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

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:

Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 3

Great Black-backed Gull
Herring Gull
Common Gull
Manx Shearwater
Great Skua

Grey Phalarope
House Martin
Peregrine Falcon
Meadow Pipit

Little Egret
Grey Heron

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.