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