Ilfracombe or Bideford-Lundy

Recent Sightings

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report ‘MS Oldenburg’ Ilfracombe-Lundy 20 October 2018

Posted 28 October 2018

MARINElife/Lundy WLO Annette Dutton
Weather: Sunny and Dry, Sea State slight, light breeze

Summary of sightings:
Marine Mammals
Grey seal 6
Harbour Porpoise 3
Common Dolphin 4/5

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

Wildlife seen on Lundy
Lundy pony
Meadow Pipit
Goldfinch
House Martin

This was my last trip to Lundy as WLO for 2018 and the weather was glorious, so I was looking forward to a lovely sunny day on the island. As it was half term, there were several families waiting to board in addition to the usual selection of passengers. As I was waiting I spotted something in the water, it was 2 Harbour Porpoise which looked like a mother and calf feeding just outside the harbour and I hoped it was a good sign of things to come.

Once onboard, I popped up to the bridge and had a quick chat to Jason, the Captain then went back onto the upper deck to talk to the passengers. There was a bit of a swell as we left the harbour and as we passed Capstone I spotted a single Porpoise but only briefly.

There were few seabirds about then as we got closer to Lundy I noticed a splash further out to sea on the starboard side and saw a small group of 4/5 Common Dolphin and although they were quite away off, some of the passengers could make them out. I began to see a few more seabirds, mainly Gull species before we turned to approach the Landing Bay.

There were a couple of Grey Seal on the rocks plus one swimming around which delighted the children on board.

Hamners Cottage Annette Dutton

Hamners Cottage (Annette Dutton)

I left the Oldenburg and walked up to the village, taking the road to walk over towards Hanmers Cottage but I could see someone had beaten me to my favourite bench, so I carried on to the village to pick up some water from the shop and by the time I walked back, the bench was free.

I sat for some time enjoying the warm sunshine and the view, I could hear the Seals on the rocks below and I noticed a pair jostling in the water, there was another one swimming along. I could see several Gannet and other seabirds in the tidal race, but I couldn't see any cetaceans below them.

South Light & Oldenburg Annette Dutton

South Light and Oldenburg (Annette Dutton)

I wandered over to the Castle to see if I could see anything but the seabirds had gone so I sat for a while leaning against the Castle wall then made my way down to the landing bay where the passengers in the queue were watching a large male seal swimming nearby.

Grey Seal Annette Dutton 16

Grey Seal (Annette Dutton)

The return journey was disappointing as there were few seabirds and I saw no cetaceans and we arrived at Ilfracombe Harbour on the high tide. I returned to the bridge to say goodbye to Jason and to the crew as I left the ship.

It had been a lovely day and a fitting end to the 2018 season of volunteering as a Lundy Wildlife Officer and I look forward to doing it all over again in 2019.

Annette Dutton; MARINElife Lundy Wildlife Officer

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report ‘MS Oldenburg’ Ilfracombe-Lundy 07 October 2018

Posted 16 October 2018

Annette Dutton, Wildlife Officer for MARINElife 
Weather: Sunny and Dry, Sea State slight, light breeze

Summary of sightings:
Marine Mammals
Grey seal 8
Harbour Porpoise 3

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

Wildlife seen on Lundy
Lundy pony
Soay sheep
Highland Cattle
Wheatear
Kestrel
House Martin

Saturday's sailing had been cancelled due to bad weather, so I went over on Sunday with the staying passengers who were eager to get there plus several day trippers. It was quiet on the harbour as there were only 98 passengers going over. I took up position on the top deck after saying hello to Paul, the Captain and collecting my Hi-Viz jacket.

The sea was calm as we left the harbour to proceed along the coast, as we passed Lee Bay I noticed a Gannet feeding with a Porpoise below then a passenger came over and said she had seen a Porpoise on the starboard side. Then as we approached Bull Point I could see several Gannet and spotted another Porpoise below but it was only a fleeting glimpse.

Gannet Adrian Shephard 14

Gannet (Adrian Shephard)

Moving into the channel I noticed a juvenile Guillemot and a juvenile Kittiwake but no other seabirds except the odd Gannet. As we arrived at the Island I could see several Grey Seal hauled out on the rocks of Mouse Island and a few Shag along the top. As we got closer, I could make out a couple of pups amongst the seals too. We moored up and I got a lift to the top in the Land Rover then after a visit to the shop, I started to walk up the main track. I was followed by a group of Goldfinch as I wandered along then I turned left at half way wall to go to Jenny's Cove.

It was very quiet and peaceful as I sat and ate my lunch thinking how different it was compared to the spring and summer months when the ledges are full of nesting seabirds and busy with people. I sat alone enjoying the peace then started to walk back along the coast track towards Battery Point.

Old Battery Annette Dutton

Old Battery (Annette Dutton)

As I wandered along, I saw a Kestrel land on the top of a rock so stopped to take some photos then as I passed the Old Battery I saw 2 Kestrel flying above, possibly juveniles.

Kestrel Annette Dutton

Kestrel (Annette Dutton)

Looking down to the Battery, I could see the newly restored cannon which I plan to visit on my next trip.

I walked back to the village and down to the landing bay where there was a dead seal pup floating on the tide line, I went to inform Sian the Assistant Warden who had arrived in the Land Rover but she was already aware. The pup was probably a casualty from the bad weather the previous day.

The sail back to Ilfracombe was very quiet and I saw nothing until we passed Morte Point when I saw a Gannet flying west then another Gannet as we passed Lee Bay but no Porpoise this time. We arrived at Ilfracombe, moored up and I said thank you and goodbye to Paul, our Captain, and the crew for their support.

Annette Dutton; MARINElife Lundy Wildlife Officer

MARINElife Survey Report: ‘Oldenburg’ Ilfracombe-Lundy 15 September 2018

Posted 23 September 2018

Emma Howe-Andrews and Poppy Lakeman-Fraser, Research Surveyors for MARINElife
Visibility: Good-Excellent, 16-20km, scattered showers, cloudy with some sunshine  Sea State: SW 3-4

Marine Mammals
Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus 4
Unidentified Dolphin sp. 2

Birds
Auk sp. Alcidae 3
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 2
Gannet Morus bassanus 5
Guillemot Uria aalge 10
Gull sp. 6
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 2
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 2
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 1

This was my first time in Ilfracombe as I had never been to Lundy Island before and as I made my way to the Lundy Office, I was thinking how picturesque and beautiful the harbour was. With the anchored boats, amazing architecture and stunning coastal cliffs, it really is a lovely place to visit and I was keen to explore it, but the MS Oldenburg awaited me. I will save it for another day!

I had arranged to meet my fellow surveyor, Poppy at the booking office to collect our tickets and this would also be her first trip to Lundy as well as her first survey, so we would both be seeing the island together through fresh eyes. After collecting our tickets and a short introduction we headed to the ship and eagerly joined the rest of the passengers waiting to board the Oldenburg.

As we waited, we saw Rick Morris on the outside deck of the ship, who would be the onboard Wildlife Officer for our trip. We gave him a quick wave, handed our ticket to the Officer as we boarded and headed to the bridge where we introduced ourselves to Jason, the Captain. Whilst Jason gave us an introduction to the layout of the bridge and where to stow our bags, Rick popped his head around to say hello and all of us talked about what the trip may bring and what had been seen recently. At this time, Captain Jason introduced us to his Chief Officer, Mike who would also be working on the bridge today.

With three blasts of her horn, the MS Oldenburg left her berth and headed out into a sea state 4, a 1 metre swell, cloudy, but dry conditions with excellent visibility. As the Oldenburg ploughed through the waves we started our survey and we were joined by a Gannet sweeping across the waves ahead of the ship. As I was stood on the port bridge wing, I heard Rick behind me shout that there were two Harbour Porpoise feeding underneath a group of circling Gannet closer to shore.

Guillemot Peter Howlett 08

Guillemot (Peter Howlett)

As much as I scanned the area with my binoculars, I could not see any breaking fins, but what a good start for Rick and the passengers, brilliant!

We continued our journey and had sightings of rafting Guillemot and a solitary Shag. It wasn't long until our first and only cetacean sighting of the trip was recorded, a brief view of two unidentified dolphin fins breaking the surface 125 metres ahead of the ship moving towards port. It was a very good spot by Poppy as the conditions were challenging due to the south-westerly winds the MS Oldenburg was sailing into. Well done!

We berthed at Lundy and decided to join a guided tour which had been organised by one of the island ambassadors, and after taking in the sights of Grey Seal hauled out on the rocks and breath-taking views it was time to return to the ship. The return journey brought calmer conditions with the sea fluctuating between 3-4, a reduced swell and views of Manx Shearwater, Fulmar and Lesser Black-backed Gull.

Lundy Emma Howe Andrews

Lundy (Emma Howe-Andrews)

We continued surveying and before we knew it, we were sailing back into Ilfracombe with the late afternoon sun casting beautiful light across the sea as we made our way back into the harbour. It was a very worthwhile trip as Lundy and its wildlife are stunning and the crew of the MS Oldenburg just wonderful. The crew couldn't have made us feel more welcome and were really interested in our work and accommodating. For me, I would go back to Lundy time and time again just to experience that.

Huge thanks go to Captain Jason, Chief Officer Mike, their crew and the staff of Lundy Booking Office who made this a very enjoyable and memorable crossing with their kind hospitality, and to The Lundy Landmark Trust for their continuing support.

Emma Howe-Andrews and Poppy Lakeman-Fraser; Research Surveyors for MARINElife

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report ‘MS Oldenburg’ Ilfracombe-Lundy 15 September 2018

Posted 23 September 2018

Rick Morris; MARINElife Wildlife Officer
Cloudy with sunny spells and the odd shower: Wind: WSW to SW 3-4. Sea state: 3-4

Summary of sightings
Marine mammals:

Harbour Porpoise 5
Grey Seal 3

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

Terrestrial birds seen at sea: 
Swallow
Carrion Crow

Lundy terrestrial birds: 
Peregrine Falcon
Meadow Pipit
Rock Pipit
Starling
Raven
Carrion Crow
Jackdaw
House Sparrow
Swallow
Robin
Blackbird
Goldfinch

Heading down the hill as I neared Ilfracombe, I could see the fun fair was in the Harbour car park and looking beyond out to sea, I thought conditions didn't seem too bad.

After a brief visit to the shore office to say hi to Jacqui and Kate, I wandered over to where the MS Oldenburg was moored and upon boarding made my way up to the bridge. After a catchup with Jason (Captain) I made my way out to meet the passengers and was greeted by Emma and Poppy (this month's survey team) who were about to come into the bridge.

Leaving the calm water of the Harbour, we headed along the North Devon coast in a moderate sea with a slight swell. As I was explaining to a passenger that all the Puffin had now left the Island, we saw a solitary one sat on the surface within 10 minutes of sailing - a first for me to see a Puffin so close to Ilfracombe!

Puffin Rick Morris 06

Puffin (Rick Morris)

As we approached Lee Bay I noticed a small group of Gannet feeding and constant monitoring of the sea surface for a few minutes rewarded me with 2 Harbour Porpoise in with them.

The rest of the trip to Lundy was very quiet for seabirds; I expected to see a few Manx Shearwater, but only managed just the one with sporadic sightings of Gannet, Fulmar, Guillemot and gulls.

There were a few Grey Seal in the Landing Bay on our arrival and upon walking up the jetty a grey seal pup was on the beach with mum keeping a close eye just in the water.

Seal Pup 01 Rick Morris

Seal Pup (Rick Morris)

Up on top I popped into the Tavern for a cuppa and catchup with Grant before a spot of lunch and sea watching from the 'Ugly' which overlooks the East side and the Landing Bay. It was here whilst enjoying my sandwich that a female Peregrine Falcon flew beneath me heading toward the South Lighthouse.

The Ugly Rick Morris

The Ugly (Rick Morris)

Back down in the Bay the 3 of us enjoyed watching the seals and their pups before boarding for the return home under clearer skies and a calmer sea. As on the outbound, it remained very quiet on the seabird front, but nearing Bull Point, Gannet were seen, this time tracking 3 Harbour Porpoise that were heading toward Morte Point.

Looking for Porp Rick Morris

Looking for Porpoises (Rick Morris)

Safely tied off back in the Harbour, I popped to the bridge to give my thanks and farewells to Jason and Mike. Emma and Poppy joined me in leaving the boat and once off and onshore, we said our goodbyes and made our way home.

Even though it was a quiet trip, for me it's always great to have a day out to Lundy and meet up with familiar faces!

Huge thanks to Jason and his crew, the shore staff and all on Lundy for the help and support.

Please note; if you are going to Lundy during the next few months, please keep off the beaches and keep well clear of any seal haul outs to avoid disturbance!

Rick Morrios; MARNINElife Wildlife Officer

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report ‘MS Oldenburg’ Ilfracombe-Lundy 8 September 2018

Posted 16 September 2018

Jenny Ball; MARINElife Wildlife Officer (WLO)
Weather: Outward - overcast, wind SW force 5, sea state moderate, with some showers.  Return - brighter, wind SW force 5, sea state slight.

Summary of sightings:
Marine Mammals
Grey Seal 4

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

I was very much looking forward to this trip to Lundy, having spent 6 excellent days there with the MARINElife Lundy Adventure in early July.  This time I took my husband along, to show him what the fuss is all about!

The outward sailing on the MV Oldenburg was quite wet and slippery on deck, and the choppy seas meant that we didn't expect to see very much at all.  A few Gannet and Fulmar swept by, together with one or two gulls, and people were either enjoying the bracing conditions or taking refuge in the cosy lounge!  Many people on this trip seemed to be groups of climbers, being let loose on the cliffs again after the end of the nesting season, and we had some interesting conversations about their encounters with wildlife.

As we went ashore we said hello to Dean, the Head Ranger, and walking up the hill we noticed that one of the other rangers was standing guard by the Landing Beach: a new seal pup had been seen and could safely be watched from the path.  It wasn't being very active, so we carried on up the hill, hoping to spend more time with it on our return.

We climbed to the top of the Old Light, to get an overall view of the island, and then walked over to the more sheltered side of the island, along to the quarry timekeeper's hut for our lunch.  It was very peaceful out of the wind: we watched a Cormorant diving in the bay, a couple of Kestrel hunting amongst the bracken below us, and a seal near the rocks.  The occasional flash of white out to sea was of course Gannet, but most of the sea birds left their breeding grounds some weeks ago.

Seal Pup 01 Jenny Ball

Seal Pup (Jenny Ball)

We walked back to the Landing Beach, and this time the seal pup was on the move.  The incoming tide had encouraged it to crawl up the beach: it was trying to hide under an overhanging rock, but having learnt to roll over, decided to come out again.  Meanwhile, its mother was swimming nearby, watchful but quite relaxed, and the local dominant male was cruising up and down, keeping a close eye on both of them.  Dean told us that this seal is the" Beach Master" for this stretch of coastline, ready to challenge any other incoming males in defence of his females.  There was quite a big crowd of passengers enjoying this fascinating sight; the seals are quite used to seeing people around the Landing Beach, and weren't worried at all.

Gannet Rob Petley Jones 09

Gannet (Rob Petley-Jones)

The return trip was rather calmer than the morning's sailing, but again we didn't see more than a few Fulmar and Gannet, a couple of Manx Shearwater, one solitary Guillemot, a Great Black-Backed Gull and a few other gulls.  A couple who had travelled over to Lundy last Thursday told me about the dolphins they had seen on that trip, but no such luck this time.

We thanked the Captain, Jason, and his helpful crew for supporting MARINElife, and made our way back into Ilfracombe.

Jenny Ball; MARINElife Wildlife Officer

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report ‘MS Oldenburg’ Ilfracombe-Lundy 1 September 2018

Posted 02 September 2018

Wildlife Officer: Annette Dutton

Weather: Cloudy and Dry, Sea State slight, light breeze

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals
Grey seal 6
Harbour Porpoise 2
Common Dolphin 4 - passenger sighting
Ocean Sunfish - passenger sighting

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

Wildlife seen on Lundy
Lundy pony
Soay sheep
House Martin
Meadow Pipit

I walked down to the Harbour and over to the Lundy Office to collect my ticket before boarding the MS Oldenburg. I was told there would be around 200 passengers so I joined the queue and once on board, I made my way up to the bridge to collect my Hi-Viz jacket and have a quick word with Jason, the Captain before taking up position on the top deck.

As we left, I noticed a Cormorant and an Oystercatcher but apart from that I saw no other seabirds until we neared Morte Point and a Fulmar flew by heading towards Ilfracombe. Whilst chatting to the passengers, I saw a Gannet, a small group of juvenile Guillemots and several gulls then I noticed that passengers were looking at something on the starboard side and I went over to investigate but only saw something black disappearing below the water. I initially thought it was a seal but I was later told by one of the passengers that there had been two dolphins. Another passenger told me that she thought she saw a Porpoise as we left Ilfracombe but after hearing her description we decided it was a Sunfish.

Lundy east coast Annette Dutton 2018-09
The east coast of Lundy (Annette Dutton)

As we got nearer the island there were more groups of juvenile Guillemot, Manx Shearwater and Gannet but only in small numbers. Arriving at Lundy there were two Grey Seal in the bay and a further two over in Devil's Kitchen on the high tide. I walked up towards the village and took the left turn and then onto the grassy path to Hanmers Cottage and the nearby bench for lunch.

The sea below was calm and glassy and although the visibility was good, it was hazy out towards the coast. There were few seabirds around and I saw a couple of Grey Seal below by the rocks waiting to haul out when the tide was low enough.

I didn't see anything else so I made my way over to the village and the shop where I got chatting to some people I knew before returning to the path and back down to the landing bay. The seals I had seen earlier were now hauled out on the rocks giving the passengers in the queue a good photo opportunity.

Grey Seal Annette Dutton 15
Grey Seal (Annette Dutton)

As we left the island there were lots of groups of juvenile guillemots and as I was talking to one of the passengers they spotted a couple of dolphins in the distance but I couldn't see anything and shortly afterwards another passenger said they had just seen a Harbour Porpoise. I was beginning to think I wouldn't see any cetaceans when I saw a group of Gannets circling off Morte Point above the tidal race, the sea was very choppy and I couldn't see anything at first but then spotted two Harbour Porpoise swimming away in the calmer water.

We arrived back at a very busy Ilfracombe as the Sea Ilfracombe Festival was under way and I said goodbye to Jason and the crew, thanking them for another enjoyable trip.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report ‘MS Oldenburg’ Ilfracombe-Lundy 18 August 2018

Posted 19 August 2018

Wildlife Officer: Steve McAusland

Weather: Strong westerly winds, sea state 4-5, light rain showers.

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals:
Common Dolphin 7
Harbour Porpoise 2 (Brief glimpse)
Grey Seal 24

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

Terrestrial birds:
Meadow Pipit
Wheatear
Starling
Raven
House Sparrow
Wood Pigeon
Swallow
Robin
Blackbird
Dunnock
Oystercatcher
Wren
Cormorant
Carrion Crow
Goldfinch
Jackdaw
Pied Wagtail
Willow Warbler
Firecrest

I arrived in Ilfracombe at 9:00am for my last Lundy trip of 2018 where the weather was windy and there was a good chance of rain during the crossing. The crossing was rather bumpy with the expected rain making an appearance after we were underway.

As the MS Oldenburg started out of the harbour the ships motion made it difficult to chat to as many passengers as I would normally. 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.

Firecrest Peter Howlett 01
Firecrest (Library photo: Peter Howlett)

The count of birds at sea was very low as was the number of species which was a first for this usually plentiful crossing. Birds of note were Manx Shearwater and Gannet along with the usual common gulls, plus Kittiwake and Fulmar. What was very surprising was no Guillemots and Razorbills were seen all day.

As the Oldenburg made its way slowly towards the landing bay there were a few Grey Seals on the rocks and a few Shag on the water. A wet afternoon ensued and the highlight was a Firecrest in the woodland next to the walled garden.

As we left to return to Ilfracombe the weather changed to give a more pleasant sailing back. Here we enjoyed 7 Common Dolphins and 2 Harbour Porpoises.

Common Dolphin Steve McAusland 01a
Common Dolphin (Library photo: Steve McAusland)

Before disembarking I thanked the Captain for his and his crews' continued support for MARINElife.

MARINElife Survey Report: ‘Oldenburg’ Ilfracombe-Lundy 11 August 2018

Posted 17 August 2018

Maggie Gamble and Amanda Jones, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884; Registered Company No. 5057367)

Weather: Outward - overcast, wind S force 4, good visibility. Return - overcast, wind S 4-6, good visibility.

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals
Grey Seal  Halichoerus grypus 2

Seabirds
Fulmar  Fulmarus glacialis 3
Gannet  Morus bassanus 34
Herring Gull  Larus argentatus 8
Kittiwake  Rissa tridactyla 3
Lesser Black-backed Gull  Larus fuscus 2
Manx Shearwater  Puffinus puffinus 62
Pomarine Skua  Stercorarius pomarinus 1
Shag  Phalacrocorax aristotelis 9
Storm Petrel  Hydrobates pelagicus 2
Wader sp.  18

When I arrived in Ilfracombe the residents of Ilfracombe were busy setting up for their Harbour Festival. I met up with Amanda my fellow surveyor who had already collected our tickets and we boarded the Oldenburg for what was to be Amanda's first survey.

Pomarine Skua Peter Howlett 02
Pomarine Skua (Library photo: Peter Howlett)

It was a quiet survey overall, no cetaceans were spotted and fairly low numbers of seabirds. However, that gave us plenty of time to cover the survey methodology and to enjoy watching the birds we saw. The great bonus of sea watching from a boat is the amazing close views you can have of these wonderful marine inhabitants. So, it was a day of quality birds and not quantity but it gave Amanda plenty of time to admire some new species. Manx Shearwaters were working the air currents and a couple of diminutive European Storm Petrels flitted past on their way to the southern tip of Africa for yet another summer. Bird of the day was a Pomarine Skua, a passage migrant on its way south to the coast of west Africa was a bonus spot by Amanda.

Storm Petrel Mark Darlaston 01a
Storm Petrel (Library photo: Mark Darlaston)

Unfortunately Saturday was the day that the 2018 hottest, driest summer for decades finally broke. Lundy was suffering from a shortage of water but there was plenty coming down outside. The Marisco Tavern was clearly the place to be for a hot meal and a cup of tea. Afterwards I made my way back down to the pier for the return leg of the survey. Just off the beach were a couple of Grey Seals and their pupping/ breeding season will soon commence.

On our arrival back in the harbour Ilfracombe was in the middle of glorious bird-man eccentricity. Teams of people in fancy dress and various props leaping seawards off the harbour attempting to achieve flight. None of them flew as well as a Manx Shearwater and a vertical but heroic plunge was the norm. Once again our thanks go to the Landmark Trust and the Captain and crew of the Oldenburg for enabling us to continue this survey.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘MS Oldenburg’ Ilfracombe-Lundy 11 August 2018

Posted 16 August 2018

Nicola Simpson MARINElife WLO

Summary of sightings

Marine mammals:
Grey seal 2

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

I arrived at Ilfracombe harbour at 9.15am, ready to check in and board the Oldenburg for our journey to Lundy. I met the two MARINElife surveyors, Maggie and Amanda, onboard for our trip. Ilfracombe was very busy as people were setting up for a festival starting later that day.

We boarded and set off at around 10am, the weather was cloudy with a gentle breeze. Heading out into the channel I made my way around the decks greeting people, whilst keeping an eye out for any sightings.

We saw plenty of gulls as we left the harbour and as we headed out into the channel. A little further out we spotted Gannet and Manx Shearwater. I spoke to many passengers and families who were looking forward to their visit to Lundy and spotting wildlife once on the island. As we arrived into Lundy seabird numbers started to increase once again and we saw many gulls.

Grey Seal Nicola Simpson 01
Grey Seal off Lundy (Nicola Simpson)

We disembarked onto Lundy, although it was overcast, I had a lovely walk around the island stopping and chatting to passengers I had met on our outward journey.

As we waited to re-board the boat for our return journey I spotted two Grey Seals popping out of the water to wave us off. On our return journey we had additional sightings of Kittiwake, Fulmar and Shag. We returned to Ilfracombe in good time, with the festival now in full swing and people jumping off the pier in front of a panel of judges.

I disembarked thanking the Captain and his crew for the wonderful journey and their assistance.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report ‘MS Oldenburg’ Ilfracombe-Lundy 4 August 2018

Posted 05 August 2018

Wildlife Officer: Hazel Pittwood

Summary of sightings:

Cetaceans:
Common Dolphin 5
Unidentified dolphins 9 (seen from the Island)
Minke Whale (probable, seen by passenger/crew member)

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

After travelling down to Ilfracombe the evening before and being met with thick fog I was relieved to see the air had cleared on the morning of the sailing! With good visibility and a lovely, calm sea state 1 I was excited for my first time volunteering as a Wildlife Officer on this journey.

After introducing myself to the friendly crew I waited until the ship departed the dock and then headed out onto deck to talk with the passengers. Wearing a MARINElife high-vis jacket to be easily identifiable, I explained my role on the journey as a volunteer present to help spot and identify wildlife as an added element to this crossing.

Lundy west coast Hazel Pittwood 01
West coast of Lundy (Hazel Pittwood)

We were accompanied out of port by a flock of Herring Gull, consisting mainly of juveniles. The crew had reported seeing large numbers of Manx Shearwater over the past few days and sure enough it wasn't long before we started seeing these magnificent birds. Sightings of Gannet, Fulmar, Cormorant and Guillemot followed. We also had a fantastic view of an Ocean Sunfish as it passed close by the ship on the starboard side!

We then had our first cetacean sighting of the journey, I spotted fins breaking the surface in the middle distance on the port side and I called out to let passengers know and explained to them where to look to see these animals. As we kept watch it became clear they were Common Dolphin and their behaviour suggested they were feeding.

Passengers were thrilled to see the occasional solitary Puffin along the way and it was a delight to see numerous Kittiwake. As we came into dock a passenger shouted that they had seen a whale, a crew member also confirmed that they had seen the animal, which he believed was a Minke Whale (this is indeed the most likely, as the most common whale dwelling in shallow waters around the UK). Sadly I didn't see it!

Grey Seal Hazel Pittwood 01
Grey Seal in Landing Bay, Lundy (Hazel Pittwood)

The sight of at least six Grey Seals bobbing inquisitively around the island near the jetty provided great excitement as we left the ship. I sat and watched them on the shore as a huge male seal drifted lazily, allowing the tide to carry him to and fro. I walked up to the top of the island and sat in the long grass. As I ate my lunch I watched as a pod of dolphins moved across the sea in the distance.

Compass Jellyfish Hazel Pittwood 01
Compass Jellyfish (Hazel Pittwood)

Whilst waiting to board the ship I joined passengers in spotting jellyfish moving slowly in the shallows. On this return journey we were treated to more of the same in terms of seabird sightings, but no more cetaceans. Flocks of Manx Shearwater, a few hundred strong, were an impressive sight. Lots of passengers approached me to ask what they were, captivated by their graceful, gliding flight.

Thank you as always to the crew of the MS Oldenburg for their kind assistance.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘MS Oldenburg’ Ilfracombe-Lundy Saturday 28 July 2018

Posted 03 August 2018

MARINElife/Lundy WLO Terry Bridgwood

Weather: Cloudy on the way out and sunny on the way back, wind speed 5-6, sea state 6.

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals:
Grey Seal

Seabirds
Storm Petrel
Fulmar
Manx Shearwater
Gannet
Shag
Oystercatcher
Lesser Black-backed Gull

This was my first trip as the WLO to Lundy Island. My wife and a couple of friends were joining me for the day. We arrived in Ilfracombe on Friday night and found somewhere to camp for the night.

Next morning we went for breakfast at the highly recommended Adele's café. The young staff were covering for the owners who were away for a wedding. The service was prompt and the food excellent, piping hot. The staff were lovely. After breakfast we picked up our tickets from the ticket office and waited to board. Boarding started and I waited until we were underway before I introduced myself to the Captain. Donning my WLO tabard I positioned myself on the upper deck.

Lundy coastguard rescue
Coastguard helicopter approaching the Oldenburg (Terry Bridgwood)

The wind had picked up a bit and it made the crossing a bit lively. The Oldenburg ploughed on through the sea riding the waves, the bow lifting and then dropping. Just over halfway into the crossing one of the passengers fell ill, their condition such that the Coastguard was called. As we neared Lundy Island the Captain slowed the vessel and changed course so that  the Coastguard helicopter could land the winchman on board to ready the patient for airlifting off. Once ready the helicopter returned and the patient whisked off to hospital. The Coastguard and crew of the Oldenburg handled the situation with professionalism and efficiency. It is comforting to realise that the Coastguard are there when you need them.

We continued on to Lundy and disembarked. There were a group of about 8 Grey Seals resting on the rocks at Mouse and Rat islands. We walked up the hill to grab a cuppa and snack in the Marisco Tavern.

My group took a walk to Jenny's Cove as our friends had never seen a Puffin before. We stopped to say hello to the pigs and give them a scratch and it was lovely to see the foal that had been born only days before our previous week-long visit.

Lundy Terry Bridgewood 01-18
Squall approaching Lundy (Terry Bridgwood)

When we reached Jenny's Cove we had to lie down to look through our binoculars as we were nearly blown off our feet. After about 15 minutes I suggested that we headed back as I could see the rain heading towards us. Too late, we were drenched by the time we arrived back at the tavern.

By the time we had boarded the Oldenburg the weather had calmed down a bit, the wind dropped and the sun came out. It didn't take long for our wet clothes to dry. As we left dock the seals were still there bottling and bobbing up and down in the water and the Oystercatchers were calling on the shore. On the journey back we were able to see, Gannet, Fulmar, Shag, guillemot and a variety of gulls, Shag and Guillemot. It was a treat to see Manx Shearwaters gliding just above the waves, rising up and down between the troughs.

Lundy Terry Bridgewood 02-18
Oldenburg alongside at Lundy (Terry Bridgwood)

The return journey was much calmer and everyone seemed to enjoy the sun. The Island's Head Ranger (Dean) travelled back with us for a well-earned holiday. If you live on Lundy where would you go? Dean travelled back on the bridge and was lucky to see a Storm Petrel. Once back in Ilfracombe we all had to disembark swiftly as the crew had to take the Oldenburg to Bideford.

We stayed the night in Ilfracombe and headed home on the Sunday - after another excellent breakfast at Adele's café. They only shut one day a year and are open from 07:30am.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘MS Oldenburg’ Ilfracombe-Lundy Saturday 21 July 2018

Posted 27 July 2018

MARINElife/Lundy WLO Annette Dutton

Weather: Sunny and Dry with a light breeze, Sea State slight

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals
Grey seal 7
Common Dolphin 8+
Harbour Porpoise 3

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

Wildlife seen on Lundy
Lundy pony
Soay sheep
Swallow
House Martin
Meadow Pipit

It was another glorious day for my WLO trip to Lundy and on arrival at Ilfracombe Harbour, I collected my ticket and joined the long queue to board the Oldenburg. I went up to the bridge to collect my hi-viz jacket and after a quick chat to Jason the Captain, I returned to the upper deck.

The Oldenburg was full and as we sailed out of the harbour towards Lundy, I began chatting to the passengers while keeping an eye out for anything interesting. My first sighting was a Gannet bobbing about and as we sailed along the coast I saw a Kittiwake, Manx Shearwater and several auks before going into the Channel.

Common Dolphin Peter Howlett 58
Common Dolphin (Library photo: Peter Howlett)

I was positioned on the starboard side when about halfway through the journey, a passenger alerted me to a Porpoise in the distance and I also spotted 2 Common Dolphins heading towards the coast then I heard a commotion on the port side so went over to investigate and a small group of Common Dolphins had approached us but they soon disappeared.

Further on I saw a Guillemot with its young then a raft of mixed auks amongst which I could make out a couple of Puffins then as we got closer to Lundy I could see a group of seabirds in the distance but they were pretty inactive and there were no cetaceans around.

Lundy west coast 2018 Annette Dutton
The west coast from the Battery (Annette Dutton)

We arrived and as I followed everyone along the landing stage I could see a Grey Seal in the Devil's Kitchen. I got a lift from Dean in the Land Rover to save my knee and as he loaded up supplies for the shop from the Oldenburg so I was surrounded by milk and ice creams.

After eating my lunch by the shop, I walked up the main track and crossed over to the west side passing the Old Light and taking the lower path to sit on the rocks above the Old Battery. This is a good spot for checking the open sea for cetaceans and just when I thought I wasn't going to see anything, I saw a couple of Gannets in the distance with 2 Porpoises feeding below.

Grey Seal Annette Dutton 14
Grey Seal (Annette Dutton)

I returned to the village and back to the landing bay to wait in the queue to board the Oldenburg. As we left the Island I saw 5 Grey Seals below the Shags on Mouse Island but after that there were very few sightings apart from the odd Guillemot, Razorbill and gull species and we soon arrived in Ilfracombe where I collected my belongings, said goodbye to Jason and the crew and thanked them for their hospitality.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘MS Oldenburg’ Ilfracombe-Lundy Saturday 7 July 2018

Posted 10 July 2018

MARINElife/Lundy WLO Annette Dutton

Weather: Sunny and dry with a light breeze, sea state slight

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals
Grey seal 3
Common Dolphin 7/8
Bottlenose Dolphin 1
Harbour Porpoise 2

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

Wildlife seen on Lundy
Lundy pony
Skylark
Swallow
House Martin
Meadow Pipit

Once again the weather was glorious for my trip to Lundy and I wandered down to Ilfracombe harbour to join the long queue to board the MS Oldenburg. There were over 250 passengers onboard and after saying hello to Jason the Captain, I wondered where I was going to position myself in order to be able to look out for marine wildlife as the top deck was pretty busy.

Luckily, I managed to get my usual spot and as we left the harbour I was soon approached by passengers, many of whom were interested in how I had become involved with MARINElife and about the work of the orgnisation.

My first sighting was of a Gannet to the starboard side then a single Manx Shearwater and  as we approached Morte Point, a group of 4 Manx Shearwaters flew by. Still looking to the starboard side I caught a brief glimpse of a cetacean which looked like a Common Dolphin then another glimpse of 2 cetaceans over on the port side as we got into the channel.

Common dolphin Peter Howlett 44
Common Dolphin (Library photo: Peter Howlett)

Moving towards Lundy, a Mediterranean Gull flew past heading north then we passed a large group of rafting Manx Shearwaters and other gull species, as we neared Lundy there were more seabirds further out to sea with several Gannets flying above them.

We arrived at the Landing Bay and after saying hello to Dean the Warden and his Assistant Sian, I walked up to the village, taking the left turn along the road then up the grassy path to Hanmers and my favourite bench. I ate my lunch and enjoyed the view, there were lots of butterflies, moths and, notably, lots of Six-spot Burnet moths. It  was incredibly hot and I went over to Castle Keep where I could see 3 Grey Seals in the Devil's Kitchen below then walked to the village stopping off in the Church to cool down and look at the new displays about the Island.

6Spot Burnet Annette Dutton 01
6-spot Burnet on thistle (Annette Dutton)

After taking a few photos of the Lundy foal, I made my way back to the Landing Bay and back on board the Oldenburg to start the return journey. We passed the same groups of seabirds, including Razorbills and Guillemots and the sea was rich with various jellyfish - Moon, Compass and Blue.

As we moved further away from Lundy I spotted a cetacean in the distance on the starboard side which I identified as a Harbour Porpoise then a passenger told me he had seen 2 Harbour Porpoise on the port side. Soon afterwards I saw another cetacean in the distance which was recogniseable as a Bottlenose Dolphin then as we neared the mainland we were approached by a small group of Common Dolphins who stayed with the boat briefly before we outran them. One of the passengers had photographs of the cetaceans we had seen which confirmed my identification of them.

There were still lots of jellyfish in the sea as we cruised nearer to Ilfracombe but no more seabirds or cetaceans. After we arrived in the harbour I collected my belongings, said goodbye to Jason and the crew and thanked them for their hospitality.

MARINElife WLO Report: MS Oldenburg Bideford-Lundy 30 June 2018

Posted 03 July 2018

Steve McAusland MARINElife/Lundy WLO

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals
Grey Seal 3

Estuary birds
Peregrine
Redshank
Little Egret
Grey Heron
Curlew
Oystercatcher
Cormorant

Birds at sea:
Puffin
Manx Shearwater
Black Headed Gull
Herring Gull
Kittiwake
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Fulmar
Cormorant
Shag
Gannet

Lundy terrestrial birds:
House Sparrow
Meadow Pipit
Wheatear
Starling
Raven
Carrion Crow
Wood Pigeon
House Martin
Swallow
Linnet
Oystercatcher
Skylark
Whitethroat
Pied Wagtail

Arriving in Bideford at 07:30am I collected my ticket from the Landmark office and joined the passengers on the quay ready for boarding MS Oldenburg. The ship was full with 256 passengers and 8 crew, upon making my way up to the bridge; I readied myself for the sailing while chatting the Jason the Captain. As the ship sailed along the estuary I caught sight of a Peregrine leaving the A39 road bridge. I soon proceeded to start my tour around the upper and lower decks introducing myself to the passengers.

Puffin Steve McAusland 03
Puffin (Library photo: Steve McAusland)

Whilst Oldenburg made its way through a reasonably calm sea we soon caught sight of Manx Shearwater, Gannet, Puffin, Guillemot, Razorbill, Shag, plus many gulls. Sadly, this trip did not produce any Cetaceans.

Upon disembarking the Oldenburg, I made my way up to catch up with Rick Morris (MARINElife Chairman of Trustees) and Maya Plass (MARINElife Patron) who were running another MARINElife Lundy Adventures break. After that I spent the rest of my time on the Island birding.

Wheatear Steve McAusland 02
Juvenile Wheatear (Library photo: Steve McAusland)

The crossing back to Bideford was very calm and warm as the sun continued to shine all day. Pretty much the same birds were seen along the way as on the journey out.

As we arrived back in Bideford, I thanked Jason and the crew for supporting MARINElife and I look forward to my next trip in August.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘MS Oldenburg’ Ilfracombe-Lundy 23 June 2018

Posted 25 June 2018

MARINElife/Lundy WLO Rick Morris
Weather: blue skies all day with very light winds, sea state: 1-2

Summary of sightings:

Marine mammals:
Harbour Porpoise 5
Bottlenose Dolphin 5
Common Dolphin c30
Grey Seal 3

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

I arrived in Ilfracombe under blue skies and so I was full of hope of some cetacean sightings. After collecting my ticket and a quick catch up with Jacqui and Kate in the shore office I boarded the grand old lady, the 'MS Oldenburg'. A brief visit to the bridge to say hello to Jason (the Captain) and then I made way around the outer decks introducing myself and the charity to all those onboard.

Manx Shearwater Rick Morris 08
Manx Shearwaters (Rick Morris)

We left the now busy harbour and made our way along the stunning North Devon coast in flat calm conditions, if any cetaceans were about today, we would be sure to see them! From the moment of our departure we were seeing Herring Gull and Fulmar followed by Manx Shearwater and auks. I thought we might pick up one or two Harbour Porpoise as we headed along towards Morte Point, but this stretch was very quiet, probably due to a few leisure boats whizzing around!

We were just over an hour into the trip when a passenger said she thought she had seen a Harbour Porpoise, further observation confirmed this with not one but two animals around 300m away. Whilst continuing to look at these, I noticed some very strange 'waves' in the flat calm water some 200m to the right of the porpoise. These 'waves' turned out to be 5 Bottlenose Dolphin swimming with a purpose, but not showing much back, just surfacing enough to take a breath of air.

Bird sightings remained constant all the way to Lundy, with many Manx Shearwater, Guillemot, Razorbill and Puffin resting on the sea and Fulmar, Kittiwake, Gannet and gulls in the air.

Horse and Foal Rick Morris 2018
Lundy pony with new born foal (Rick Morris)

On the island I only had a short walk about as I needed to finalise our MARINElife/Lundy 6 day workshop with Dean (the Warden) which takes place from 28 June-3 July. However, I was delighted to see that one of the Ponies had given birth to a beautiful foal that wasn't yet a week old.

The return home was very much like the outbound trip with very calm seas and the same seabirds. We left the Landing Jetty under the watchful eyes of a couple of Grey Seal. Another Grey Seal was spotted shortly after leaving. As we neared the hallway point Common Dolphin were seen in the distance. They were a large group of around 30 animals spread over a large area with many feeding together with Manx Shearwater, but a few individuals thrilled the passengers by coming into the bow for a play.

Common Dolphin Rick Morris 11
Common Dolphin feeding (Rick Morris)

As we neared the North Devon Coast, Harbour Porpoise were seen with more Manx Shearwater present - I always make a point to inform passengers to keep an eye on the birds as the feed on the same prey fish!

Back into the harbour and safely tied off, I said goodbye to Jason and the crew. This was a truly fantastic trip today with great wildlife sightings for the passengers to see and enjoy.

A huge thanks to the crew of the 'Oldenburg' for their brilliant help and assistance. I would also like to thank Jacqui and Kate in the shore office and all those on Lundy who are always so helpful.

MARINElife Survey Report: MS Oldenburg Bideford-Lundy 16 June 2018

Posted 19 June 2018

Ruth Crundwell  Research Surveyor for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884; Registered Company No. 5057367)

Weather Outward - overcast, good visibility. Return - overcast becoming brighter nearer the mainland

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals
Common Dolphin Delphinus delphis 2

Seabirds
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 50
Gannet  Morus bassanus 2
Cormorant  Phalacrocorax carbo 4
Oystercatcher  Haematopus ostralegus 10
Herring Gull  Larus argentatus 19
Kittiwake  Rissa tridactyla 1
Guillemot Uria aalge 23
Puffin  Fratercula arctica 2
Black-backed Gull sp. Larus sp. 9

Boarding the Oldenburg I was greeted by Captain Jason and 2nd officer Mike and made comfortable on the bridge of this vintage vessel. Our smooth journey down the estuary was a good start to the day. On leaving the estuary mouth the swell picked up but visibility was good despite cloud cover. A relatively quiet crossing was made more exciting by the sighting of Common Dolphin who raced over to bow-ride as we headed toward Lundy.

Common Dolphin Peter Howlett 31
Common Dolphin (Library photo: Peter Howlett)

After disembarking at the Lundy quay I made my way up to the village and enjoyed some refreshments at the Marisco Tavern. Later I walked over to Jenny's Cove to take a look at the Puffin, Guillemot and Razorbills which nest there at this time of year.

Time went quickly on the return journey as I could hardly keep up with the many seabirds I observed. Entering the Taw-Torridge estuary we were greeted with a flyby from a flock of Oystercatcher which looked magnificent with the Braunton sand dunes behind them. A sighting of the resident Little Egret perched in the trees on the river bank made a nice end to the day.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘MS Oldenburg’ Ilfracombe-Lundy 9 June 2018

Posted 15 June 2018

MARINElife/Lundy WLO Annette Dutton

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

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals
Grey seal 3
Common Dolphin 5-6

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

Wildlife seen on Lundy
Soay Sheep
Lundy pony
Skylark
Goldfinch
Swallow
House Martin
Wheatear
Meadow Pipit
Stonechat

I had spent a few days on Lundy the previous weekend returning on Tuesday and here I was walking down to Ilfracombe Harbour go back as WLO for the day. Again, the weather was sunny and dry and the sea conditions were ideal for cetacean spotting.

I boarded the Oldenburg, went up to the bridge to say hello to Jason, the Captain and to sort out my belongings before taking up position on the top deck.

Grey Seal Annette Dutton 13
Grey Seal (Annette Dutton)

The Oldenburg began its gentle cruise towards Lundy and soon after leaving the harbour I spotted a small group of Manx Shearwaters on the starboard side heading in the same direction. As we headed into the channel I saw Herring Gull, Guillemot, Razorbill and a solitary Gannet as we neared the island. On arrival, we were greeted by 2 Grey Seals in the landing bay and after disembarking began the walk up to the village.

Lundy Annette Dutton 13
The Old Battery (Annette Dutton)

After visiting the shop, I walked through the campsite past the Old Light and over to the lower path and sat on the rocks overlooking the Battery for lunch. There were many seabirds below including the odd Gannet but no sign of cetaceans. I wandered over to the next rocky outcrop and searched again for dolphins and Harbour Porpoises but no joy so I took the path towards the battery to take photos of the sea cave opposite.

I walked back to the landing stage and saw Myra who I had met the previous weekend then we boarded the Oldenburg hoping for good sightings on the return trip. I saw a trickle of Manx Shearwater, Guillemots and Razorbills then the crew alerted me to a small group of Common Dolphins on the port side, I managed to see the tail end of the group as they swam to the rear of the Oldenburg on the starboard side. The passengers were thrilled and a nearby group showed me the photographs taken on their phones.

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

We continued towards the North Devon coast but only saw a Gannet then a Razorbill before arriving at Ilfracombe harbour. I said goodbye to Jason and the crew and thanked them for another amazing trip.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘MS Oldenburg’ Bideford-Lundy 2 June 2018

Posted 10 June 2018

MARINElife/Lundy WLO Lucy Grable

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals:
Harbour Porpoise 5
Dolphin sp. 3
Grey Seal 55

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

Other Marine Life:
Moon Jellyfish

As I arrived at Bideford, the quay was buzzing with the excitement with all the passengers waiting to board the MS Oldenberg. The boat was at full capacity and with the sun shining and a very calm sea state I was feeling rather hopeful we were going to catch some glimpses of cetaceans.

Once onboard, Annette Dutton, one of MARINElife's Wildlife Officers introduced herself to me. We follow each other on Twitter so it was lovely finally meeting! Annette was spending four days on Lundy Island and she couldn't have picked better weather for a stay.

Harbour Porpoise Peter Howlett 15b
Harbour Porpoise (Library photo: Peter Howlett)

It was a fairly quiet crossing with only small numbers of seabirds observed with the majority dominated by groups of Guillemot and Razorbill. A single Black Guillemot and a few Gannet were also seen. The port side of the boat were fortunate to spot Harbour Porpoise, but unfortunately I missed that encounter. I spoke to many of the passengers who were keen on seeing Puffins, amazingly as we approached Lundy we were treated to a close-up of a puffin flying past the boat. I also spotted two Grey Seal frolicking in the water and was able to point them out to those nearby.

Once we disembarked from the boat, I hit a bottleneck and saw that everyone had stopped to look at a Grey Seal around the Landing Bay. I spent my time on the island doing what I usually do, heading straight to Jenny's Cove to watch the Puffins. This time I was treated to closer encounters of around 20 Puffins. I passed my binoculars around to those who didn't have any and helped in locating the Puffins and distinguishing between Guillemots and Razorbill.

I then made my way to the north of the island where I stopped for lunch watching five Grey Seals. I walked around the whole island and counted a total of 52 Grey Seals along the eastern coast. The seals were particular noisy that day snorting, roaring and wailing with the echoes travelling long distances.

Razorbill and Guillemot Steve McAusland 01
Razorbills and Guillemots (Library photo: Steve McAusland)

I returned to the Landing Bay at 4pm to join many of the passengers in the round the Island boat trip on the MS Oldenberg. We were able to see a large number of auks rafting close-by which was great for pointing out the difference to the passengers. The commentary from Steve was very informative and I would highly recommend going on the boat trip if you have time. I also spotted some very distance dolphins towards the mainland with the help of a passenger, which I was hoping we would approach on our return journey.

Whilst waiting for the rest of the passengers to board the Oldenberg for return to Bideford, I spotted a large number of Moon Jellyfish within the Landing Bay. The return trip made for perfect cetacean spotting. We didn't come across the dolphins I observed from distance earlier in the day, but we were fortunate in having two encounters with Harbour Porpoise. However, both were pretty quick encounters, but many of the passengers were able to see the individuals.

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

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘MS Oldenburg’ Ilfracombe-Lundy 26 May 2018

Posted 28 May 2018

MARINElife WLO Jenny Ball

Weather: Misty on outward journey, with light NE wind and slight sea. Some drizzle and otherwise calm conditions on the return.

Summary of sightings:

Marine mammals:
Grey Seal 1
Common Dolphin 5
Bottlenose Dolphin 10

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

Terrestrial birds:
Carrion Crow
Chiffchaff
House Martin
House Sparrow
Linnet
Raven
Rock Pipit
Skylark
Starling
Swallow
Wheatear

This was to be my first visit to Lundy, so I joined the large crowd of Bank Holidaymakers on board the MS Oldenburg for the 2 hour crossing. The forecast windy conditions had not materialised, and instead we set off on a calm but misty trip on the Bristol Channel. I could see a couple of nesting Fulmar on the cliffs outside the harbour, together with a number of gulls and swooping hirundines, and once on our way we came across a few Guillemot, Manx Shearwater and Gannet. I enjoyed talking to the passengers, all eagerly anticipating their visit to Lundy: a group of children knew all about cetaceans, having found a corpse and a skull on a previous holiday, a couple of ladies had a new I-Spy Birds book and were keen to tick a few of them off, and there was lots of interest in wildlife in general.

The Captain, Jason, told me that several pods of Harbour Porpoise had been seen on recent crossings, along with a 2km-long stream of cuttlefish bones. There were quite a number of cuttlefish bones, sadly caught up with a lot of plastic and other rubbish, but we saw no cetaceans on the way out…

Lundy west coast Jenny Ball 01
Glorious display of Thrift on the Lundy cliffs (Jenny Ball)

Once on the island, I walked through increasingly murky conditions to Jenny's Cove to see the Puffins - there are apparently around 25 pairs, all on one of the six or so available nesting areas.  Although very distant, it was lovely to see them, a regular stream flying in and out, and others walking around amongst the thrift. The mist lifted as it was time to head back, so I could appreciate a little more of the island I was walking through. A Grey Seal came along to see us off Lundy, and a good few passengers waiting to board the MS Oldenburg borrowed my binoculars to get a better view.

Oldenburg Jenny Ball 01
Oldenburg alongside at Lundy (Jenny Ball)

The large number of Razorbill seen on the water on the way in were no longer there but again we had intermittent views of Gannet, Guillemot, Manx Shearwater and various gulls during the crossing.  We also had a really great experience: a group of around five Common Dolphin approached the boat, leaping clear of the water and giving passengers a brilliant view, and at the same time a larger group of what I think were Bottlenose Dolphin cruised by in the other direction. This group included at least two juveniles, and was swimming purposefully towards Lundy. A passenger reported seeing a Sunfish, which they said was unusually early in this area, and another passenger told me an extraordinary story of seeing dolphin corralling their prey, from a view point at the extreme north end of the island.

Many thanks to the captain and crew of the MS Oldenburg, and to the Landmark Trust for their generous cooperation - what an interesting first WLO trip to Lundy!

MARINElife Survey Report: MS Oldenburg Ilfracombe-Lundy 12 May 2018

Posted 14 May 2018

Alan Sumnall and Nicola Simpson Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884; Registered Company No. 5057367)

Weather: The weather was clear throughout the survey, around 50% cloud, with sunshine at times. Slightly windy conditions created more challenging surveying conditions on the outward journey.

Summary of sightings:

Seabirds
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 54
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 11
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 4
Great Skua Stercorarius skua 1
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 3
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 11
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 12
Razorbill Alca torda 13
Guillemot Uria aalge 63

We were welcomed on board in Ilfracombe by the friendly crew, then headed up to the bridge to meet the Captain who showed us to our survey location. We set off from Ilfracombe at around 10:00, the weather was clear, although a little windy.

Lundy Alan Sumnall 01
Approaching Lundy (Alan Sumnall)

Seabird sightings began shortly after we set off with numerous Fulmar, Razorbill and Guillemot spotted flying and on the water. As we continued on towards Lundy we also observed Herring Gull and Shag. We arrived at Lundy Island around midday and were greeted with sightings of Grey Seal in the harbour.

We spent several hours walking around Lundy Island, taking in the sights of the stunning coastline and enjoying the glorious weather. As well as observing several more Grey Seal along the coast we also spotted a variety of birds, including Puffin, Wheatear and Whimbrel. We were also lucky to be visiting when the endemic Lundy Cabbage was in flower, and got to see one of the associated endemic insects - the Lundy Cabbage Flea Beetle!

Great Skua Peter Howlett 26
Great Skua (Library photo: Peter Howlett)

We returned to the MS Oldenburg for our return journey and set off at around 16:30. The weather on the way back was once again clear, with a little wind, and sea conditions were excellent. A variety of birds were spotted on our return, including Great Black-backed Gull, Manx Shearwater, Kittiwake and Great Skua. We arrived back in to Ilfracombe at around 18:30 and disembarked the MS Oldenburg.

Once again our thanks go to the Captain and very helpful and friendly staff and crew of the MS Oldenburg who made this a very enjoyable crossing.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘MS Oldenburg’ Ilfracombe-Lundy 12 May 2018

Posted 13 May 2018

MARINElife/Lundy WLO Annette Dutton

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

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals
Grey Seal 3

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

Wildlife seen on Lundy
Soay Sheep
Lundy Goat
Lundy pony
Skylark
Goldfinch
Swallow
House Martin
Wheatear
Kestrel

I walked down to Ilfracombe Harbour in the sunshine and as I went to join the queue I saw someone in a MARINElife tee shirt sat on the steps, this turned out to be Nicola who was there with Alan to do the monthly survey. We had a chat and boarded the Oldenburg, went up to the bridge to say hello to Jason, the Captain and then I left to take up position on the top deck.

Although the sea was calm there was a fair swell and the Oldenburg rose up and down as we cruised along. My first sighting was a Razorbill followed by 2 Fulmar flying past, as we passed Morte Point and moved into the channel I spotted Gannet and Guillemot. There was nothing else until we neared Lundy when I saw Manx Shearwater, Shag, Oystercatcher and a Grey Seal by the rocks near the landing stage.

Lundy Annette Dutton 11
Lundy coast at Hanmer (Annette Dutton)

Arriving at the village I walked along the track past St Helena's church which was looking like a new pin after the renovation works then along the grassy path leading to the bench by Hanmers holiday cottage where I had lunch. There were lots of Swallows and Martins flying about and I saw another Grey Seal below in the bay past Millcombe and a Kestrel flew by.

I walked over to the Castle and along the path towards Shutter Point passing some Lundy Goats, it was lovely to see the pink of the Sea Thrift in patches along the way. I sat on the rocks at the end and enjoyed the dramatic views down to Shutter Rocks accompanied by  more Swallows and Martins flying about but I saw nothing in the sea below.

I walked back to the village and down Millcombe Valley where I spotted a patch of Lundy Cabbage on the hillside and as I wandered down further I saw a Barrel Jellyfish below the path to the Landing bay. Passengers waiting in the queue were treated to a Grey Seal swimming close to the pier.

Lundy Cabbage Annette Dutton 02
Lundy Cabbage (Annette Dutton)

I met up with Nicola and Alan back on the bridge then I went back out onto the deck, the conditions were ideal for spotting cetaceans but sadly I saw none. The return journey saw the same seabirds as the outward journey and we were soon back in Ilfracombe harbour.

I returned to the bridge to collect my belongings, thanked Jason and the team and left the Oldenburg with Nicola and Alan.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘MS Oldenburg’ Ilfracombe-Lundy 5 May 2018

Posted 12 May 2018

MARINElife/Lundy WLO Maggie Gamble

Summary of sightings:

Cetaceans:
None seen

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

I had an enjoyable drive to Ilfracombe in glorious sunshine and the Devonshire banks were studded with Primroses.

The Oldenburg was fairly full including many passengers booked to stay on the Island, some for a few days and others for up to two weeks. Lundy has beguiled many and there are regulars who return every year for a visit. As we left Ilfracombe harbour under the farsighted gaze of Verity, the sunshine persisted and with such a calm sea, I was very optimistic about the chance of some cetacean sightings. The early part of the trip out from Ilfracombe is usually good for Harbour Porpoise and I was sure we would see some but on this occasion they remained elusive. The lack of wind seemed to encourage most birds to swim with just an occasional Gannet and a few Manx Shearwater flying low over the water. A distant floating object caught my attention which at first confused the eye. On closer inspection it resolved into part of a small pallet with a small crew of Guillemots all stood to attention as we cruised past each other.

Wheatear Peter Howlett 02
Wheatear (Library photo: Peter Howlett)

On approaching Lundy it became apparent that the fog which was forecast along part of the coast was settled over the Island. A single Grey Seal was sighted swimming off the port side as we approached the landing stage. A few of the resident Shag were also seen as they commuted to and from their fishing areas.

With the swirling fog concentrated along the west side and patches of sunshine elsewhere, Lundy was all atmosphere and charm. I made my way past the old light where the air was full of recently arrived Swallows with just a few Sand Martins amongst them.  The fog did not deter the resident Skylarks who filled the air with their song and on the ground, my first Wheatear of the year - a very smart  male!  I headed on down to the old battery which was built for conditions such as this! but it's been some years since these old cannons were fired to warn off passing ships in fog. The battery was deserted with just an occasional passing auk or Fulmar but the drifts of Thrift were just coming into full colour.

Lundy Maggie Gamble 2018-01
The Old Battery - Lundy (Maggie Gamble)

At four pm after the usual mug of tea at the Marisco Tavern, it was back to the jetty to board the Oldenburg for the trip back to Ilfracombe.  On this return trip the fog really closed in as we made our way steadily back to the harbour and hampered any efforts to look for wildlife.

As ever, many thanks to the captain the crew of the 'Oldenburg' for having MARINElife on board.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘MS Oldenburg’ Ilfracombe-Lundy Saturday 28 April 2018

Posted 04 May 2018

MARINElife/Lundy WLO Annette Dutton

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

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals
Harbour Porpoise 5
Grey seal 2

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

Wildlife seen on Lundy
Soay Sheep
Sika Deer
Lundy Pony
Skylark
Swallow
Swift
House Martin

It was pretty cold and dull as I walked down to Ilfracombe harbour but there was no sign of rain so I was hoping for a good crossing to Lundy. I boarded the Oldenburg and went up to the bridge to get my hi-viz jacket and to say hello to Jason, the Captain before returning to the top deck to talk to the passengers.

The sea state was calm and we began our cruise to Lundy in a leisurely fashion. I didn't see anything of note until a Gannet as we passed Lee Bay and as we travelled further out towards the channel, the clouds parted and we were bathed in sunshine. I saw a Fulmar and a Swallow pass by then the first Manx Shearwater, the seabird numbers picked up and a Common Tern flew by as we neared Lundy. We approached the island in glorious sunshine and I noticed a Grey Seal swimming about by the rocks and the line of Shags on Mouse Island as we reached the landing stage and disembarked.

Soay Sheep Annette Dutton 2018-01
Soay Sheep (Annette Dutton)

I walked up to the village passing Oystercatchers on the rocks below, it was getting warmer and I removed layers as I went along. In the village I got supplies from the shop and ate some of my lunch on the nearby bench enjoying the chatter of the Swallows and House Martins before plodding up the main track towards the halfway wall.

The track was difficult to negotiate due to deep ruts full of water and boggy ground but it should dry out as the weather warms up. I was surprised to see a Swift fly past in front of me then I saw a group Sika deer by the old hospital buildings, several Lundy ponies and Soay sheep and their young by the half way wall.

I arrived at Jenny's Cove and sat down to finish my lunch and look for the Puffins, I saw the Guillemots on the rocky ledges then I spotted two Puffins above them by a burrow and another one higher up. I knew there were more around and presumed the rest were out at sea. I spotted several more Puffins amongst the other auks in the water below and heard the cry  of a Peregrine Falcon but didn't see it.

Lundy Annette Dutton 10
Lundy west coast at Jenny's Cove (Annette Dutton)

I walked back to the village and down to the Oldenburg, the sea was now very calm and I was hoping to see cetaceans on the way back. As we left Lundy we passed a Grey Seal diving down, several Barrel Jellyfish and then further out we passed a large group of seabirds feeding with 2 Harbour Porpoise amongst them. They were easy to spot and the passengers crowded round to see them. Then shortly afterwards I saw another 2 Harbour Porpoise then a single one slightly further on. A large group of Manx Shearwater flew past and I also saw Guillemot, Razorbill and Gannet.

I didn't see anything else as we cruised along the coast towards Ilfracombe and on arrival, I returned to the bridge to collect my belongings and to say thank you and goodbye to Jason, Mike and Julian.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘MS Oldenburg’ Ilfracombe-Lundy 21 April 2018

Posted 25 April 2018

MARINElife/Lundy WLO Steve McAusland

Weather: Sunny, sea state 2, northwesterly breeze.

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals
Grey Seal 3

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

Terrestrial birds
Merlin
Sparrowhawk
Common Tern
Stonechat
Tree Pipit
Meadow Pipit
Wheatear
Starling
Raven
Carrion Crow
Jackdaw
House Sparrow
Wood Pigeon
Feral Pigeon
Swallow
Linnet
Blackbird
Dunnock
House Martin
Swallow
Skylark
Goldfinch
Mallard
Pied Wagtail
Chiffchaff
Willow Warbler
Whimbrel
Oystercatcher

This was my first Wildlife Officer Trip to Lundy Island for 2018, it began in Ilfracombe, the sun was shining and there was already a large number of passengers waiting on the quayside all eager to board MS Oldenburg for their visit to Lundy.

As I boarded the ship I made my way up on to the bridge to meet Jason the ship's Captain. After a brief chat and before the ship left its berth, I began to start my tour around the upper and lower decks introducing myself to as many passengers I could.

Herring Gull Steve McAusland 01
Herring Gull (Library photo: Steve McAusland)

Leaving Ilfracombe, we soon had many views of Herring gull, Fulmar and as the ship steamed towards Lundy the species of birds increased with Gannet, Razorbill, Guillemot and the amazing Manx Shearwaters!

As the Oldenburg approached the Lundy landing bay my first Whimbrel of the year was seen with two Oystercatchers on the rocks. As I left the ship I had a brief chat with Dean Jones the Lundy Warden to ask about what has been seen recently, he told me that a Minke Whale was seen the day before, this completely changed my plans of going to see the Puffins in Jenny's Cove to scanning the sea on both the eastern side and then the western side of the island. Sadly, no sighting to report of this majestic whale.

Grey Seal Steve McAusland 06a
Grey Seal (Library photo: Steve McAusland)

As I made my way back for the return voyage, notable birds seen included Merlin, Sparrowhawk, Stonechat, Tree Pipit, Skylark, Meadow Pipit and Wheatear.

The crossing back from Lundy provided further sightings of the same sea birds, sadly we did not record any cetaceans on either crossing so I hope my next trip proves more fruitful.

Before disembarkation I thanked Jason the Captain and Derek Green (Lundy's Manager, who was onboard) and the crew for another successful day on behalf of MARINElife and I look forward to my next WLO trip.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘MS Oldenburg’ Ilfracombe-Lundy 14 April 2018

Posted 19 April 2018

MARINElife/Lundy WLO Lucy Grable

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals
Grey Seal 1

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

Terrestrial Birds
Swallow
Blackcap
Peregrine Falcon
House Sparrow
Meadow Pipit
Rock Pipit
Raven
Linnet

Driving down to Ilfracombe harbour, the fog was quite thick and I was getting a little worried the lovely weather that was forecast was not going to be. However, upon joining the queue to board the Oldenburg, the sun began shining and we were all set for a clear and visible crossing. I briefly met up with Chris and Kevin, this month's MARINElife researchers, before we were welcomed onboard by Captain Paul and the crew. This was my first trip of the year to Lundy so I didn't waste any time heading to the outer decks to begin talking to the passengers.

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

Small numbers of Guillemot, Razorbill, Fulmar, Manx Shearwater, Great Black-backed Gull, Kittiwake and Herring Gull were observed on our way to Lundy. Despite excellent visibility, no marine mammals were seen. Many of the passengers were thrilled to hear the Puffins had returned to Lundy and wanted to head over to Jenny's Cove once we arrived on the island. Once we pulled into the Landing Bay, a single Grey Seal was spotted hauled out on the rocks. The seal was a little bit too distant for most to see (and was pretty hidden amongst the rocks) and so my binoculars were passed around to those nearby.

I headed straight to Jenny's Cove and was very pleased to see approximately 50 Puffin both onshore and offshore. I observed them for around two hours before heading along the eastern coast of the island to see if any more seals could be seen. I settled near to Castle Keep and sat in the nice, warm sunshine and kept an eye open for any seals, but only saw butterflies fly by. I also saw a female Peregrine fly over.

Gannet Adrian Shephard 04
Gannet (Library photo: Adrian Shephard)

On the return journey, we were treated to a couple of Gannets putting on wonderful diving displays. Paul the Captain reported seeing a Barrel Jellyfish, however, I missed the sighting. The sea state crept up a little bit on our way back to Ilfracombe, however I still had many helping eyes to spot the marine life. More seabirds were observed on our return journey, particularly large numbers of Guillemot and Razorbill, with many coming close to the boat which was great for pointing out the key identification features of the birds. A lot of the passengers had never been to Lundy before and I was pleased to find out that it won't be the last time either with many already planning their next trip back.

Many thanks as always to Paul, the entire crew of the Oldenberg and everyone on Lundy.

MARINElife Survey Report: Lundy Ferry ‘Oldenburg’ Ilfracombe-Lundy 14 April 2018

Posted 18 April 2018

Kevin Waterfall and Chris Roberts, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884; Registered Company No. 5057367)

Weather: Outward: sunny, good visibility with glare at times, wind southerly force 2-3. Return: sunny, but more cloud cover, good visibility with glare at times, wind south-easterly force 3.

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals
Grey seal  Halichoerus grypus 1

Seabirds
Great Northern Diver  Gavia immer 1
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 48
Fulmar  Fulmarus glacialis 6
Gannet Morus bassanus 5
Shag  Phalacrocorax aristotelis 12
Common Gull Larus canus 6
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 63
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 2
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 16
Commic Tern Sterna hirundo/paradisaea 2
Guillemot Uria aalge 34
Razorbill Alca torda 11
Auk sp. 2
Gull sp. 25

The drive down to Ilfracombe was shrouded in thick fog, wondering what this may mean for our survey, we were very thankful when this cleared as we neared our destination. We arrived in Ilfracombe in glorious sunshine.

After boarding the Oldenburg, we were welcomed by the Captain (Paul) and his crew, who showed us where to find the necessary information to complete our survey. We departed Ilfracombe promptly at 10am and now blessed with sunshine and calm seas, we were hopeful of spotting some interesting wildlife.

Kittiwake Peter Howlett 18
Kittiwake (Library photo: Peter Howlett)

Initially on the outward leg of our survey we saw very little. However, as we got closer to the island we were treated to increasing views of Guillemot, Razorbills, Kittiwake and Fulmars and a Great Northern Diver, then a Grey Seal on rocks outside the harbour.

Time ashore was delightful with Lundy Island resonating to a mass of birdsong.  Marine surveyor Kevin walked up to Jenny's cove and saw a total 52 Puffins. There were reports of over 100 birds already on the island from previous days' records.

Manx Shearwater Mike Bailey 01a
Manx Shearwater (Library photo: Mike Bailey)

Although sailing home into the wind and slightly choppier seas, the return trip was much more productive and we recorded a much greater number of sightings. These included Manx Shearwaters, Kittiwakes and Razorbills in some numbers. The Captain also reported seeing a Barrel jellyfish.

Once again our thanks go to the staff and crew of the Oldenburg who made this a very enjoyable crossing.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘MS Oldenburg’ Ilfracombe-Lundy 07 April 2018

Posted 08 April 2018

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: 'MS Oldenburg'

Ilfracombe-Lundy 07 April 2018

MARINElife/Lundy WLO Hazel Munt

Weather: Sunny and dry, light winds, sea state slight

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals
Grey Seal 2

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

Terrestrial Birds
Swallow
Wheatear
Peregrine Falcon
House Sparrow
Wood pigeon

I had been staying in Newquay and drove up that morning, the fog wasn't clearing well on the higher land but as I drove into Ilfracombe the fog had cleared. I joined the queue to board the MS Oldenburg and the crew were working hard to get the Easter holiday visitors and their belongings on board. I managed to get hold of Julian and he took me to see the captain, Paul, where we had a quick catch up and then I got myself into position.

Leaving the harbour there was a large number of Herring Gulls and saw a few Guillemot, Swallow, Razorbill, Great Black-backed Gull and Kittiwake. The sea was relatively calm and we were able to see exceptionally far but despite this advantage no cetaceans were seen. Many of the passengers were asking about the Puffins and if they had returned to Lundy and I was able to tell them some were starting to arrive. I chatted away to several passengers giving them tips to tell the difference between the three auk species found at Lundy.

Grey Seal Peter Howlett 04
Grey Seal (Library photo: Peter Howlett)

On arrival I said my hellos to Dean, the warden, and his team and then decided to see how far I could get in the short amount of time I had on the island. Being MARINElife's marathon runner I wanted to get to the other side of the island. I set off but as we were all climbing the hill I spotted a Grey Seal pop his head up right below us and I chatted about seals and their special adaptations and habitats to anyone who would listen. Then I set off again, but not without a quick pit stop in the tavern to get some tea.

The weather was lovely with just a little sea fog rolling over the island and as I walked I saw Wheatears, Swallows, House Sparrows and the Lundy Soay Sheep.  I nearly got to the other end of the island within an hour but had to return quite promptly as I wanted a peek in Jenny's Cove to see if any Puffins were about.  When I got there I searched and searched and finally a single Puffin hanging onto the end of a raft of Guillemots finally became visible.

Puffin Peter Howlett 13
Puffin (Library photo: Peter Howlett)

We set off quite promptly, saying my goodbyes to Dean and the team, and we were treated to another Grey Seal sighting. On the return journey I ended up with a gaggle of children and teaching them how to ID seabirds, by the end of the journey they were correctly identifying Guillemots and Razorbills before me. We also saw Gannets, Herring gulls, Kittiwakes and Manx Shearwaters.  It was actually very quiet on the return until getting back to Ilfracombe and finding a hoard of Herring Gulls,  sadly there were no cetaceans to report.

Many thanks as always to Paul, the entire crew of the Oldenburg and everyone on Lundy.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report ‘MS Oldenburg’ Ilfracombe-Lundy 31 March 2018

Posted 01 April 2018

MARINElife/Lundy WLO Rick Morris

Summary of sightings:

Marine mammals:
Grey Seal 1

Seabirds:
Herring Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Great Black-backed Gull (juv)
Kittiwake
Fulmar
Guillemot
Razorbill
Puffin
Gannet
Manx Shearwater
Sandwich Tern
Oystercatcher

Leaving home on a rather cold blustery morning I made my way to Tiverton to pick up Annalisa, a MARINElife volunteer, who was also coming on the trip. We continued onward to Ilfracombe under grey skies with rain, still feeling hopeful of some good wildlife sightings. Reaching the harbour, the rain eased off and we made our way to the shore office, where we met MARINElife's patron Maya Plass. She was joining us for the trip as we had arranged a meeting on Lundy with the warden.

After boarding and having a catch up with the crew we made our way onto the outer decks where Maya offered to don the blue and white Hi-Viz and talk to the passengers. This sailing also had a MARINElife survey team on board and we briefly met up with the survey team, Maggie and Mary.

Sandwich Tern Rick Morris 01
Sandwich Tern (Library photo: Rick Morris)

Leaving the comfort of the harbour, the sea state picked up in the bitterly cold NE winds, making it quite difficult for observations. We did see a solitary Sandwich Tern as we passed by Morte Point followed by Fulmar, Herring Gull and Gannet and, leaving the North Devon coast behind, started seeing Manx Shearwater, Guillemot and Razorbill all the way to Lundy.

We arrived at the landing jetty with not one seal in sight - presumable they were all on the west side sheltering from the wind! We made our way up to the village and headed straight for the Marisco Tavern for a welcome hot drink before our planned meeting with Dean - the Lundy warden. This was the first Wildlife Officer trip of 2018 and it was great to see the familiar faces of the islands staff.

Puffin Rick Morris 06
Puffin (Library photo: Rick Morris)

Leaving Lundy behind us for the return home, the sea state dropped slightly enabling a good view of a Puffin that was rafting on the surface around the halfway point. A Grey Seal with his fish dinner which delighted those that saw it was a bonus as we approached the mainland.

We said our farewells and thanks to Jason and his crew back in Ilfracombe and made our way to the Lynn Bay chippy for the best Haddock and chips in the land!

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

MARINElife Survey Report: Lundy Ferry ‘Oldenburg’ Ilfracombe-Lundy 31 March 2018

Posted 01 April 2018

Maggie Gamble and Mary wood, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884; Registered Company No. 5057367)

Weather:
Westbound: Cloudy, wind NNW 5, sea state 4-5, with some swell
Eastbound: Cloudy, wind NNW 4, sea state 4-3.

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals:
Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus 1

Seabirds:
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 3
Gannet Morus bassanus 4
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 7
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 6
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 3
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 5
Guillemot Uria aalge 25
Razorbill  Alca torda 30
Larus sp. 3
Auk sp. 26

The drive down to Ilfracombe was in heavy rain with the remains of fresh snow on the southern edge of Exmoor and later on in the journey the river was in spate. We left Ilfracombe prompt at 10am and as we made our way along the headland we looked hopefully for Harbour Porpoise who frequent this area but the sea state wasn't conducive for spotting these typically undemonstrative cetaceans.

Kittiwake Peter Howlett 17
Kittiwake (Library photo: Peter Howlett)

The Oldenburg made excellent time to the Island and the crossing was cool but dry. Birds were fairly sparse but the gulls and Gannets were around and as we neared the island there were increasing numbers of small groups of auks on the sea including a single Puffin picked up by Rick who was the Wildlife Officer on board. Since Lundy Island was cleared of its rat population the Puffin and Manx Shearwater are nesting in increasing numbers.

It's been generally a challenging spring for wildlife and Lundy Island when we arrived was fairly quiet with less written on the sightings board than usual at this time of year. However, the rain had stayed on the mainland, so we had a dry if somewhat windy walk along Lundy's dramatic coastline. This bracing walk was followed by a much needed mug of tea in the Marisco Tavern.

Grey Seal Peter Howlett 07
Grey Seal (Library photo: Peter Howlett)

The return crossing was again quiet regarding sightings and the only marine mammal definitely spotted was a male Grey Seal surrounded by wooden flotsam. There was quite a lot of wood floating around due to the recent spring tides. These floating dark shapes making it even harder to pick up any brief glimpse of a porpoise fin.

We again made excellent time back to Ilfracombe and our thanks go to the Captain and crew of the Oldenburg for allowing us on board to continue this survey.

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

Posted 19 October 2017

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

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

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

Terrestrial Birds
Pied Wagtail
Cormorant
Meadow Pipit

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

This was my last trip of 2017 as MARINElife Wildlife Officer and I was very much looking forward to being out on the sea aboard MS Oldenburg for the last time this season. I was welcomed on-board by Captain Jason and got ready to enjoy the crossing with the hope of cetaceans and sea birds. Leaving Ilfracombe harbour, I spotted a Harbour Porpoise under the Landmark Theatre.

The crossing produced Gannet, Guillemot, Kittiwake and as we approached the Island many Shag were sighted as usual, plus a very special sighting of an Arctic Skua and Great Northern Diver!As we came towards the Lundy jetty, 3 Grey Seal were providing great amusement to the passengers as they appeared to being playing to their crowd!

GN Diver Steve McAusland

Great Northern Diver (Steve McAusland)

I disembarked and chatted to Dean Jones the Lundy Warden and pointed out the Great Northern Diver which was about 500 metres away. I proceeded to walk up to the wooded area around Milcombe house where I stayed for the time I was on the Island. At this time of year, you never know what might drop in and today was no different as a single Hawfinch was seen along with Water Rail heard in the walled garden area.

Grey Seals Steve McAusland

Grey Seals (Steve McAusland)

It was also good to meet Tim Jones the bird recorder for Lundy who also had a very successful visit.As I walked back to the jetty for the return sailing I chatted to a couple from my home town who were in Devon on holiday. On the return journey, a Great Skua was spotted along with the Arctic Skua seen earlier.

The last trip did produce 2 Common Dolphin which went down really well with the passengers.

Common Dolphin Steve McAusland 03

Common Dolphin (Steve McAusland)

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

Steve McAusland; MARINElife Wildlife Officer

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

Posted 12 October 2017

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

Summary of sightings:
Marine Mammals
Grey Seal 18 +

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

Wil
dlife seen on Lundy
Oystercatcher
House Martin
Swallow

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

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

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

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

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

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

Patrol Boat_Annette Dutton

Patrol Boat (Annette Dutton)

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

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

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

Arctic Skua Peter Howlett 15

Arctic Skua (Peter Howlett)

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

Annette Dutton; MARINElife Wildlife Officer

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

Posted 08 October 2017

James McCarthy; Research Surveyor for MARINElife

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

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

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

Storm Petrel Peter Howlett 04

Storm Petrel (Peter Howlett)

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

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

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

Razorbill John Little 01

Razorbill (John Little)

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

James McCarthy; Research Surveyor for MARINElife

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

Posted 01 October 2017

Tess Milton; MARINElife/Lundy WLO

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Herring Gull Adrian Shephard 03

Herring Gull (Adrian Shephard)

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

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

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

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

Gannet Adrian Shephard 14

Gannet (Adrian Shephard)

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

Tess Milton; MARINElife Wildlife Officer

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

Posted 22 September 2017

MARINElife/Lundy WLO: Annette Dutton

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

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals
Harbour Porpoise 3
Grey Seal 6 + 1 pup

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

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

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

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

Grey Seal Annette Dutton 11
Grey Seal (Annette Dutton)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted 13 September 2017

MARINElife/Lundy WLO Steve McAusland

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals:
Common Dolphin 1
Grey Seal 7

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

Estuary Birds:
Teal
Little Egret
Redshank
Oystercatcher
Swallow

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

I arrived in Bideford at 07:30 and collected my ticket from the Landmark Trust office, then swiftly boarded the MS Oldenburg where I was welcomed aboard by Paul the ship's Captain. I quickly started my tour around the upper and lower decks while the Oldenburg made its way down the estuary towards the open sea. As I chatted to some of the passengers the rain started and waterproofs were soon being put on!

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

Once we were out of the estuary the sea state made it impossible to walk around the decks. I had the pleasure of chatting to a group of people and the banter was really good. The one and only cetacean sighting happened as the ship had passed the one hour mark of the voyage, it is always good to see a Common Dolphin. Birds of note were very few due to the weather conditions. Manx Shearwater, Gannet along with Guillemot rafting as the ship passed them by. The usual common gulls were seen along with Kittiwake, Fulmar and my first Great Skua this year.

As the Oldenburg made its way slowly towards the landing bay there were four Grey Seals on the rocks of Rat Island. However, I did see another three during my time on the island from the higher levels, including a pup which was in the rocks. As the passengers disembarked, the sun came out and everyone proceeded to walk up to the higher levels. My route this visit was to walk along the east side of the island looking for birds and at the same time cast an eye out to sea for cetaceans. Unfortunately there were very few migrants visible just the odd Willow Warbler and Goldcrest.

Goldcrest Steve McAusland 01
Goldcrest (Steve McAusland)

The crossing back to Bideford was more or less the same conditions as the outward crossing as the Oldenburg passed over the sand bar before entering the estuary the ship surfed the waves much to the enjoyment of many of the passengers.

Before disembarking I thanked Paul the Captain and Vernon the ship's first mate for his and the crews' continued support for MARINElife. I look forward to my last trip this season in October.

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

Posted 04 September 2017

MARINElife Lundy Wildlife Officer WLO Rick Morris

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

Summary of sightings:

Marine mammals:
none seen at sea

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

Terrestrial birds seen at sea:
Swallow

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

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

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

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

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

Grey Seal Rick Morris 12
Grey Seal (Rick Morris)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted 31 August 2017

MARINElife/Lundy WLO Lucy Grable

Summary of sightings:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted 26 August 2017

Annette Dutton MARINElife/Lundy WLO

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

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals
Grey Seal 15+
Common Dolphin 30+

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

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

Other wildlife
Ocean Sunfish 3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grey Seal Annette Dutton 10
Grey Seal (Annette Dutton)

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

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

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

Posted 24 August 2017

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

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

Summary of sightings:

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

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

Terrestrial birds:
Dunlin Calidris alpina 3

Other wildlife:
Ocean Sunfish Mola mola 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted 14 August 2017

Rick Morris MARINElife/Lundy WLO

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

Summary of sightings:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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