MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report ‘MS Oldenburg’ Bideford-Lundy 17 May 2014

Carol Farmer-Wright; MARINElife Lundy Wildlife Officer

Cetaceans:
Common Dolphin 50+ (including 8 on the Lundy circumnavigation)
Bottlenose Dolphin 7  (includes 6 on the Lundy round trip)
Harbour Porpoise 3 - two observed from Lundy Island
Grey Seal 20+

Seabirds:
Herring Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Kittiwake
Fulmar
Guillemot
Razorbill
Puffin
Shag
Gannet
Manx Shearwater

I met up with Rick and Annie, who were running the monthly MARINElife survey, on the Quayside at Bideford ready for the 8 a.m. sailing to Lundy.

Manx Shearwater Peter Howlett 06We left Bideford in glorious sunshine and travelled down the river Torridge towards the Bristol Channel. The sea was calm, no more than sea state 2 and a light swell resulting in ideal viewing conditions for any wildlife that might cross our path.

The light winds we were experiencing meant that the crossing to Lundy was relatively quiet. Herring Gull were seen near the estuary and a solitary tern, probably a Sandwich Tern was seen attempting to fish in the bay. A single Manx Shearwater flew low over the water heading west.  Nearing Lundy groups of Razorbill and Guillemot were seen resting on the water.

Manx Shearwater (Pete Howlett)

Cetaceans on the trip to Lundy were few. Twenty minutes after clearing the estuary I spotted a Harbour Porpoise and alerted the passengers on deck.  Shortly afterward as I looked over towards Clovelly, I saw a Bottlenose Dolphin leaping clear of the water, the view was distant but a few of the passengers were able to watch it breach twice more.

Lundy Island is a delightful place. Walking across the plateau to Jenny's Cove we saw Skylark, House Sparrow, Wheatear, Swallow, Meadow Pipit and House Martin.  The cove provided good views of Puffin, Guillemot, Razorbill, Shag, and Fulmar. A large raft of Kittiwake was on the sea and I saw 2 Harbour Porpoise in close proximity.

Common Dolphin Carol FarmerWright 02aAt certain times of year the Oldenburg makes an additional round the island trip. This offers an ideal opportunity to see the nesting seabirds on the west coast. As we rounded the southern tip of the island the number of seabirds increased. Many were sitting or rafting on the water and it was a good opportunity to show people how to differentiate between Razorbill and Guillemot. Nearing Jenny's Cove we were delighted to see two groups of dolphin. Common Dolphin followed by a smaller group of Bottlenose Dolphin. Both groups were feeding, too intent in following their prey to investigate the ship.  Around the north coast Grey Seal were in evidence, some hauled out on rocks, warming themselves in the sunshine. We returned to the jetty and collected the passengers returning to Bideford.

Common Dolphin (Carol Farmer-Wright)

The return trip was far more eventful. Large groups of Manx Shearwater, smaller groups of Guillemot and Razorbill were seen on the water and within twenty minutes Common Dolphin were heading towards the ship, delighting the passengers by bow-riding and playing on both sides of the vessel.

As we neared the North Devon coast, the cetacean sightings slowed. We moored at the Quay in Bideford and left for the journey home.

My thanks go to the crew of the 'Oldenburg' for their help and assistance and to the Landmark Trust for this opportunity.

Carol Farmer-Wright