Ilfracombe or Bideford-Lundy

Sightings Archives: April 2015

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘MS Oldenburg’ Ilfracombe-Lundy 23 April 2015

Posted 27 April 2015

MARINElife/Lundy WLO Andy Gilbert

Weather:  wind SW, sea state 2-3, good visbility.

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals
Grey Seal  16

Sea Birds
Fulmar
Manx Shearwater
Cormorant
Shag
Black-headed Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Herring Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Kittiwake
Razorbill
Guillemot
Puffin

Terrestrial Birds
Swallow
Sand Martin
Starling
Linnet
House Sparrow
Raven
Carrion Crow
Robin
Skylark
Peregrine
Snipe
Meadow Pipit
Willow Warbler
Wheatear
Blackcap
Oystercatcher

Driving down off Exmoor and approaching Ilfracombe I was excited to see a relatively calm Bristol Channel below me and dry weather for my first Lundy WLO trip of the season.

As the MS Oldenburg left the harbour I collected the MARINELife vest from Jerry on the bridge and made my way around the ship chatting to enthusiastic passengers about the work of MARINElife and what we might see on the journey  over.

Razorbill Peter Howlett 08
Razorbill (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

A few gulls, Gannet, Kittiwake and Fulmar kept us eager for the first half of the crossing.  As we approached the island Guillemot and Razorbill increased in numbers both on the water and travelling.  We passed near to a raft of 20+ Manx Shearwater  who spectacularly rose and carved their way across the bow as some of us discussed how much larger they actually are close up than when you typically see them over distant waves.

Arriving on sunny Lundy I quickly marched up to the Marisco Tavern where I stopped for a soft drink and to check the sightings record book.  Then as it was my first spring visit a walk to Jenny's Cove was essential.  I had been informed that the Puffins had been here for a few weeks now and had arrived in good numbers.  I enjoyed a pleasant walk past the spring lambs on the farm, through Old Light enclosure and over quarter wall, where a Peregrine Falcon soared over me before swooping down the western cliffs.  I perched myself on the northern side of the cliffs above the cove and ate my lunch overlooking Puffins standing sentinel outside burrows and Guillemots perched on crags whilst Fulmar and Great Black-backed Gulls glided over the cove below me.

Peregrine Peter Howlett 01
Peregrine (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

I then crossed the island, putting up a Snipe from the bogs and stopping to badly photograph Sand Martins as they hunted insects across Pondsbury water.  Heading back down to the landing cove I passed some time watching Blackcaps in the shrubs below Millcombe House.

As the Oldenburg left Lundy passengers were treated to the sight of 16 Grey seals hauled out on the rocks of Rat and Mouse Islands.  The sea state had decreased further on the return journey and I hoped for cetaceans.  Whilst I was chatting to passengers on the lower outside deck an excited lady called me over as she had seen a dolphin porpoising in the distance behind the ship.  As we were trying to find it again another passenger came down from the top deck to say that she had seen a Harbour Porpoise.  After a brief discussion it became apparent that they had both seen two different animals at the same time from opposite ends of the ship.  A discussion on how porpoises don't generally porpoise but dolphins often do ensued and not long after the weather came in for the rest of the return journey.

As always, a huge thank you to Jerry and his crew on MS Oldenburg for making us welcome.

MARINElife Survey report MS 'Oldenberg' Ilfracombe-Lundy 18 April 2015

Posted 19 April 2015

This survey was cancelled due to adverse weather.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report ‘MS Oldenburg’ Ilfracombe-Lundy Saturday 11 April 2015

Posted 13 April 2015

MARINElife/Lundy WLO Steve McAusland

Summary of Sightings:

Marine Mammals
Common Dolphin 2
Harbour Porpoise 1 (Brief glimpse)
Grey Seal 3

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

Terrestrial Birds
Meadow Pipit
Wheatear
Starling
Raven
House Sparrow
Wood Pigeon
Swallow
Robin
Blackbird
Dunnock
Oystercatcher
Skylark
Wren
Cormorant
Carrion Crow
Chaffinch
Goldcrest
Goldfinch
Jackdaw
Mallard
Pied Wagtail
Ring Ouzel
Teal
Willow Warbler

I arrived in Ilfracombe at 9:30am for my first Lundy trip of 2015 where the weather was dry and sunny. However, the wind was quite strong and was causing wind waves outside the harbour walls which suggested that today's crossing to Lundy might be a bouncy one. I collected my ticket from the Landmark Trust office and proceeded to board the MS Oldenburg where I was greeted by Jerry the ship's Captain. I started my tour around the upper and lower decks introducing myself to the passengers. As the Oldenburg started out of the harbour the ships motion made it difficult to chat to as many passengers as I would normally. The ones I did speak to were very interested in the work of MARINElife and took a leaflet with a view to logging on to the website and to hopefully support the charity in the future.

Common Dolphin Steve McAusland 01
Common Dolphin (Archive photo: Steve McAusland)

Halfway into our journey the first Common Dolphin were seen off the starboard side where two came towards the ship in a matter of three leaps and were very quickly gone! Birds of note were Manx Shearwater and Gannet along with Guillemot and Razorbill rafting as the ship passed them by. The usual common gull species were seen along with Kittiwake, Fulmar and Great Skua.

As the Oldenburg made its way slowly towards the landing bay there was no sign of any seals on the rocks, however, I did see three during my time on the island from the higher levels. As the 139 passengers disembarked, they created a slow train of people making their way up to the higher levels. My route this visit was to pass the wooded areas to look out for migrant birds, where I saw Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff. Onwards towards halfway wall I spotted my first Ring Ouzel in three years! Arriving at Jenny's Cove, I tried in vain to stand upright in the strong westerly wind to locate at least one of the 30 reported Puffin that have been seen in recent days. My efforts proved fruitless as I couldn't keep still long enough to focus either my binoculars or my camera. Sadly, beaten by the strong gusts, I took shelter in the rocks and settled down for lunch.

Ring Ouzel Steve McAusland 2015-01
Ring Ouzel (Steve McAusland)

After lunch I made my way back to the jetty for the return journey on Oldenburg, along the way were Skylark, Meadow Pipit and many beautiful Wheatear.

On the way back I passed the wreckage of the second World War German bomber that crashed on the island back in the 1940s all that remains now is some rusty fragments of the planes metal components.

Nearby the island's Sika Deer were spotted in a small group, plus the Lundy Ponies were grazing over on the eastern side of the island. Other animals seen were the usual sheep and wild goats. The crossing back to Ilfracombe was a much calmer trip with the same birds being seen along the way.

Before disembarking I thanked Jerry the Captain for his and his crews' continued support for MARINElife. I look forward to my next trip in May, this time I hope to see one of my favourite seabirds, the Puffin which gives the island its name.

MARINElife/Lundy WLO Steve McAusland

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report ‘MS Oldenburg’ Ilfracombe-Lundy 4 April 2015

Posted 09 April 2015

Annette Dutton; MARINElife/Lundy WLO

Summary of sightings:
Marine Mammals
Harbour Porpoise 1 + 1 probable
Grey Seal 2

Seabirds
Puffin
Herring Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Kittiwake
Fulmar
Guillemot
Razorbill
Gannet
Shag
Oystercatcher

Terrestrial Birds
Swallow
Sparrowhawk
Carrion Crow
Peregrine Falcon
Meadow Pipit
Rock Pipit
Wheatear
Chaffinch
Skylark
Pied Wagtail
House Sparrow
Mallard

This was the first outing of 2015 for MARINElife and I was pleased to be joined by MARINElife Patron Maya Plass, Conservation Science Manager Rachel Davies and Volunteer Events Manager and Wildlife Officer Coordinator Rick Morris.

After boarding the Oldenburg we paid a visit to the bridge to say hello to Jerry and his team and to collect our Hi-Viz jackets. There were 240 plus passengers on board as there was an Easter Egg hunt on the Island so there lots of families on the crossing.


Rick managed to spot a Harbour Porpoise not long after we left Ilfracombe and as we headed towards Lundy and we saw various gulls along with Guillemot, Shag and Gannet.

Soay Sheep Annette Dutton 2015-01
Soay Sheep (Annette Dutton)

As we approached the Landing Stage there were no Grey Seal around but hoped to see them from shore as we walked around the Island.

We alighted and walked up to the village passing a Lundy Goat on the way and headed along the main track passing pigs and Soay sheep all with their young.

There were several species of gull at Pondsbury and there were Skylark singing as we neared the half way wall where we turned to cross the Island to Jenny's Cove hoping to see the first Puffin arrivals.

By now the sky had cleared and the sun was shining as we reached Jenny's Cove where we sat and had our lunch.

A Peregrine Falcon was calling but we didn't see it until later as we left. We soon spotted Puffin rafting amongst the Guillemot on the sea below and saw 5 in total which was great as they had only arrived on the Island the day before.

There were plenty of Guillemot and Razorbill on the rocky ledges and on the water plus a male Grey Seal swimming by the rocks. A Wheatear made an appearance and then Swallow flew overhead as we sat in the sun for a while before leaving to walk back to the village.

When we reached the Marisco Tavern we met Grant, Warden Becky and Island Manager Rob and had time for a quick chat before returning to the Oldenburg.

The return journey was lovely with calm seas and sunshine, with regular sighting of Guillemot but little else until we approached Bull Point where Rick thought he spotted the Harbour Porpoise again.

We arrived back in Ilfracombe and thanked Jerry and the crew of the MS Oldenburg for their help and assistance and I said my goodbyes to Rick, Maya and Rachel who had been great company throughout the day.

Annette Dutton; MARINElife/Lundy WLO