MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘MS Oldenburg’ Ilfracombe-Lundy 23 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
Manx Shearwater
Black-headed Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Herring Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull

Terrestrial Birds
Sand Martin
House Sparrow
Carrion Crow
Meadow Pipit
Willow Warbler

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.