Ilfracombe or Bideford-Lundy

Sightings Archives: July 2011

MARINElife Survey Report: Ilfracombe-Lundy 'MS Oldenburg' 27 July 2011

Posted 30 July 2011

Maggie Gamble and Ed Drewitt: MARINElife Research Surveyors
Weather: Calms seas, good visibility

Short-beaked Common Dolphin Delphinusdelphis 14+ (including 2 juvs)
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 12+
Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus 5

Ocean Sunfish Mola mola 2

Blue Jelly Fish Cyanea lamarcki  6
Moon Jellyfish  Aurelia aurita 3
Compass Jellyfish Chrysaora hysoscella 10

Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 15
Balearic Shearwater Puffinus mauretanicus 1
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 260
Gannet Morus bassanus 77
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 1
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 2
Common Scoter Melanitta nigra  4
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 1
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 6
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 141
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 2
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 36
Common Tern Sterna hirundo  1
Puffin Fratercula arctica 1
Guillemot Uria aalge 359
Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus 3
Unidentified Auk species 1

Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica - Juvenile 1

Lundy's Marine Gems - July 2011

A bright start from Bristol, Maggie Gamble and myself were in for a treat as we arrived in Ilfracombe with bright sunshine and a calm sea. Alongside a friendly and accommodating captain and his staff we set off on our two hour trip to Lundy. Plenty of young gulls were fledged and resting on coastal rocks. In the first half an hour we spotted mainly Fulmars and Gannets before moving into an area where Harbour Porpoises are often seen.

We weren't disappointed and as we travelled full steam ahead at 12 knots, we passed at least twelve different Harbour Porpoises in different places giving brief but convincing views, most of which were accompanied by a Gannet or two sitting or flying close by. The tide was slack and water around 50 metres deep. The crew were helping to spot the porpoises and fuelled us with a morning bacon sandwich!

After an hour into the journey we started to see more chocolate-coloured Guillemots, many with their smaller, scruffier chicks. Rafts of three or four were common. A male Grey Seal popped up to look around while a couple of young Swallows flew across. Manx Shearwaters also began to appear, their distinct black and white contrasting plumage easily made out as they tipped left and right, 'shearing' the water's surface. It was easy therefore to spot a browner, less defined Balearic Shearwater fly past the boat. A sooty-coloured young Puffin was also sat on the sea while four Common Scoters dashed past the boat. We edged closer to Lundy and had our first Common Dolphin sightings with at least eight visible at any one time busily feeding and moving through.

A succession of fin shapes lured the boat closer to reveal two Sunfish, one in front of the other, 'pretending' to be a Basking Shark! A few single sightings of Common Dolphins were then seen before we arrived on Lundy in very warm sunshine and glistening sea. At least three species of jellyfish were floating around the harbour: Compass, Blue and Moon.

On Lundy itself a warm walk to Jenny's Cove revealed lots of birdlife including Wheatears, Willow Warblers, Swallows, Meadow Pipits, Starlings and a possible Crossbill (calling) while Meadow Brown and Grayling butterflies entertained us on the flowering heather. While stopping for lunch a young Peregrine chased the local crows in spectacular twists and turns in front of us while out at sea a large pod (25 visible at any one time) of Common Dolphins hurried across the water before stopping to begin feeding. Kittiwakes swirled below, calling loudly while a single adult Puffin sat on the sea close to a seal.

Our trip back to Ilfracombe was full of excitement and antics. As we left Lundy it was clear there were many more Manx Shearwater flying past than earlier; many of these probably from Skomer and Skokholm too. Large rafts of shearwaters and Guillemots sat on the sea. We had regular sightings of Common Dolphins; early signs of diving Gannets and congregating Manx Shearwaters gave way to the distinctive fin and splash of dolphins. We came across at least three schools which were all busily foraging.

These feeding frenzies gave prolonged and sometimes close views of the dolphins before we left them behind. Tens of shearwaters flew past the boat at speed while more Guillemots were sat on the now choppier waters as an offshore breeze had developed. As we neared Ilfracombe, Fulmars, Kittiwakes and gulls became more evident and we docked early evening after a memorable and eventful day in the Bristol Channel!