Ilfracombe or Bideford-Lundy

Recent Sightings

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

Posted 03 August 2018

MARINElife/Lundy WLO Terry Bridgewood

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 Bridgewood)

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 Bridgewood)

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 Bridgewood)

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.

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

Posted 11 August 2017

MARINElife/Lundy WLO Annette Dutton

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

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals
Grey Seal 25+
Common Dolphin 3+

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Meadow Pipit Annette Dutton 02
Meadow Pipit (Annette Dutton)

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

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

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

Grey Seal Annette Dutton 09
Grey Seal (Annette Dutton)

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

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

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

Posted 02 August 2017

MARINElife/Lundy WLO: Alison Shearer

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

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals
Harbour Porpoise 4
Grey Seal 28

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

Terrestrial Birds
Kestrel
Skylark
Swallow

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted 27 July 2017

MARINElife/Lundy WLO Lucy Grable

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals
Common Dolphin 5
Bottlenose Dolphin 3
Grey Seal 8

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted 25 July 2017

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

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

Summary of sightings:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted 23 July 2017

MARINElife/Lundy WLO: Andy Gilbert

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

Summary of Sightings:

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

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

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

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

Common Dolphin Andrew Gilbert 01
Common Dolphin (Andrew Gilbert)

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

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

Grey Seal Andrew Gilbert 01
Grey Seal (Andrew Gilbert)

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

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

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

Posted 18 July 2017

MARINElife/Lundy WLO: Stephie Millin

Weather: Sunny spells, sea state calm

Summary of Sightings:

Marine mammals:
Common Dolphin
Harbour Porpoise 6
Grey Seal 14

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

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

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

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

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

Shag Stephie Millin 01
Shag (Stephie Millin)

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

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

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

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

Harbour Porpoise Stephie Millin 01
Harbour Porpoise (Stephie Millin)

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

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

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

Posted 08 July 2017

MARINElife/Lundy WLO Ruth Griffith

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

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals
Common Dolphin 8
Harbour Porpoise 1
Grey Seal 1

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

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

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

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

Robin Ruth Griffith 01
Robin (Ruth Griffith)

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

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

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

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

Posted 28 June 2017

 

MARINElife/Lundy WLO: Rick Morris

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

Summary of sightings:

Marine mammals:
Harbour Porpoise 2
Grey Seal 2

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

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

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

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

Kittiwake Rick Morris 01
Kittiwake (Rick Morris)

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

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

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

Raven Rick Morris 04
Raven (Rick Morris)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted 20 June 2017

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

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

Summary of sightings:

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

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

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

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

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

Guillemot Rick Morris 04
Guillemot (Rick Morris)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted 19 June 2017

MARINElife/Lundy WLO Ruth Griffith

Weather: Sunny, sea state calm

Summary of Sightings:

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

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

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

Common Dolphin Ruth Griffith 04
Common Dolphin (Ruth Griffith)

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

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

Manx Shearwater Ruth Griffith 02
Manx Shearwater (Ruth Griffith)

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

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