Ilfracombe or Bideford-Lundy

Sightings Archives: August 2013

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report ‘MS Oldenburg’ Ilfracombe-Lundy 31 August 2013

Posted 01 September 2013

John Little, MARINElife Lundy Wildlife Officer

Marine Mammals:
Grey Seal 9

Seabirds:
Kittiwake
Manx Shearwater
Shag
Herring Gull
Fulmar
Guillemot
Gannet

Kittiwake 02 Graham EkinsWe sailed from Ilfracombe on a flooding tide with good visibility, a moderate sea and a steady wind. Conditions were moderate for observations, with a consistent sea state 4 making it a little challenging for cetacean and mammals observations.  

On the outbound leg of our journey, we did however see numerous Manx Shearwater, Kittiwake, Herring Gull and Gannet. Due to the moderate conditions, many of the passengers preferred to go through the MARINElife Leaflet and sightings charts that I had with me. Most notably the majority of passengers commenting that they did not know we had any whales/dolphins at all in UK waters let alone the wide variety of marine mammals that can be seen. 

Upon our arrival at Lundy, I was immediately drawn to a very large solitary Grey Seal in the Landing Bay area. It spent the majority of its time 'bottling' before heading off towards Rat Island. During a very welcome lift to the shop by a member of the Lundy Island Conservation Team, I was informed that this was a very heavily pregnant female who is due to give birth any day.

Kittiwake (Graham Ekins)

On the island I beelined for Jennys Cove to see if there were any  Puffin and Auks rafting in the bay, however on arrival there were very few, if any to be seen. However I did spot a second Grey Seal swimming alone a few meters from the rocks. It was difficult from the cliff top to determine what it was up to, however it did seem intrigued by a large patch of floating seaweed that was passing.

Grey SealWith an hour to spare before sailing, I decided to take some advice from one of Lundy's conservation team members on snorkelling off the Island. I was directed to the relevant safety information and was given some guidance on the tidal flow. With an erstwhile friend spotting me from the shore, I spent a very enjoyable 45 minutes in the sheltered bay on the southern side of Rat Island. Here, I was joined by six Grey Seals, which kept a respectful distance. I soon found that they were coming within 20 feet of me to have a look and access if I was fishy enough for them.

Grey Seal

Snorkelling over the rocks gives an incredible contrast to the stresses that this ecosystem is exposed to twice a day. Unfortunately, sightings of fish and crab were very limited to the odd fleeting glimpse, most likely due to the six top predators that were swimming with me.

Please allow me to take this opportunity to ask you to look at the advice and guidance on the Lundy Island Conservation Teams website under 'Explore'. It is both a fascinating and (very) invigorating way to spend an hour or so.

The 'MS Oldenburg' set sail at 16:10hrs, again on an ebbing tide. This leg of the journey was also very quiet in terms of cetacean sightings. However, we were able to observe and discuss the usual variety of seabirds and their behaviours. 

I would like to thank the crew of the 'Oldenburg' for the continued support and making me feel as welcome as ever. I would also like to thank the Lundy Shore Team for their advice and guidance whilst I was on the Island.

John Little, MARINElife Lundy Wildlife Officer

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report ‘MS Oldenburg’ Bideford-Lundy 24 August 2013

Posted 28 August 2013

Maggie Gamble: MARINElife Lundy Wildlife Officer

Marine Mammals:
Atlantic Grey Seals 4
Harbour Porpoise 1
Dolphin sp. 2

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

After browsing the market on Bideford Quay which offered some excellent pasty purchasing opportunities, I was welcomed on to the MS Oldenburg for an 0830hrs departure and positioned myself on the back deck. I had some MARINElife leaflets and began dispatching them whilst introducing myself to the passengers before sailing.

Manx Shearwater Peter Howlett 01I was hopeful of some cetacean sightings as some of the passengers staying at Westward Ho had reported large numbers of Mackerel chasing Whitebait into the shallows and onto the beach. They collected the Whitebait and fishermen were reeling in Mackerel as fast as they could get their lines out. So it sounded good for feeding availability and opportunity. Once we began the journey however, it became rapidly apparent that spotting cetaceans would be difficult.

A large swell funnelled up the channel made for an exhilarating ride. We reached Lundy Island with sightings mainly of Manx Shearwater, Gannet, Fulmar and a few Guillemot parent and chick pairs.

Lundy Island itself was bathed in sunshine. Initially, I climbed the old lighthouse, which gives truly spectacular views over the Island. Further entertainment was provided by a light aircraft which made several passes over the "runway" to scare the sheep away before it could land. I walked down to the south of the island hoping that Harbour Porpoise would be feeding off the point, they weren't. However the heather was in full bloom and I had this end of the island to myself apart from several meadow pipits and a couple of female Atlantic Grey Seal idling in the bay.

Manx Shearwater (Pete Howlett)

Returning to the wonderful Marisco Tavern for mugs of tea, I chatted to the manager/barman about how numbers of breeding Puffin and Manx Shearwater are increasing now that they have eradicated the rats. Apparently the Island has ideal conditions for nesting Manx Shearwater, so their numbers should truly escalate.

Grey Seal 1

Grey Seal (Rick Morris)

Whilst walking down the jetty to embark the ship for the 1730hrs departure there was a bull Atlantic Grey Seal lolling in the shallows.

Also seen around the jetty were a couple of Moon Jellyfish and a single Compass Jellyfish. We set off in improved conditions for the return leg. During our day on the island the crew had made a return trip to pick up passengers who were staying in the various types of guest accommodation on the island.

They reported very large numbers of Manx Shearwater and a small group of dolphins. The return trip was a bonanza of Manx Shearwater (1,000s of them), Gannet and Fulmar. Where ever I looked, Manx Shearwater were riding the air currents over the waves. There were also two feeding aggregations of Manxie's and diving Gannet spread over a large area. They were a bit distant for easy viewing but a sharp eyed passenger spotted a couple of dolphins in the area and from all the frantic feeding I'm sure there were more to be seen.

We arrived back in to Bideford in good time that evening. I thanked the crew for their hospitality and disembarked the ship.

Maggie Gamble; MARINElife / Lundy Wildlife Officer

Casual Sightings from Lundy 14th - 21st August

Posted 24 August 2013

Viv Phillips, Kim Atkinson  Jan Ozyer

Common Dolphin Group Ruth GriffithCommon Dolphin:
6-10 from MV Oldenburg 14th and 21st. 
Many off west side 10am to at least 3pm on 19th;
20 individuals counted in one of two groups and activity spread over a wide area (also many Gannet and Kittiwake).

Harbour Porpoise:  
2 or 3 in tide race off SW near devils limekiln most days. 
Large group off The Battery on 19th (min 15). 
c6 in tide at north end on 17th.
3 off east side on 20th

Minke whale:  
Two feeding in tide pattern well offshore seen from Jenny's Cove. Watched for over an hour. 2-3 appearances at 10 minute intervals.

MARINElife Survey Report: Ilfracombe-Lundy 'MS Oldenburg' 17th August 2013

Posted 21 August 2013

James Darke and Gareth Bradbury; Research Surveyors for MARINElife
Weather: Outward: SW 6-8, sea state 3-5   Return: SW 6-8, sea state 3-5

Summary of Sightings
Seabirds
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 92
Storm Petrel Hydrobates pelagicus 2
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 4
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 5
Gannet Morus bassanus 76
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 20
Great Skua Stercorarius skua 1
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 2
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 25
Common Tern Sterna hirundo 4
Guillemot Uria aalge 17

After a worrying forecast on the 16th and a call to the Lundy boat office, we found that the schedule for our survey had changed but the ferry was still going.  Anticipating difficult conditions for cetaceans, the lure of interesting seabirds was our motivation for an early morning on Saturday.

We boarded the Oldenberg with a friendly warning from crew members that it might be a bit rough. The Captain welcomed us onto the bridge and with his much appreciated hospitality, offered bacon sandwiches.

Storm Petrel Peter Howlett 01For the first half an hour I thought we would get away with the worst of the weather, until we passed Morte Point, the Cape Horn of North Devon, and felt the full effects of the near gale force south westerlies and accompanying swells.  Although our surveying ability was restricted by having to cling to solid objects on the bridge, Gareth managed to pick up two Storm Petrel in amongst the graceful Manx Shearwaters who seemed to be enjoying themselves on the monstrous swell.

Gannet, Fulmar, Guillemot and a close view of a juvenile Kittiwake were also had when we dared to shift our eyes from the horizon.

Storm Petrel (Pete Howlett)

After a challenging two and a half hours we landed safely on Lundy and composed ourselves near the boat shed to the noise of a helicopter taking off. This turned out to be Lundy's wind turbine which must have been producing enough electricity for the whole of the south west. We walked up the hill and sheltered in the tavern for a while with a cup of tea, chatting to families who were feeling apprehensive about the trip back. Our pasty faces may not have filled them with confidence.

Great Skua Rick Morris 01The trip back was a comparative pleasure, with a following wind and sea, the Oldenberg smoothly surfed down waves and we were able to lift binoculars without fear of being dashed against furniture.  A Great Skua was seen close to the boat half way back to port with many Manxies and Gannet. Four Common Tern were spotted closer to shore.

By the time we made it back to Ilfracombe I had decided not to give up boat surveys and bird watching after all, and was looking forward to the possibility of another trip next year, when I might find out what the commonest owl on Lundy is.

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

Great Skua (Rick Morris)

James Darke and Gareth Bradbury, Research Surveyors for MARINElife

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report ‘MS Oldenburg’ Ilfracombe-Lundy 17 August 2013

Posted 19 August 2013

MARINElife/Lundy Wildlife Officer (WLO) Lee Slater

Marine Mammals:
Atlantic Grey Seals 9

Seabirds:
Oystercatcher
Herring Gull
Greater black-backed Gull
Lesser black-backed Gull
Manx Shearwater
Gannet
Fulmar
Kittiwake
Shag
Cormorant
Guillemot
Great Skua

Moon JellyI was welcomed on to the MS Oldenburg by the captain, Jerry. I walked in to the bridge to leave by bag and was greeted by James and Gareth the MARINElife surveyors for the journey. I gathered some MARINElife leaflets and began dispatching them whilst introducing myself to the passengers. Ilfracombe harbour was currently undergoing a Moon Jellyfish Bloom and the sighting of a European Eel made for a great start to the crossing.

Once we began the journey it became rapidly apparent that spotting cetaceans would be difficult. A large swell coupled with winds funnelled up the channel made for troublesome spotting conditions. The headland on the port side provided Greater black-backed Gull and small flocks of Oystercatcher. Shortly into the journey, I spotted a feeding aggregation of Gannet. I explained that it is common to see cetaceans feeding under the Gannet, however despite many pairs of searching eyes, no dorsal fins broke the surface.

With cetaceans proving illusive, it allowed the birds to take centre stage. Manx Shearwater, Gannet and Fulmar all gracefully floated over the ship. They were in such close proximity that they made ideal living tools to explain about the seabird biology and adaptations. We reached Lundy Island with further sightings of Guillemots, Shag, Cormorant and Kittiwake. Once we left the jetty we were greeted by a pair of curious Atlantic Grey Seal.

Ram Lee SlaterLundy Island itself was a spectacular location. The adverse conditions meant that watching the sheer power of the waves battering the coast was an incredibly impressive sight. On the actual island we saw Wheatear, Meadow Pipit, Skylark, Swallow, Raven, Herring and Greater black-backed Gull. We also saw Soay Sheep, Highland cattle and had a brief distant glimpse of a trio of Sika Deer.

Whilst walking down the jetty to embark the ship for the return leg we came across a group of seven Atlantic Grey Seal which were swimming in the shallows. We set off in similar conditions for the return leg, despite the wind and swell the passengers remained curious about the wildlife and many of them approached me to ask questions. I spent a lot of time moving around the ship and after a quick check with the surveyors discovered that whilst I was on the portside I missed a Great Skua on the starboard side, however importantly it turned out the majority of passengers got a good view.

We arrived back in to Ilfracombe at 7p.m that evening. I thanked the staff and disembarked the ship.

My thanks go to the hospitality of the crew of the MS Oldenburg and to the enthusiasm and good spirit of the passengers.

Lee Slater; MARINElife / Lundy Wildlife Officer

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report ‘MS Oldenburg’ Bideford-Lundy 10 August 2013

Posted 12 August 2013

MARINElife/Lundy Wildlife Officer (WLO) Ruth Griffith

Marine mammals:
Harbour Porpoise 1
Common Dolphin 14
Bottlenose Dolphin 3
Atlantic Grey Seal 6

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

Manxie Ruth GriffithThe MS Oldenburg departed Bideford Quay at 8.30am on Saturday 10th October with excellent conditions for observations, a sea state 1 and clear sunny skies. After introducing myself to passengers and distributing MARINElife leaflets I began to spot a number of Herring Gull and Kittiwake as we travelled along the estuary.

As we reached the mouth I began sighting seabirds; a Manx Shearwater, then a Shag, both flying above the surface of the calm water. Shortly after this I caught a brief glimpse of a Harbour Porpoise which I managed to point out to nearby passengers. Between 9.15 and 10am I came across a number of auks sat on the water, two Gannet and two Manx Shearwater in flight.

Manx Shearwater (Ruth Griffith)

Sleeping Grey Ruth GriffithAs 10am approached, I spotted a pair of Common Dolphins, shortly followed by another pair passing by on the port side of the boat, much to the excitement of two young girls who were watching the water intently for movement. On the final stint of the outward-bound journey I saw four more Gannet, Oystercatcher and two Shag, one of whom was sat on the water, with its wings outstretched drying in the sunshine.

Shortly after arrival on Lundy Island at 10.30am, I spotted an Atlantic Grey Seal surfacing for breath, near the rocks in the Landing bay. Whilst on the Island I sighted terrestrial birds such as Skylark and Raven. As I walked around the cliffs at Devils Limekiln, seabird sightings continued including a Shag and Great Black-blacked Gull as well as another Grey Seal down by Black Rock.

Sleeping Grey Seal (Ruth Griffith)

I returned to the Landing Bay to find a male Grey Seal, fast asleep, bobbing in the shore of the bay. He took a quick glance at me as I sat down on the beach, and then he resumed his afternoon nap in the sunshine. A couple of female Grey seals swam past him within the next hour, but alas, he remained blissfully unaware.

Mother & Calf Ruth GriffithWe left Lundy at 6pm, just as the mist was rolling in and the sky around Lundy was beginning to darken. The sea state was 2 and as we drew away from the Island the skies became clearer. 15 minutes into our journey I was delighted to see dolphins on the port side making a bee-line straight for the boat. Within seconds I was accompanied by many very excited passengers who had all run over to get a better look, just as the dolphins gave a stunning display, leaping playfully alongside the boat. I counted approximately 10 Common Dolphin, including two mother and calf pairs.

Following this, I sighted a number of auks sat on the water's surface, and 20 minutes later, saw 3 Bottlenose Dolphin swim past the boat. As we approached the mouth of the estuary I saw a Manx Shearwater and a large number of Gannet, approximately 9, along with Shag and various gull species as we neared Saunton Sands.

Common Dolphin Mother & Calf (Ruth Griffith)

All in all, an impressive day of sightings with a fantastic range of both marine mammals and seabirds!

Many thanks to the crew of the "Oldenburg" as well as the shore office for their assistance and kindness.

Ruth Griffith MARINElife/Lundy Wildlife Officer (WLO)

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report ‘MS Oldenburg’ Ilfracombe-Lundy 3 August 2013

Posted 05 August 2013

Rick Morris: MARINElife Lundy Wildlife Officer 

Marine Mammals:
Harbour Porpoise 3
Grey Seal 3

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

I was accompanied on this week's crossing by my wife Sharon and we arrived in Ilfracombe on a bright and breezy morning. After popping into the shore office to collect our tickets we made our way to the quayside to board the MS Oldenburg. We were invited onto the bridge by Jerry (captain) who as always, kindly let us leave our bags there.

Cow & Bull Grey SealLeaving the calm of Ilfracombe Harbour, it soon became apparent that cetacean spotting would be a little challenging in the sea state of 4-5. I made my round the outer decks as normal to encourage the passengers to keep a look out as it would still be possible to get close in sightings as well as the seabirds.

Approaching Morte Point I came across six Gannet circling and watching intently beneath them yielded three triangular dorsal fins of Harbour Porpoise. The rest of the crossing was quiet, with seabird numbers low but still a good variety of species seen. Approaching Lundy Island, I observed three Grey Seal just off Rat Island and ten Shag including juveniles on Mouse Island.

Male & Female Grey Seal (Rick Morris)

Meadow PipitUpon disembarking we were greeted by John and took advantage of the offer of a lift to the top in the Land Rover; from here, we made our way along the west side up to Jenny's Cove to see if there were any late Puffin left. None were seen on land suggesting all the chicks had now fledged, but we did see good numbers rafting on the sea. Other wildlife seen on our ramble included Soay sheep, Highland Cattle and ponies - the Sika deer remained elusive. Birds seen on the island were Meadow and Rock Pipit, Skylark, Wheatear, Raven, Carrion Crow, Linnet, chaffinch, House Sparrow and Wren as well as a couple of unidentifiable warblers.

The return journey back to Ilfracombe was again quiet and we arrived back in the Harbour ahead of schedule. We said our farewells to Jerry and the crew and made our way to the recommended fish and chip shop where we enjoyed an excellent locally fresh caught fish and chip tea.
Meadow Pipit (Rick Morris)

Our thanks to 'Oldenburg's' crew, the shore office and to Landmark Trust for supporting MARINElife

Rick Morris, MARINElife Lundy Wildlife Officer (WLO)