MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘MS Oldenburg’ Ilfracombe-Lundy 6 September 2014

MARINElife/Lundy WLO Annette Dutton

Summary of sightings

Common Dolphin Delphinus delphis 80+
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 2
Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus 11

Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus
Gannet Morus bassanus
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis
Herring Gull Larus argentatus
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus
Guillemot Uria aalge
Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus

Terrestrial birds:
Stonechat Saxicola rubicola
Wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe
Swallow Hirundo rustica
Kestrel Falco tinnunculus
Meadow Pipit Anthus pratensis
Rock Pipit Anthus petrosus

The sea was glassy and there was a light mist when we left Ilfracombe so I was hopeful of seeing cetaceans along the way. I popped up to the bridge to collect my jacket and say hello to Jerry, the Captain.

I chatted to the passengers until the safety information was broadcast then made my way around the decks introducing myself to everyone, explaining what MARINElife do and handing out leaflets. The passengers were very keen to see cetaceans and they didn't have to wait very long. About 15 minutes into the journey I spotted two Harbour Porpoise which I identified as a mother and calf which had been spotted recently in the area, the passengers around me also managed to see them.

Harbour Porpoise Peter Howlett 17
Harbour Porpoise (ARchive photo: Peter Howlett)

I saw very few seabirds during the crossing, those of note were the odd Manx Shearwater, several Gannet and couple of Guillemot.

Approaching the landing stage I counted nine Grey Seals hauled out on Mouse Island but there were probably more as it was fairly misty, there were also several Shag along the top of the rocks. As I made my way past the hut I spotted two more Grey Seals at Devils Kitchen.

I walked up to the village and along the main path towards Tibbets Hill, passing the Lundy Ponies, Highland Cattle and Soay Sheep. I went down onto the coast path and perched on the rocks for lunch enjoying the views back to the landing jetty and keeping an eye out for seals below but there were none.

I followed the lower path to three quarter wall and rejoined the main path and headed back to the village. The Highland Cattle were crossing the path so I got a good look at them and saw Swallows flying about and Wheatear landing on the path in front of me.

Common Dolphin Adrian Shephard 01a
Common Dolphin (Archive photo: Adrian Shephard)

I boarded the Oldenburg for the return journey and chatted to the passengers as we set off. After around 15 minutes the crew alerted us that dolphins were approaching and all of a sudden we were surrounded by a huge pod of Common Dolphin. It was impossible to count them as they were moving very fast and then just as suddenly they moved on. Several of the passengers came over to say how thrilled they were at seeing so many dolphins and when I asked the crew on the bridge how many they thought there were they reckoned there were up to 100.

After such a spectacle I saw very little on the way back until we reached Morte Point where several Gannet were feeding but no porpoise this time.

We arrived back in Ilfracombe and I thanked Jerry and the crew of the Oldenburg for their help and assistance.