Ilfracombe or Bideford-Lundy

Sightings Archives: August 2011

MARINElife Survey Report: Ilfracombe-Lundy 'MS Oldenburg' 24 August 2011

Posted 26 August 2011

Carol Greig and Erin Hooper: MARINElife Research Surveyors

Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 1
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 181
Gannet Morus bassanus 54
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 6
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 6
Great Black-Backed Gull Larus marinus 5
Common Tern Sterna hirundo  4
Guillemot Uria aalge 23

We set sail from Ilfracombe for Lundy Island in full sunshine, the decks crowded with passengers. We had a warm welcome on the bridge where the radar showed an approaching rain cloud that soon engulfed us along the North Devon coast. The rain eased with Gannets appearing and we had our first sightings of Manx Shearwaters. Initially just a few, eventually there were over 60 birds gracefully shearing the waves. The sailing became calmer in the lee of the island, with its steep surrounding cliffs and fairly level plateau above.

Gannet ad 3Manx Shearwater 1

As we moored, a group of about eight Grey Seals watched our arrival, like a welcome party. The large bull moved inquisitively close before melting below the surface and reappearing at some distance.

We had four hours ashore to explore. A fairly steep track, past the island's only few trees, led to the main group of buildings clustered around the Marisco Tavern. A short walk across the island westwards gave us Skylarks, Meadow Pipits, a Wheatear, a large flock of Linnets and a pair of Ravens. Along the Atlantic coast Fulmars circled effortlessly out from the cliff edges. A variety of gulls were also visible. Looking northwards, the gorse and heather-clad island in its yellows and purples was stunningly beautiful. The sheltered eastern side yielded a Wren, a possible Willow Warbler calling and flitting over the bracken, a lone Mallard sheltering in a small pool, and an Oystercatcher resting on the rocks below among more gulls. Red Admiral butterflies were nectaring on the brambles in the sunshine, along with Meadow Browns, a Large White and a possible Grayling. Below us, a further four Grey Seals could be seen lolling in the water. Chaffinches, another Wheatear and a Sand Martin overhead completed our visit as we returned downhill to the ship. A large bull seal entertained the queuing passengers, making his presence known quite close to the boat.

On the smoother return journey the Manx Shearwaters again started to appear, building up to what seemed like a never-ending wave tumbling through the air as they passed in front of the ship. Guillemots sitting on the water were briefly visible before diving on our approach. Although we did not observe any cetaceans, a passenger reported a Harbour Porpoise appearing briefly 100 metres off the starboard side.

Our thanks to the Captain and his officers for their friendliness and help on the voyage including the offer of bacon sandwiches!