Ilfracombe or Bideford-Lundy

Sightings Archives: October 2014

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘MS Oldenburg’ Bideford-Lundy 11 October 2013

Posted 14 October 2014

MARINElife/Lundy WLO Andy Gilbert

Weather: Sea state 2-3. 2 metre swell at times on outward journey. Prolonged periods of rain interspersed with sunny spells.

Summary of sightings:

Cetaceans
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 3

Seabirds
Great Black-backed Gull
Shag
Cormorant
Kittiwake
Guillemot
Razorbill
Herring Gull
Common Gull
Gannet
Manx Shearwater
Great Skua

Lundy
Grey Phalarope
Swallow
House Martin
Sparrowhawk
Raven
Kestrel
Peregrine Falcon
Meadow Pipit
Wheatear
Goldcrest
Redstart
Chaffinch
Linnet
Skylark

Estuary
Oystercatcher
Kingfisher
Knot
Little Egret
Grey Heron
Curlew
Redshank

I met up with MARINElife surveyors, Steve and Abi, outside the Lundy shore office in Bideford and we quickly boarded the MS Oldenburg. We introduced ourselves to the Captain and Steve and Abi  got themselves settled on the bridge to carry out the monthly survey on this route whilst I went around the boat introducing myself to passengers as the Wildlife Officer for the day.

We enjoyed sightings of Kingfisher, Little Egret, Grey Heron, and Redshank as we motored down the River Torridge and through to the open sea. A solitary inshore fisherman was out early morning hand lining to the sound of the distinctive call of the Curlew.

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

On the journey over we experienced a little swell and some rain but many of the hardy Lundy visitors stayed on deck keeping an eye on the wildlife, or perhaps it was really the horizon! Either way many passengers were interested in our work including a party of coastguards from Swansea on their first trip to the very island that they look out on daily across the Bristol Channel. We had a smattering of birds: Kittiwake, Great Black-backed Gull, Oystercatcher, Gannet, Guillemot, Manx Shearwater, and a Great Skua. Typically, whilst I was on the port side, two Harbour Porpoise were spotted on starboard but it was great to find a passenger I had been chatting to so excited that she had seen them and continued to be enthused by the wildlife throughout the trip. She swears she will do a MARINElife surveyor course soon!

We arrived to find the wardens very excited because Storm Petrel had just been confirmed breeding on the island for the first time. A chick had been found and ringed earlier in the week, another milestone since the eradication of the rats on the island. Steve and his friend Gary, who was also on the trip, are very experienced birders and despite the heavy rain we enjoyed a number of hours watching many birds including  Peregrine, Sparrowhawk, Goldcrest, Redstart and even House Martin. A lot of Grey Seal watching also went on and we had one white coat pup in the water playing around its mother.

Before the return journey we took advantage of the round the island trip on the Oldenburg to experience Lundy from all sides. The highlight of which wasn't the seals but a solitary Grey Phalarope sat on the water not far from Jenny's Cove.  A life sighting for Steve and myself.

Grey Phalarope Steve McAusland 01
Grey Phalarope (Steve McAusland)

The journey back was a lot calmer than the one over but, apart from one Harbour Porpoise, there was little of note to watch and we spent time chatting to the ringers, photographers and birders who were returning to the mainland after time on the island.  As we approached the river the birds on the sandbanks in the estuary kept us amused with a couple of hundred Oystercatcher and a few Knot and Curlew.

As always thanks to the Landmark Trust and the Captain and the crew of the MS Oldenburg for the support and assistance they give.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘MS Oldenburg’ Ilfracombe-Lundy Saturday 4 October 2014

Posted 07 October 2014

MARINElife/Lundy WLO Annette Dutton

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals:
Grey Seal 9

Seabirds:
Shag
Gannet
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Oystercatcher
Herring Gull

Terrestrial birds:
Stonechat
Wheatear
Swallow
Kestrel
Meadow Pipit
House Martin
Chaffinch
House Sparrow

I wasn't sure whether or not the Oldenburg was going to sail as stormy weather had been forecast but it had calmed down sufficiently for Jerry to make the decision to sail. I boarded the Oldenburg prepared for a rough passage, popping up to the Bridge to say hello to Jerry and collect my jacket before departing.

We rolled and lurched along the coast but it wasn't as bad as I expected although I expect many of the passengers would not  agree with me. It was challenging moving around the decks and difficult to spot anything on the sea although I did manage to see several Gannet along the way and a lone Herring Gull which followed us for a while.

Grey Seal Annette Dutton 01
Grey Seal (Annette Dutton)

I didn't see any more seabirds on the crossing then as we arrived at Lundy Island I saw the usual string of Shag along the top of Mouse Island and a couple of Grey Seals in Devils Hole plus another Grey Seal in the landing bay.

I wandered up to the village via the road then past St Helena's Church and continued along the main path towards Quarter wall. There were still Swallows and House Martins flying overhead as I walked along and groups of House Sparrows whirled over the bracken.

It was sunny and clear so I could see the North Devon coastline all the way up to Foreland Point and the Welsh coast opposite. I took the path towards the ruins of the old Cottages and Hospital and looking down below I could see a couple of Gannet feeding. I then I wandered along the lower path to the Quarry pool and the Timekeepers hut with the old Tramway and Heligoland bird trap beyond.

Quarrymans cottage Lundy Annette Dutton
Quarryman's Cottage, Lundy (Anntte Dutton)

I retraced my steps and carried along the main path until the Halfway wall then I went across to Jenny's Cove which was strangely quiet as I had not been there since the nesting sea birds had left.

I continued along the track back towards the Old Light and back to the Village where I returned to the Landing Stage to board the Oldenburg for the journey back to Ilfracombe.

The return journey was a lot calmer and the sea conditions were reported over the tannoy by Jerry as moderate.  Again, I saw very little until we approached Bull Point and where there was a group of over 20 Gannet feeding but no unfortunately I couldn't find a Harbour Porpoise.

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

This is my last report for my first year as WLO and I look forward to another year of sightings in 2015. It has been a great experience and I've enjoyed exploring Lundy Island and meeting lots of people on my journeys.