Ilfracombe or Bideford-Lundy

Sightings Archives: July 2013

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report ‘MS Oldenburg’ Ilfracombe-Lundy 27 July 2013

Posted 30 July 2013

John Little: MARINElife Lundy Wildlife Officer (WLO)

Cetaceans:
Common Dolphin 2 (mother with calf)
Grey Seal 2

Seabirds:
Fulmar
Manx Shearwater
Gannet
Shag
Herring Gull
Kittiwake
Guillemot
Razorbill

We sailed from Ilfracombe on a flooding tide with very good visibility, a calm sea and a light wind - conditions were good for observations.  As we approached the headland at Mortehoe, we had already been lucky enough to see numerous Razorbill, Guillemot, Herring Gull, Manx Shearwater and Kittiwake.

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

The outward leg of the trip was unusually quiet with only a mother and calf Common Dolphin being seen at distance, in the vicinity of Lundy Island. Even at this range it was clear that the calf was imitating its mother's every move.

Upon arrival at Lundy's landing stage, I decided to sit on the cliff by the South Lighthouse and observe the sea from above looking out to both east and west. For several hours I was able to observe a solitary bull Grey Seal feeding within 20 metres of the beach.

Common dolphin with calf John Arnott 01a
Common Dolphin with calf (Archive photo: John Arnott)

The rest of the day was spent combing the rocky shoreline and getting up close and personal with the Oystercatcher that frequent the shore.

The 'MS Oldenburg' set sail at 1730, again on a flooding tide. This leg of the journey was also very quiet in terms of cetacean sightings. Other than a show from a flock of Gannet feeding, we saw two Grey Seal in the centre of the Channel, approximately 5 miles to the east of Lundy Island.

I would like to thank the crew of the 'Oldenburg' and the shore office for their help and assistance.

John Little, MARINElife Lundy Wildlife Officer

MARINElife Survey Report: Ilfracombe-Lundy 'MS Oldenburg' 20th July 2013

Posted 23 July 2013

Steve Morgan & Fiona McNie, Research Surveyors for MARINElife
Weather: Wind East Force 4; Sea State 3-5

Seabirds:
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 16
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 499
Gannet Morus bassanus 48
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 3
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 5
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 76
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 9
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 8
Guillemot Uria aalge 35
Razorbill Alca torda 9
Puffin Fratercula arctica 1
Unidentified auk sp. 21
Unidentified tern sp. 1 

Manx Shearwater Peter Howlett 04We departed Ilfracombe in glorious sunshine with a full complement of day-trippers, all eager no doubt to enjoy the tropical weather and the rugged scenery of Lundy.

We began recording large numbers of Manx Shearwater almost immediately , finding two sizeable groups of 70-100 individuals resting on the water only twenty minutes out of Ilfracombe. These were complemented by various gulls and auks. As we approached Lundy we encountered our first Shag, winging their way low across the surface of the sea. We had hoped to find seals near the shoreline but, in the brisk easterly wind, it seemed they had moved round to the more sheltered westerly side of the island.

Manx Shearwater (Pete Howlett)

Sika Deer Rick Morris 01Our sojourn on the island proved this theory correct and we later found several groups of Grey Seals lounging about in the quiet bays just south of Jenny's Cove. On the steep grassy slopes above the Cove we found a hundred or more Puffins and a lone Linnet. Then, as we ate our packed lunches, three Soay Sheep picked their way across the grassy cliff-tops. We ambled back towards the Marisco Tavern for a cup of tea, finding three Sika Deer en-route and two Green Sandpiper on a large reedy pool.

We were hoping the stiff breeze might ease a little on the return leg but, if anything, it strengthened and, at times, the Sea State worsened to 5. As a consequence, we didn't spot any cetaceans though there were still numbers of auks and shearwaters around. The cheerful banter from the crew kept our spirits up and all too soon we were turning into Ilfracombe Harbour, the rather startling statue of "Verity" gazing down at us.

Sika Deer (Rick Morris)

We are grateful to Gerry and the crew of the Oldenburg for making us so welcome and to Rick Morris, (the MARINELife WLO on board), for showing us round the island. 

Steve Morgan & Fiona McNie, Research Surveyors for MARINElife

MARINElife WLO Report: Ilfracombe-Lundy-Ilfracombe 'MS Oldenburg' 20th July 2013

Posted 22 July 2013

Rick Morris; MARINElife Lundy Wildlife Officer

Cetaceans:
Harbour Porpoise 3

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

A short walk from the car park found me in Ilfracombe Harbour where I met up with Steve Morgan and Fiona McNie who were conducting MARINElife's monthly survey - it was great to have MARINElife volunteers working on the bridge as well as the outer decks.

We left Ilfracombe Harbour under a blue sky and a brisk north-easterly wind, I knew cetacean sightings were going to be a little challenging but remained ever hopeful that we would see some dolphins.

Upon slipping our mooring, I made my customary way around decks to introduce myself to the passengers, explaining the role of the MARINElife wildlife officer.

Manx Rick Morris 1We were soon spotting good numbers of Manx Shearwater, Auks and Gulls with sporadic sightings of Kittiwake, Gannet and Fulmar. Around 20 minutes out, I had a fleeting view of 2 Harbour Porpoise off the port side, then 5 minutes after, a brief glimpse of a small triangular dorsal fin off the starboard side, with the animal surfacing once more giving one of the passengers a brief view. The highlight for me though came in the form of a solitary Storm Petrel, which flew down the starboard side around the halfway point of the crossing.

Reaching Lundy, I joined Steve and Fiona for a walk around the Island where we observed a good variety of birds and seals lazing around in the many coves off the west side of the island.

Manx Shearwater (Rick Morris)

PoniesWe made our way to the halfway wall where we stopped for lunch, watching the Puffin colony below in Jenny's cove as well as a visit from a few Soay Sheep. A leisurely walk back down the central path produced sightings of 2 Green Sandpiper for Steve in one of the ponds, these were confirmed later by one of the 'birders' visiting the island. Further down the path, we had views of Sika Deer, Highland Cattle and the Lundy ponies, one of which sneaked up behind me, tugging on my rucksack to draw attention - really good to be so close to these friendly ponies.

After a much-needed cup of tea or two in the Marisco Tavern - we headed down to the landing jetty for the return trip. Unfortunately, this was fairly quite apart from the company of the more common seabirds.

Huge thanks to the crew of the 'Oldenburg' and the shore office for their help and assistance.
A special thanks to the Landmark Trust for the support with the WLO program.

MARINElife Lundy Wildlife Officer Rick Morris

MARINElife WLO Report: Bideford-Lundy-Bideford 'MS Oldenburg' 13th July 2013

Posted 16 July 2013

Ruth Griffith; MARINElife Lundy Wildlife Officer

Cetaceans:
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 5
Unidentified Dolphin species 5

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

Puff in flightThe Oldenburg left Bideford Quay at 9am in brilliant sunshine, sea state 1 and a slight mist on the horizon. I began by making my way round the decks, introducing myself to the passengers onboard and distributing MARINElife leaflets.

Within the first hour, numerous gulls and auks were sighted along with a couple of Gannet and a Manx Shearwater. I also saw two Harbour Porpoise on the port side of the ferry as we were leaving the mouth of the river Torridge. Shortly after this, another Harbour Porpoise was sighted on the Starboard side. For the rest of the outward-bound trip no more cetaceans were sighted but I caught sight of many more seabirds including more auks and Gannet, Kittiwake, Shag and even some Puffin as we approached Lundy Island.

Puffin (Ruth Griffith)

WheatearOn arrival at Lundy Island I was welcomed by the distinct sound of an Oystercatcher who was on the rocks in the landing bay. I made my way around the Island, walking along the East coast, from the Landing bay to Gannets bay, where I was lucky enough to see a group of approximately 7 Atlantic Grey Seal swimming around in the bay, curiously investigating a group of divers. Here, I also caught sight of a Peregrine Falcon circling above. I crossed over to the West coast and saw 2 more Grey Seal in the water near Devil's slide.

As I progressed back along the West coast, I stopped at Jenny's cove and caught sight of some Puffin flying into their nests on the cliff side. Along the way I also came across terrestrial birds such as Wheatear and Meadow Pipit.

Wheatear (Ruth Griffith)

Grey Seal on rockI reached Surf Point where I discovered a Grey Seal basking in the sun on a rock surrounded by water; soon distinguishable as female. During the time I spent watching her, 4 other female Grey seal swam past at intervals, whilst she remained determined to stay out of the water for as long as possible despite the rising tide.

We left Lundy on a pushing tide and sea state 2 in bright sunshine again. Not long after departure I caught sight of Gannet, Oystercatcher, Shag and Herring Gull and within the next hour I saw more Gannet and Shag, Manx Shearwater and numerous Guillemot and Razorbill. As we approached the mouth of the river Torridge; much to the delight of many of the passengers as well as myself; a group of dolphins were spotted from the wake of the boat, approximately 5, and at quite a distance so unidentifiable.

Grey Seal (Ruth Griffith)

Shortly after, Harbour Porpoise on two separate occasions were sighted. I also spotted a group of 3 Gannet in the distance displaying some dramatic and impressive dives. As we travelled alongside Saunton Sands, numerous Oystercatcher, gulls and some Shag were sighted on or around the beach.

Fantastic weather and excellent sea state made for a very enjoyable trip, with a great range of sightings, particularly birds.

MARINElife/Lundy WLO Ruth Griffith

MARINElife WLO Report: Ilfracombe-Lundy-Ilfracombe 'MS Oldenburg' 6th July 2013

Posted 09 July 2013

Rick Morris; MARINElife Lundy Wildlife Officer

Cetaceans:
Common Dolphin Delphinus delphis 70+
Bottlenose Dolphin Tursiops truncatus 2
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 6

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

Rick SurveyingI met up with Ruth and John at Ilfracombe, who will be joining our WLO team, to familiarise them with the trip and the Island.

We left Ilfracombe harbour in glorious sunshine and a gentle breeze; with a sea state of 2, I was very optimistic of some cetacean sightings.

Heading out into the channel, I made my way around decks to introduce myself to the paying passengers, explaining that MARINElife are now working in partnership with the Landmark Trust who manage Lundy Island, to enhance the crossing by giving guidance and help.

We started to pick up gulls, auks and Manx Shearwater.

Passing Mortehoe, we encountered our first Harbour Porpoise, shortly followed by another. More seabirds kept us busy and then I noticed some 'fins' in the distance and upon nearing these became easily identifiable as Common Dolphin, approximately 20 in number.

Ten or fifteen minutes passed and I was delighted to see two Bottlenose Dolphin casually swimming down the port side.

We were still seeing good numbers of Guillemot, Razorbill and gulls when a Great Skua made an appearance; then again, I noticed distant dolphin activity and as they neared, could be identified as Common Dolphin.

Common DolphinThis large group of 50+ animals split into two groups and made a pincer movement on the bow with them bow riding and playing in the wake waves of the port and starboard side as well as the wake at the rear. I noticed at least 10 calves with them and watched in awe as the babies mirrored their mother's movements. It was good to hear the cheers of joy from the passengers and I think just about everyone had fantastic views of them.

The last part of the crossing produced two more Harbour Porpoise and regular sightings of Manx Shearwater.

Reaching Lundy, we made our way up to Jenny's cove to watch groups of Puffin whilst having lunch.

The return back to Ilfracombe was quiet with sporadic sightings of gulls, auks and Gannet and a further two Harbour Porpoise were sighted within half an hour of reaching Ilfracombe.

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

MARINElife Lundy WLO Rick Morris