial circuit of the island. Autumn migration was very much in evidence with Swallow and Meadow Pipit flooding across the island, heading east into England. Siskin were also passing by and a few were feeding on Autumn Hawkbit near the landing. There were many Chiffchaff in the valleys as well as at least seven Spotted Flycatcher and a Wood Warbler - a good bird for Lundy.

On the return journey we were graced by several encounters with Common Dolphin, some of which were bow-riding - fantastic for all the passengers on the ship! We also saw three more Harbour Porpoise.

Common Dolphin Charles McGibney 02
Common Dolphin (Charles McGibney)

It was dusk as we reached the Taw/Torridge estuary but there was still enough light to scan the gull roost that was forming and pick out at least 40 Mediterranean Gulls.

Many thanks to Captain Jerry Waller and his crew and the staff on Lundy for all their enthusiasm and help.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report ‘MS Oldenburg’ Bideford-Lundy 19 September 2015

Posted 24 September 2015

MARINElife/Lundy Wildlife Officer: Steve McAusland

Weather: Sunny & warm, slight breeze, sea state 1

Summary of species seen:
Marine Mammals:

Common Dolphin 18
Harbour Porpoise 4
Grey Seal 21

Seabirds:
Black-headed Gull
Herring Gull
Kittiwake
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Fulmar
Cormorant
Shag
Gannet

Lundy terrestrial birds:
Meadow Pipit
Wheatear
Starling
Raven
Carrion Crow
Jackdaw
House Sparrow
Wood Pigeon
House Martin
Sand Martin
Swallow
Linnet
Robin
Blackbird
Dunnock
Peregrine Falcon
Mallard

Estuary birds
Redshank
Little Egret
Grey Heron
Curlew
Black-tailed Godwit
Oystercatcher
Cormorant
Dunlin

This month's Lundy trip started with collecting my ticket from the Bideford Landmark office, upon boarding MS Oldenburg I met up with Charles and Nick, fellow surveyors who were on board for this month's Lundy survey. The ship left the quay in warm sunshine and looking across the estuary the sight of low white mist made for an impressive view. As the Oldenburg navigated its way past Northam Burrows, great numbers of wading birds could be seen; Dunlin, Curlew, Black-tailed Godwit, Oystercatcher and Ring Plover being the most obvious. Starting my tour around the upper and lower decks I introduced myself to some of the passengers and as usual I had numerous conversations with many people. One in particular was with two gentlemen from Vermont in the USA who were over from the U.S. Landmark Trust.

Common Dolphin Steve McAusland 03
Common Dolphin (Steve McAusland)

Leaving the estuary behind I soon had the opportunity to point out four Common Dolphin which had most of the passengers on the starboard side looking out to see them breaching, not too long after the dolphins, we also had sight of two Harbour Porpoise. Birds were very scarce and it wasn't until we were within a few miles of Lundy that numbers increased. Gannet, Shag and Kittiwake were seen and as the ship came alongside the jetty a Peregrine Falcon was circling the cliff tops.

After disembarking the Oldenburg a great many of the passengers stopped on the jetty to watch the Grey Seals that were swimming around Rat Island. Following this I began to make my way up to the higher levels. Whilst walking along the central track I was surprised to find a Dunlin feeding in and around a huge puddle. This little bird seemed very tame and didn't seem to mind me stopping to take a few photos!

Dunlin Steve McAusland 01
Dunlin (Steve McAusland)

The return journey aboard the Oldenburg gave further sightings of more Common Dolphin and Harbour Porpoise and as before, many of the passengers were delighted to see these graceful animals. The crossing back to Bideford was a calm affair and as we approached the estuary the sun was going down behind the ships stern, by the time we returned to the quay it was dark.

Before leaving the ship, I thanked Jerry and the crew for supporting MARINElife and I look forward to more trips in 2016.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘MS Oldenburg’ Ilfracombe-Lundy 5 September 2015

Posted 09 September 2015

MARINElife/Lundy WLO Sarah Hodgson

Weather:
Outward - overcast, northwesterly winds, sea state 5
Return - sunny, northeasterly winds, sea state 4

Summary of species seen:

Cetaceans:
Common Dolphin (passenger sighting) 5
Harbour Porpoise 2
Grey Seal 3

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

It was a cool start to the day as I arrived in Ilfracombe ready for my trip to Lundy.  After checking in with the friendly and helpful staff in the port office, I waited on the harbourside, along with nearly 200 other passengers, to board the 'Oldenburg'. Once aboard, I made my way to the bridge to introduce myself to the captain, Jerry, as this was my first time on this route as a Wildlife Officer.

There was a steady breeze blowing as the boat left the shelter of the harbour and made its way along the rugged North Devon coast. There was a bit of a swell, so I carefully made my way around the outer decks to talk to other passengers about the wildlife we might encounter during the crossing. Except for a variety of gulls, there wasn't much to see to begin with. Around half way across some passengers informed me that dolphins had been sighted, alas, by the time I got to the port side of the vessel, they had already disappeared from view. Fortunately, several passengers were able to give a really good description of the dolphins and their behaviour, which led me to suspect that they were Common Dolphin. As we neared Lundy, the number of birds increased, with sightings of Fulmar, Gannet and Manx Shearwater on the wing. On arrival in the sheltered harbour at Lundy, I spotted a bull Grey Seal bottling in the water near the shoreline.

Grey Seal Sarah Hodgson 01
Grey Seal (Sarah Hodgson)

The clouds had dispersed allowing the sun to break through and it was shaping up to be a lovely afternoon. I stopped to watch the seals in the adjacent cove for a short while, before making my way up the hill to the village. It was a perfect day for a walk, so I headed along the east coast of the island to find a nice spot for a picnic. After lunch, just as I was getting ready to head back, a couple of Peregrine caught my eye, so I paused to watch them gliding magnificently along the clifftops.

As we boarded the 'Oldenburg' for the return trip, a couple of juvenile seals appeared in the water right next to the jetty much to the delight of the waiting passengers. With the sun shining, it was much warmer on the return leg, although a bit of glare made for tricky viewing at times. Early on we passed a few Guillemot sitting on the water and had good sightings of Manx Shearwater throughout the crossing. Reaching the mainland, I noticed some fairly active Gannet so kept my binoculars firmly focussed on them and the water below and was rewarded with a glimpse of a couple of Harbour Porpoise in the distance.

Back in Ilfracombe I thanked Jerry, Brian and the crew of 'Oldenburg' for their assistance and I look forward to hopefully returning next year.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘MS Oldenburg’ Ilfracombe-Lundy 29 August 2015

Posted 03 September 2015

MARINElife/Lundy WLO Annette Dutton

Weather: Sea state slight to moderate

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals
Grey Seal 30+
Harbour Porpoise 3

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

It was a fine morning  so I was looking forward to the crossing and hoping to see lots of cetaceans and seabirds. I joined the queue of over 230 passengers waiting to board the Oldenburg and as soon as I was on board, I went to the bridge to collect my jacket and to say hello to Jerry.

I waited until the tannoy announcements had been made before going round the passengers to talk about the work of MARINElife and what we hoped to see on the way and on Lundy. It was a bit bumpy and the decks were busy so it took some time to get around.

Surprisingly, I saw no seabirds on the crossing until we got close to the island and then only an odd Manx Shearwater - a far cry from the thousands seen recently. A passenger said they had spotted 2 Porpoise about halfway over but unfortunately I didn't see them.

Lundy Annette Dutton 06
South Light, Lundy (Annette Dutton)

It was calmer and brighter as we approached Lundy Island there were several Shag feeding in the water and in their usual spot along the top of Mouse Island, below them were over 30 Grey Seals hauled out in the sunshine.

I left the Oldenburg and had a quick chat to Beccy, the warden, then made my way round the back of the Devil's Kitchen to look for seals before walking up to the village. It was surprisingly warm as I followed the many passengers making their way up the path and I turned off before Millcombe House to head up towards the Castle. I then walked past the Church over to the village shop for some supplies before crossing the Island towards Castle Hill.

I sat by the pond to have lunch before paying a visit to Anthony Gormley's statue which reminded me of his other installation of Iron Men on Crosby beach. I looked back towards the Old Light and noticed several Lundy Goats sunbathing amongst the bracken.

I walked along the lower path past the Devil's Lime and sat on a rocky outcrop by Seals Hole to see if I could spot anything out at sea. I soon picked up a group of 5 Gannets and below them three Harbour Porpoise in the tidal race, I watched them for a while and saw that they were a mother and calf plus another adult. There were also two Grey Seals down below me, then as I continued walking towards the South Light, I spotted two more bobbing about in the Landing Bay.

I walked from the Castle on the lower path and sat on a bench to watch the seals that were still on the rocks. I then wandered back to the Landing Stage where I saw the two seals again swimming around out in the bay. There were several divers in the water and as I waited to board the Oldenburg the seals popped up and frolicked about for several minutes which delighted those waiting in the queue.

Grey Seal Annette Dutton 03a
Grey Seals (Annette Dutton)

There were even more passengers on the return journey and the decks were packed but I managed to find a place to stand where I had regular sightings of Gannet and Manx Shearwater but only single birds and a few small groups of Guillemot but again no cetaceans.

We arrived in Ilfracombe Harbour and I said goodbye and thanked Jerry and the crew for their help and assistance. Sadly, this is my last report for the season, my second year as WLO, and I look forward to another year of sightings in 2016.