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

MARINElife/Lundy Wildlife Officer (WLO) Ruth Griffith

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

Herring Gull
Manx Shearwater
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)