Ilfracombe or Bideford-Lundy

Sightings Archives: August 2015

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘MS Oldenburg’ Ilfracombe-Lundy 29 August 2015

Posted 03 September 2015

MARINElife/Lundy WLO Annette Dutton

Weather: Sea state slight to moderate

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals
Grey Seal 30+
Harbour Porpoise 3

Seabirds
Herring Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Greater Black-backed Gull
Shag
Oystercatcher
Guillemot
Kittiwake
Gannet

It was a fine morning  so I was looking forward to the crossing and hoping to see lots of cetaceans and seabirds. I joined the queue of over 230 passengers waiting to board the Oldenburg and as soon as I was on board, I went to the bridge to collect my jacket and to say hello to Jerry.

I waited until the tannoy announcements had been made before going round the passengers to talk about the work of MARINElife and what we hoped to see on the way and on Lundy. It was a bit bumpy and the decks were busy so it took some time to get around.

Surprisingly, I saw no seabirds on the crossing until we got close to the island and then only an odd Manx Shearwater - a far cry from the thousands seen recently. A passenger said they had spotted 2 Porpoise about halfway over but unfortunately I didn't see them.

Lundy Annette Dutton 06
South Light, Lundy (Annette Dutton)

It was calmer and brighter as we approached Lundy Island there were several Shag feeding in the water and in their usual spot along the top of Mouse Island, below them were over 30 Grey Seals hauled out in the sunshine.

I left the Oldenburg and had a quick chat to Beccy, the warden, then made my way round the back of the Devil's Kitchen to look for seals before walking up to the village. It was surprisingly warm as I followed the many passengers making their way up the path and I turned off before Millcombe House to head up towards the Castle. I then walked past the Church over to the village shop for some supplies before crossing the Island towards Castle Hill.

I sat by the pond to have lunch before paying a visit to Anthony Gormley's statue which reminded me of his other installation of Iron Men on Crosby beach. I looked back towards the Old Light and noticed several Lundy Goats sunbathing amongst the bracken.

I walked along the lower path past the Devil's Lime and sat on a rocky outcrop by Seals Hole to see if I could spot anything out at sea. I soon picked up a group of 5 Gannets and below them three Harbour Porpoise in the tidal race, I watched them for a while and saw that they were a mother and calf plus another adult. There were also two Grey Seals down below me, then as I continued walking towards the South Light, I spotted two more bobbing about in the Landing Bay.

I walked from the Castle on the lower path and sat on a bench to watch the seals that were still on the rocks. I then wandered back to the Landing Stage where I saw the two seals again swimming around out in the bay. There were several divers in the water and as I waited to board the Oldenburg the seals popped up and frolicked about for several minutes which delighted those waiting in the queue.

Grey Seal Annette Dutton 03a
Grey Seals (Annette Dutton)

There were even more passengers on the return journey and the decks were packed but I managed to find a place to stand where I had regular sightings of Gannet and Manx Shearwater but only single birds and a few small groups of Guillemot but again no cetaceans.

We arrived in Ilfracombe Harbour and I said goodbye and thanked Jerry and the crew for their help and assistance. Sadly, this is my last report for the season, my second year as WLO, and I look forward to another year of sightings in 2016.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘MS Oldenburg’ Ilfracombe-Lundy 22 August 2015

Posted 25 August 2015

MARINElife Lundy Wildlife Officer: Rick Morris

Weather:
Outbound: Cloudy with a few light showers. Sea state 3, light SE wind.
Inbound: Mostly overcast with a few sunny spells. Sea state 2, light SE wind.

Summary of sightings:

Marine mammals
Common Dolphin 2
Harbour Porpoise 10
Grey Seal 3 (in Channel)

Seabirds
Manx Shearwater
Herring Gull
Lesser Black-backed gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Gannet
Kittiwake
Fulmar
Guillemot
Shag
Storm Petrel

Wildlife on Lundy:
Mammals
Grey Seal
Lundy Pony
Soay Sheep
Highland Cattle
Sika Deer

Birds
Meadow Pipit
Rock Pipit
Wheatear
Raven
Carrion Crow
House Sparrow
Starling
Wood Pigeon
Linnet
Skylark
Mallard

I arrived in Ilfracombe on a rather cloudy and wet morning, but by the time I had parked the van the rain had thankfully stopped. The view from the long stay car park offers great scenes of the harbour with its small flotilla of assorted vessels, including the 'MS Oldenburg'. A brief stop by the shore office to say hello to Kate and Jacqui and collect my ticket, before boarding the 'MS Oldenburg' where I was greeted by Glyn and then on the bridge by Jerry. I also had time to have a chat with the passengers just before our departure out into the Bristol Channel.

Although it was cloudy and with a couple of light showers, the sea state was fairly good and we were soon picking up Gannet and Fulmar along with a few gulls. Three Harbour Porpoise were seen on the port side before we reached Morte Point and another off the starboard side before reaching the halfway point. We were now seeing Manx Shearwater and the odd Guillemot and Kittiwake but a bird of note was a lone Storm Petrel, which can be quite difficult to spot due to their small size!

Storm Petrel Peter Howlett 04
Storm Petrel (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

Nearing Lundy, two Grey Seal were seen before reaching the landing bay and the usual Shags were present on Mouse Island, some with their wings outstretched to dry making them look quite prehistoric. Disembarking, I was greeted by Lundy's Warden, Beccy Macdonald and I accepted her offer of a lift up to the top in the Land Rover which gave us a chance for a catch up.

Lundy was shrouded in sea mist for most of the day, so I made my way over to the west side, stopping to have a look around Battery Point before reaching the halfway wall and then back along the central path. Looking eastward, Sika Deer could just be made out beyond the Highland Cattle and Lundy Ponies as the mist was now starting to dissipate. Reaching the Marisco Tavern, I popped in to say hello to Grant before making my way down to the landing bay via the 'Old Castle'. This is a great place to look out from as it overlooks the landing bay and offers views east, south and west. The 'Balmoral' had also been visiting and was moored in the landing bay as we boarded for the return home.

We left Lundy behind us with more frequent sunny spells and a slightly flatter sea state, this gave us good views of rafting Guillemots (now in their winter plumage) and good numbers of Manx Shearwater and a lone Grey Seal was also seen with his catch of a flatfish.

Nearing the North Devon coast and Bull point, Gannet could be seen circling and diving in to feed and it soon became apparent that Harbour Porpoise were present as well, with 6 animals seen to the delight of those passengers on the starboard side that saw them. As we left this sighting behind us, I was informed of a couple of dolphins that went down the port side, unable to see these and having talked to those that saw them, I deduced that they were probably Common Dolphin!

Balmoral Rick Morris 02a
MS Balmoral (Rick Morris)

We reached our mooring in Ilfracombe with the 'Balmoral' arriving shortly after and I said my farewells to Jerry and the crew and made my way home feeling very content.

Many thanks to the Landmark Trust, Jerry and the 'Oldenburg' crew, Jacqui and Kate in the shore office and to Beccy and everyone on the island for the help and support we receive.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘MS Oldenburg’ Ilfracombe-Lundy 15 August 2015

Posted 22 August 2015

MARINElife/Lundy WLO Steve McAusland

Weather: Sunny, sea state 2, westerly breeze

summary of sightings:

Cetaceans:
Common Dolphin 7
Bottlenose Dolphin 2
Harbour Porpoise 1
Minke Whale (Passenger sighting)
Grey Seal 15

Seabirds:
Manx Shearwater
Herring Gull
Kittiwake
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Fulmar
Guillemot
Shag
Gannet

Terrestrial birds on Lundy:
Meadow Pipit
Wheatear
Starling
Raven
Carrion Crow
House Sparrow
Wood Pigeon
House Martin
Swallow
Linnet
Oystercatcher
Skylark
Goldfinch
Mallard

Today's Wildlife Officer trip to Lundy started in good weather conditions in the company of MARINElife surveyors Maggie and Christine who were on-board for this month's Lundy survey. After boarding I left the bridge to my rounds of the upper and lower outside decks. However, before I'd even had a chance to start chatting to the passengers the first cetacean, a Harbour Porpoise, was spotted outside of the harbour.

Manx Shearwater Steve McAusland 03
Manx Shearwater (Steve McAusland)

Within five minutes of leaving Ilfracombe the first of many Gannets were observed soaring high above the sea looking for fish to dive on to. As the MS Oldenburg made its way towards Lundy, birds seen were Fulmar, Kittiwake, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Guillemot, Herring Gull and Shag. As we got closer to Lundy the amount of Manx Shearwater sighted was well over a thousand birds!

The outward passage also gave me an opportunity to point out five Common Dolphin off the starboard side feeding under a large gathering of diving Gannets. Before we reached Lundy I was approached by one of the passengers asking what cetacean he had seen on the crossing, he described a Minke Whale and we soon confirmed it with the use of my iPhone app, sadly I did not see it! As the Oldenburg approached Lundy many Grey Seal were hauled out on the rocks. As we docked everyone disembarked and began to make their way up to the higher levels to explore the Island.

Grey Seal Steve McAusland 07
Grey Seals (Steve McAusland)

Following a quick chat with Beccy, the island warden, to find out what species were reported recently, I too, then began to make me way up to the top of the island. My route took me to the western side of Lundy where I found a great spot for lunch. Here I set myself up for some sea watching. No cetaceans were spotted, however the number of birds ran in to thousands!

The crossing back from Lundy provided two further Common Dolphin and two Bottlenose Dolphin sightings and a single large Grey Seal. On leaving Oldenburg I said goodbye to my fellow MARINElife volunteers and we all thanked Jerry the captain and his crew for another successful day on behalf of MARINElife and I now look forward to my next WLO trip in September.

MARINElife Survey Report: MV Oldenburg Ilfracombe-Lundy 15 August 2015

Posted 21 August 2015

Maggie Gamble and Chris Roberts, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884; Registered Company No. 5057367)

Weather: conditions good, wind NW, sea state 4-2

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals
Common Dolphin Delphinus delphis 8 (inc. 1 calf)
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 3
Bottlenose Dolphin Tursiops truncatus (casual sighting)
Northern Minke Whale Balaenoptera acutorostrata (casual sighting)
Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus (casual sighting)

Seabirds
Manx Shearwater  Puffinus puffinus 47
Fulmar  Fulmarus glacialis 11
Gannet  Morus bassanus 109
Cormorant  Phalacrocorax carbo 4
Lesser Black-backed Gull  Larus fuscus 1
Guillemot  Uria aalge 19
Auk sp.  1

It was quite a bouncy trip across to Lundy much to the delight of some of the younger passengers. However, the sun came out and it was good sunny day to explore the Island.

common dolphin Peter Howlett 20
Common Dolphin with calf (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

The trip over was quite productive with a Harbour Porpoise spotted soon after leaving harbour and Common Dolphin were also seen mid-crossing. We heard later that Bottlenose Dolphin were also seen by the passengers and that a single Minke Whale had slipped by in their usual unobtrusive fashion. Closer to the island there were quite a lot of Gannet plunge diving to feed and some people managed to spot a few dolphin in amongst the feeding melee.

Other seabirds included Manx Shearwater who were riding the air currents above the waves in their usual effortless fashion and were - as ever - a joy to watch. A few Guillemot were to be seen on the water including some father and chick pairs.

Guillemot Peter Howlett 10
Guillemot chick (left) with dad (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

On the return trip Harbour Porpoise and Common Dolphin were spotted again. The Common Dolphin were still in the general area where the Gannet feeding frenzy had been seen on the way out. Presumably there was good fishing to be had here! We had a fast return trip with the tide and Ilfracombe harbour with its dramatic statue soon came into view.

Many thanks to Captain Jerry and the crew for having us aboard the Oldenburg to carry out this monthly survey of MARINElife.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘MS Oldenburg’ Ilfracombe-Lundy 8 August 2015

Posted 10 August 2015

MARINElife/Lundy WLO Andy Gilbert

Weather:  sunny, wind NW, sea-state 1-2 outward/3-4 return.

Summary of Species Seen

Marine Mammals:
Common Dolphin 42
Harbour Porpoise 10
Grey Seal 9
Harbour Seal 1

Other:
Sunfish 1

Seabirds:
Common Scoter
Manx Shearwater
Northern Fulmar
Gannet
Great Black-Backed Gull
Lesser Black-Backed Gull
Herring Gull
Kittiwake
Common Tern
Guillemot

Terrestrial Birds (Lundy)
Linnet
Wheatear
Raven
Swallow
Skylark
Meadow Pipit
Willow Warbler
Oystercatcher

Summer had finally arrived for Oldenburg passengers with a near flat sea and blazing sunshine as the ship left Ilfracombe. Anticipation was certainly in the air around the decks and many eyes were hoping for some good sightings. These included a father and his two young boys who had taken up birding at New Year and set themselves a goal of 100 UK species; the boys had already reached 80 and were hoping to tick a few more off with a visit to Lundy.

Common Dolphin Sharon Morris 03a
Common Dolphin (Archive photo: Sharon Morris)

It wasn't long before a Peregrine was spotted above the North Devon Coast and 5 Common Scoter were spotted heading south. Soon after Harbour Porpoise started to show themselves well in the calm conditions. Despite a noticeable lack of most seabirds on the crossing, Gannet were out feeding in force and it was great to see around 30 Common Dolphin also feeding throughout the course of the journey. Half a dozen came into the ship briefly but most were busy and the Oldenburg passengers enjoyed their splashes and fin shows from a distance. Those lucky enough to be sat on starboard were at one stage treated to a fin waving sunfish travelling down the side of the ship and more Harbour Porpoise were seen at regular intervals throughout the crossing.

It was a blisteringly hot day on the island and despite a beautiful walk as far as Tibbets it seemed most birds were relatively inactive in the mid-day sun. But we still enjoyed views of Wheatear, Skylarks, Raven and Willow Warbler as we ambled around in the heat. A well-deserved cold drink outside The Marisco Tavern heralded the start of the walk down to the landing bay and boarding for the return journey.

A number of Grey Seal were hauled out on Mouse and Rat Islands including one solitary Harbour Seal. Whilst unusual but not completely unheard of visitors to the west country, they are always a welcome sighting down here in the land of the seemingly more hardy Grey Seal. It seems that this female has been around for a while and finds Lundy to her liking.

Guillemot Rick Morris 03a
Male Guillemot with chick (Archive photo: Rick Morris)

On the Lundy side of the channel Guillemot chicks were present on the water accompanied by their fathers who stay with the youngsters for up to two months once leaving the colony. Otherwise it was another quiet trip bird-wise on the return leg with only Common Tern sightings of note. Fortunately some of the dolphins were still around feeding with approximately 12 Common Dolphin and two Harbour Porpoise sighted in the slightly choppier sea state.

As always many thanks to Jerry and his crew for making us so welcome on the Oldenburg.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report ‘MS Oldenburg’ Ilfracombe-Lundy Saturday 1 August 2015

Posted 07 August 2015

MARINElife/Lundy WLO Annette Dutton

Weather: Wind southwesterly, sea state slight to moderate - becoming moderate to rough

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals
Grey Seal 20+
Common Seal 1

Seabirds
Herring Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Greater Black-backed Gull
Shag
Oystercatcher
Guillemot
Puffin
Kittiwake
Gannet

The weather looked a bit ominous as I arrived at Ilfracombe Harbour and as I boarded the MS Oldenburg it looked like it was going to rain. I went to the bridge to collect my jacket and leaflets and to say hello to Jerry and the team.

We departed and I began to introduce myself to the passengers but as we passed Capstone the conditions worsened and we were soon in low cloud. The sea state was such that it was difficult to move about but I continued round the decks carefully, explaining who I was and about the work of MARINElife and what we hoped to see on the way and on Lundy.

Lundy Pony Annette Dutton 01
Lundy ponies (Annette Dutton)

There were very few seabirds on the crossing apart from the odd Gannet, a lone Guillemot, various gulls and a Cory's Shearwater which was spotted by a fellow member of my local wildlife group who is a regular visitor to the Island. Sadly, I didn't see any cetaceans on the journey and surprisingly not one Manx Shearwater.

As we neared Lundy the sea had calmed down a bit and the sun came out as we approached the landing stage. There was the usual array of Shag along the top of Mouse Island and I counted over 20 Grey Seals hauled out plus a Common Seal which had been seen and identified by my fellow wildlife group member on a recent visit to the Island.

I made my way up to the village and took the main path towards the Quarter wall passing the Lundy ponies and Highland cattle, it was warm and sunny and, considering 170 plus people there were on the crossing, I saw no one along the way. I spotted a Meadow Pipit and a Kestrel flew by before I crossed over to Jenny's Cove. I was now walking into the wind and it was quite chilly when I arrived so I ate my lunch behind the rocks then I moved over to get a view of the cliffs and the water below. There were very few seabirds left on the ledges but I noticed a few Kittiwakes and below me on the water I could see around 40 Puffin and a couple of Guillemot bobbing about.

Grey Seal Annette Dutton 02
Grey Seal (Annette Dutton)

I carried on along the lower path looking out to sea for cetaceans but it was very choppy and the visibility was poor so I saw nothing. I walked to the village and continued down to Landing Stage via the road passing Lundy Goats on the way then as I waited to board the Oldenburg I spotted a large male seal in the water.

The journey back was uneventful with the odd Gannet then as we passed Bull Point there were 8 Gannet feeding but sadly no Harbour Porpoise.

There were thousands of people in Ilfracombe Harbour as the Southwest Birdman event was due to start so I hastily thanked Jerry and the crew before battling through the crowds to go home.