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