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

John Little, MARINElife Lundy Wildlife Officer

Marine Mammals:
Grey Seal 9

Manx Shearwater
Herring Gull

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