Ilfracombe or Bideford-Lundy

Sightings Archives: September 2013

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report ‘MS Oldenburg’ Ilfracombe-Lundy 21 September 2013

Posted 25 September 2013

Ruth Griffith; MARINElife Lundy Wildlife Officer

Marine Mammals:
Grey Seal 45
Bottlenose Dolphin 3
Harbour Porpoise 4

Herring Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Little Egret

Shag (Ruth Griffith)We departed from Bideford Quay at 7.30am on Saturday 21st September. The conditions were not ideal for observations, with a sea state of 3 and mist and drizzle filling the air as we set off on the MS Oldenburg. I distributed MARINElife leaflets and introduced myself to the passengers onboard. As we left the Quay and travelled along the estuary, seabird sightings began with Shags, numerous Herring Gull, Kittiwake and Lesser Black-backed Gulls.

Shag (Ruth Griffith)

I caught sight of a Little Egret wandering in the marsh alongside the riverbed. Within the first hour after leaving the river mouth, I had sightings of Harbour Porpoise; a single on the port side, followed by a pair and then another single on the starboard side, followed by a Gannet. As we arrived in the Landing Bay at Lundy we were welcomed by a number of curious looking Atlantic Grey Seal, all watching us as we got off the ship. There were approximately 5 seals swimming around in the water, one hauled out on the rocks asleep and one peering out from behind a rock.

Seated GuillemotA young Guillemot was also seen sat just off the pathway in the landing bay area.

Guillemot (Ruth Griffith)

As I made my way up the hill I sighted more Grey Seal swimming around in the shallow water down below. The mist was very thick as I reached village and I settled in Marisco's for a while with a nice cup of coffee. I had a wander round, looking in the church and the shop, before having lunch then making my way back down to the landing bay, to get on the MS Oldenburg at 2.15pm for a trip around the island.

The mist was still very thick on the island so it was difficult to make out that much of the coastline as we travelled around. Sightings were scarce aside from a few Shag and gull species until we travelled along the East side of the island where Grey Seals sightings were in abundance. They occupied many rocks from Gannets Bay to Brazens Ward; on a single patch of rock a group of approximately 20 seals were seen hauled out, along with many smaller groups on neighbouring rocks. The ship travelled back to the Landing Bay to pick up the rest of the passengers before departing Lundy at 4pm.

Greys Hauled LundyThe return journey began with similar observation conditions; a sea mist and a sea state of 2. I spotted some Gannet as we travelled away from Lundy and before long I saw 3 Bottlenose Dolphin, from the back of the ship, disappearing into the distance. As the journey went on the weather became fairer and the sun crept through the clouds at times, but despite the increasing observation conditions no more marine mammals were sighted but there were many more sightings of Gannet. As we approached Saunton sands I caught sight of a large group of Oystercatchers sitting on a sandbank and some Shag drying their outstretched wings as well as more Kittiwakes and Gull species as we travelled down the estuary.

Grey Seals (Ruth Griffith)

Many thanks as ever to the crew of the MS Oldenburg for their hospitality and kindness.

Ruth Griffith; MARINElife Lundy Wildlife Officer

MARINElife Survey Report: Ilfracombe-Lundy 'MS Oldenburg' 14th September 2013

Posted 18 September 2013

Rick Morris and Peter Jones, Research Surveyors for MARINElife
Weather: Wind 4, sea state 4

Common Dolphin Delphinus delphis 4
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 2

Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 10
Gannet Morus bassanus 103
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 6
Great Skua Stercorarius skua 2
Arctic (Parasitic) Skua Stercorarius parasiticus 9
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 5
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 4
Guillemot Uria aalge 35
Large Gull Sp. 2

After meeting at the shore office in Ilfracombe, we were joined by Luke Sutton who was going to be MARINElife's Wildlife Officer on the 'Oldenburg' for this trip and together we made our way on board.

Setting off from Ilfracombe, we were all in good spirits and hopeful of seeing some cetaceans, but with a sea state of four we knew this would be a little challenging, especially for seeing our smallest cetacean - the Harbour Porpoise.

Common Dolphin Tom Brereton 01Seabird sightings were of mostly Gannet with the odd Guillemot and gull. We were around the halfway point when, observing a group of feeding Gannet, Peter spotted the dorsal fin of a dolphin, this was one of a group of four Common Dolphin that quickly came into the bow before disappearing down the side of the ship.

On reaching Lundy, a heavily pregnant female Grey Seal was seen in the water by Rat Island. Once ashore we made our way up the track that leads up onto the island, we hadn't got very far when Jonny pulled up in the Landrover and offered us a lift - we accepted, well it would be rude not to! It has to be said that the staff on Lundy are brilliant.

Common Dolphin (Tom Brereton)

Bird sightings on our walk-about included Snipe, Whinchat, Spotted Flycatcher, White and Pied Wagtail, Willow Warbler, Whitethroat, Kestrel, Raven, Linnet and Rock and Meadow Pipit.

We stopped off at the Marisco Tavern for a welcome cup of tea and met up with Beccy the island warden before heading down for the return leg.

Arctic Skua Mike Bamford 02a
Arctic Skua (Mike Bamford)

Leaving Lundy behind us, we began recording small numbers of Gannet, Guillemot and Manx Shearwater. With an hour to go before reaching Ilfracombe, 2 Great Skua flew down the starboard side, but the bird highlight was the sightings of Arctic Skua - 3 at first followed by another 6 ten minutes later, all of these were light phase birds.

With just over 10 minutes of survey time remaining, we finished off with an excellent sighting of 2 Harbour Porpoise, thanks to the eagle eye of Brian.

We were welcomed back at Ilfracombe by the funfair on the harbour car park, which was in full swing. As ever, our thanks go to Jerry, Brian, the crew of the 'Oldenburg' and the shore office team for their help and assistance.

Rick Morris and Peter Jone; Research Surveyors for MARINElife


MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report ‘MS Oldenburg’ Ilfracombe-Lundy 14 September 2013

Posted 16 September 2013

Luke Sutton; MARINElife Lundy Wildlife Officer

Common Dolphin 4

Arctic Skua
Herring Gull
Great Skua
Manx Shearwater

Juv-GannetI was looking forward to my first trip as WLO on the Lundy ferry. I met Rick and Peter in Ilfracombe who would be working on the bridge doing the monthly survey for the route. The forecast for the day was set fair, with a light to moderate Northerly breeze with slight to moderate sea conditions and sunny spells.

As we left Ilfracombe harbour at 1000 hrs I made my way out onto the decks and introduced myself to the passengers and explained the research work that MARINElife does on ferry routes throughout UK waters. As we headed out to sea, small numbers of Gannet were seen, occasionally diving for fish. These were mainly adults but a few immature birds were also present.


Herring Gull and 3 auks were spotted, but generally, sightings were few until about halfway through the journey when two Common Dolphin were spotted moving down the starboard side of the ferry. This created a lot of excitement and activity amongst the passengers who had been fairly subdued until then!

Arriving on Lundy, Rick and Peter headed over to Jenny's Cove, picking up a few migrants but no rarities. I headed North up the island and found a pair of Peregrine Falcon on territory. The weather was ideal, sunny but with a cool northerly breeze and visibility was incredible; landmarks on the mainland were clearly visible.

Common Dolphin 5

Common Dolphin (Adrian Shephard)

The return journey was uneventful until about halfway across, when again two Common Dolphin appeared in the ferry's wake off the port quarter. They stayed with us for a few minutes before breaking off and heading North with a few leaps to keep us entertained. A few Manx Shearwater were picked up heading back South for the winter and a Great Skua was also sighted.

As we neared the North Devon coast, two small groups of Arctic Skua were seen but otherwise a quiet steam back along the sea cliffs to Ilfracombe.

As ever, huge thanks to the crew of the 'Oldenburg' for their help and assistance.

Luke Sutton; MARINElife Lundy Wildlife Officer

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report ‘MS Oldenburg’ Ilfracombe-Lundy-Bideford 7 September 2013

Posted 10 September 2013

Maggie Gamble; MARINElife Lundy Wildlife Officer (WLO)

Marine Mammals:
Grey Seal c30
Common Dolphin 10
Bottlenose Dolphin c8

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

After chatting to the MARINElife team who were setting up our stand for the Ilfracombe Harbour Festival, I was welcomed on to the MS Oldenburg for the 1000hrs 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_PH1The sea state varied between three and four which was a vast improvement on earlier forecasts and approaching Lundy it became quite sunny. The trip to the Island was fairly quiet, most of the Manx Shearwaters presumably by now having moved further south for the winter. However there were still a few to be seen riding the air currents in their effortless fashion.

Soon after midday we were climbing the hill up to the village. Lunch and mugs of tea at the Marisco Tavern followed and I spent a little time browsing their natural history library.  Just outside the Tavern was a delightful Spotted Flycatcher using the wire fence for its hunting forays, this is a bird I have seldom seen recently.

Manx Shearwaters (Pete Howlett)

Returning to the jetty at 1515hrs I joined the around the Island trip on the Oldenburg, commentated by the Island Warden.  There were quite a few Grey Seals to be seen, either lolling, bottling or basking on the rocks! Also obvious from the boat is the scar left by the excellent clearance of the Rhoddodenrum ponticum, this is so invasive and overruns the native flora which should now have a chance to re-colonize. On the western side of the island I scanned to seaward as this can be a good area for cetaceans, but not on this occasion.

CD_AS1Returning to the Jetty we collected the rest of the passengers for the return trip. About twenty minutes out from Lundy we received a quick but exuberant close encounter with a group of Common Dolphin on both sides of the boat. Some of the passengers in the saloon also had good views out of the windows. On the approach to the coast near Bideford there were small flocks of diving Gannets and passengers at the front of the boat had good sightings of Bottlenose Dolphin.

We arrived back in to Bideford for the coach transfer back to Ilfacombe and the Oldenburg was welcomed back by the Bideford fair "master of ceremonies" over their public address system. Once docked, I thanked the crew for their hospitality and disembarked the ship.

Common Dolphin (Adrian Shephard)

Maggie Gamble, MARINElife Lundy Wildlife Officer