Ilfracombe or Bideford-Lundy

Sightings Archives: September 2015

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘MS Oldenburg’ Ilfracombe-Lundy 26 September 2015

Posted 01 October 2015

MARINElife/Lundy WLO Julia Benson

Summary of sightings

Unidentified dolphin species 2
Harbour Porpoise 5

Herring Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Great Black-backed Gull

Wildlife on Lundy:
Lundy Pony
Highland Cattle
Soay Sheep

Terrestrial birds:
Peregrine Falcon

What a fantastic day for a boat trip! Glorious warm sunshine, a gentle wind and a sea state of 2. Summer was back! I was really looking forward to my first trip to Lundy Island.

We left the harbour heading out into the Bristol Channel. I made my way around the decks of the Oldenburg making conversation with the many passengers about what we could possibly see during the crossing and about MARINElife.

Lundy Julia Benson 01
Lundy coastline (Julia Benson)

Apart from a number of gulls in the harbour, it was a fairly quiet crossing with only a few more to be seen as well as the occasional Gannet and auk, and as we approached Lundy, a few Shag appeared. Unfortunately, I did not see any cetaceans, however, the Captain and his crew briefly saw five Harbour Porpoise not long after we left Ilfracombe and on arrival at Lundy. Also, a couple of passengers I'd been talking to during the crossing said they had briefly seen two dolphins swimming close to the boat. Apparently, I had only just missed them as I had been standing where they swam past just a few minutes before.

On arrival at Lundy I went for a long walk to take in the wildlife and the beauty of the Island. It was warm sunny and so peaceful. During my walk I met a birder who told me there had been around 5,000 swallows on the Island the day before which was an amazing sight to see. I too saw Swallows as I walked around, though only several in number at a time, flying low to the ground like aerial acrobats catching flies. I also encountered several Lundy ponies grazing on the lush grass, as well as Soay sheep and a few Highland cattle. A large hairy black and orange caterpillar also crossed my path which I believe is that of a Fox Moth.

It was time to head back to the boat and whilst waiting to board we were entertained by a couple of Grey Seals. A female, who was as curious about us as we were about her, kept popping her head out of the water taking a good look at us each time. The bull, however, wasn't in the least bit interested as he preferred to relax, bottling in the warm sunshine.  A few of the waiting passengers also had the same idea and were taking a refreshing dip on the other side of the jetty.

Fox Moth caterpillar Julia Benson 01
Fox Moth caterpillar (Julia Benson)

On the return crossing the wind had picked up creating many whitecaps which made sighting of any cetaceans a little difficult. The same species of seabirds were seen as on the outward crossing and as we approached the coast of Devon, several Gannet were circling in the sky. I watched them intently hoping they would perform their spectacular dives and also keeping a close eye on the water expectantly waiting to see a fin break the surface. Unfortunately, there were none to be seen but it's always a treat to watch these beautiful graceful birds.

Thank you so much to Captain Jerry and his crew for their hospitality. It was a very enjoyable day talking to the passengers, including Warren, who is taking one of our ID courses next week, and a team from The Lundy Field Society who had been conducting research on the island for a week.

MARINElife Survey Report: ‘M.S. Oldenburg’ Bideford-Lundy 19 September 2015

Posted 27 September 2015

Nick Adams and Charles McGibney, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884; Registered Company No. 5057367)

Weather: SW-W 1, sea state 0-1, sunny and clear all day

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals
Common Dolphin  Delphinus delphis 21
Harbour Porpoise  Phocoena phocoena 6
Grey seal Halichoerus grypus 14

Common Scoter  Melanitta nigra 24
Fulmar  Fulmarus glacialis 1
Manx Shearwater  Puffinus puffinus 1
Gannet  Morus bassanus 37
Cormorant  Phalacrocorax carbo 5
Shag  Phalacrocorax aristotelis 1
Black-headed Gull  Chroicocephalus ridibundus 1
Mediterranean Gull  Larus melanocephalus 1
Herring Gull  Larus argentatus 27
Great Black-backed Gull  Larus marinus 8
Guillemot  Uria aalge 86
Unidentified Auk sp.  15
Unidentified large gull sp. 2

Terrestrial birds at sea
Meadow pipit Anthus pratensis 1
Swallow Hirundo rustica 3

Having arrived at the quayside in Bideford, we quickly boarded the Oldenburg and introduced ourselves to the Captain, Jerry. As we went down the Taw/Torridge estuary we saw quite a few Little Egret roosting in trees as well as a selection of waders including Common Sandpiper, Curlew, Oystercatcher, Ringed Plover and Dunlin.

Common Dolphin Charles McGibney 01
Common Dolphin (Charles McGibney)

The sea conditions were perfect for cetacean spotting and shortly after leaving the estuary we saw the first of three Harbour Porpoise on the outward trip. Good numbers of Guillemot were still around and Gannets were passing by too. The highlights were three Common Scoter and a juvenile Mediterranean Gull as we arrived at Lundy. As we tied up a number of Grey Seals were there to meet us.

Once we were ashore we did a partial circuit of the island. Autumn migration was very much in evidence with Swallow and Meadow Pipit flooding across the island, heading east into England. Siskin were also passing by and a few were feeding on Autumn Hawkbit near the landing. There were many Chiffchaff in the valleys as well as at least seven Spotted Flycatcher and a Wood Warbler - a good bird for Lundy.

On the return journey we were graced by several encounters with Common Dolphin, some of which were bow-riding - fantastic for all the passengers on the ship! We also saw three more Harbour Porpoise.

Common Dolphin Charles McGibney 02
Common Dolphin (Charles McGibney)

It was dusk as we reached the Taw/Torridge estuary but there was still enough light to scan the gull roost that was forming and pick out at least 40 Mediterranean Gulls.

Many thanks to Captain Jerry Waller and his crew and the staff on Lundy for all their enthusiasm and help.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report ‘MS Oldenburg’ Bideford-Lundy 19 September 2015

Posted 24 September 2015

MARINElife/Lundy Wildlife Officer: Steve McAusland

Weather: Sunny & warm, slight breeze, sea state 1

Summary of species seen:
Marine Mammals:

Common Dolphin 18
Harbour Porpoise 4
Grey Seal 21

Black-headed Gull
Herring Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Great Black-backed Gull

Lundy terrestrial birds:
Meadow Pipit
Carrion Crow
House Sparrow
Wood Pigeon
House Martin
Sand Martin
Peregrine Falcon

Estuary birds
Little Egret
Grey Heron
Black-tailed Godwit

This month's Lundy trip started with collecting my ticket from the Bideford Landmark office, upon boarding MS Oldenburg I met up with Charles and Nick, fellow surveyors who were on board for this month's Lundy survey. The ship left the quay in warm sunshine and looking across the estuary the sight of low white mist made for an impressive view. As the Oldenburg navigated its way past Northam Burrows, great numbers of wading birds could be seen; Dunlin, Curlew, Black-tailed Godwit, Oystercatcher and Ring Plover being the most obvious. Starting my tour around the upper and lower decks I introduced myself to some of the passengers and as usual I had numerous conversations with many people. One in particular was with two gentlemen from Vermont in the USA who were over from the U.S. Landmark Trust.

Common Dolphin Steve McAusland 03
Common Dolphin (Steve McAusland)

Leaving the estuary behind I soon had the opportunity to point out four Common Dolphin which had most of the passengers on the starboard side looking out to see them breaching, not too long after the dolphins, we also had sight of two Harbour Porpoise. Birds were very scarce and it wasn't until we were within a few miles of Lundy that numbers increased. Gannet, Shag and Kittiwake were seen and as the ship came alongside the jetty a Peregrine Falcon was circling the cliff tops.

After disembarking the Oldenburg a great many of the passengers stopped on the jetty to watch the Grey Seals that were swimming around Rat Island. Following this I began to make my way up to the higher levels. Whilst walking along the central track I was surprised to find a Dunlin feeding in and around a huge puddle. This little bird seemed very tame and didn't seem to mind me stopping to take a few photos!

Dunlin Steve McAusland 01
Dunlin (Steve McAusland)

The return journey aboard the Oldenburg gave further sightings of more Common Dolphin and Harbour Porpoise and as before, many of the passengers were delighted to see these graceful animals. The crossing back to Bideford was a calm affair and as we approached the estuary the sun was going down behind the ships stern, by the time we returned to the quay it was dark.

Before leaving the ship, I thanked Jerry and the crew for supporting MARINElife and I look forward to more trips in 2016.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘MS Oldenburg’ Ilfracombe-Lundy 5 September 2015

Posted 09 September 2015

MARINElife/Lundy WLO Sarah Hodgson

Outward - overcast, northwesterly winds, sea state 5
Return - sunny, northeasterly winds, sea state 4

Summary of species seen:

Common Dolphin (passenger sighting) 5
Harbour Porpoise 2
Grey Seal 3

Manx Shearwater
Herring Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull

It was a cool start to the day as I arrived in Ilfracombe ready for my trip to Lundy.  After checking in with the friendly and helpful staff in the port office, I waited on the harbourside, along with nearly 200 other passengers, to board the 'Oldenburg'. Once aboard, I made my way to the bridge to introduce myself to the captain, Jerry, as this was my first time on this route as a Wildlife Officer.

There was a steady breeze blowing as the boat left the shelter of the harbour and made its way along the rugged North Devon coast. There was a bit of a swell, so I carefully made my way around the outer decks to talk to other passengers about the wildlife we might encounter during the crossing. Except for a variety of gulls, there wasn't much to see to begin with. Around half way across some passengers informed me that dolphins had been sighted, alas, by the time I got to the port side of the vessel, they had already disappeared from view. Fortunately, several passengers were able to give a really good description of the dolphins and their behaviour, which led me to suspect that they were Common Dolphin. As we neared Lundy, the number of birds increased, with sightings of Fulmar, Gannet and Manx Shearwater on the wing. On arrival in the sheltered harbour at Lundy, I spotted a bull Grey Seal bottling in the water near the shoreline.

Grey Seal Sarah Hodgson 01
Grey Seal (Sarah Hodgson)

The clouds had dispersed allowing the sun to break through and it was shaping up to be a lovely afternoon. I stopped to watch the seals in the adjacent cove for a short while, before making my way up the hill to the village. It was a perfect day for a walk, so I headed along the east coast of the island to find a nice spot for a picnic. After lunch, just as I was getting ready to head back, a couple of Peregrine caught my eye, so I paused to watch them gliding magnificently along the clifftops.

As we boarded the 'Oldenburg' for the return trip, a couple of juvenile seals appeared in the water right next to the jetty much to the delight of the waiting passengers. With the sun shining, it was much warmer on the return leg, although a bit of glare made for tricky viewing at times. Early on we passed a few Guillemot sitting on the water and had good sightings of Manx Shearwater throughout the crossing. Reaching the mainland, I noticed some fairly active Gannet so kept my binoculars firmly focussed on them and the water below and was rewarded with a glimpse of a couple of Harbour Porpoise in the distance.

Back in Ilfracombe I thanked Jerry, Brian and the crew of 'Oldenburg' for their assistance and I look forward to hopefully returning next year.