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

MARINElife/Lundy Wildlife Officer (WLO) Lee Slater

Marine Mammals:
Atlantic Grey Seals 9

Herring Gull
Greater black-backed Gull
Lesser black-backed Gull
Manx Shearwater
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