Ilfracombe or Bideford-Lundy

Sightings Archives: October 2015

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘MS Oldenburg’ Bideford-Lundy 17 October 2015

Posted 19 October 2015


Rick Morris MARINElife Lundy Wildlife Officer

Summary of sightings

Marine mammals:
Harbour Porpoise 1
Grey Seal 3

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

Estuary birds
Black-tailed Godwit
Little Egret
Grey Heron
Mute Swan

Lundy terrestrial birds:
Song Thrush
Meadow Pipit
Carrion Crow
House Sparrow

This was the last Wildlife Officer (WLO) trip for 2015 and for this crossing I had arranged to meet up with surveyor Ruth Crundwell, Ruth will be joining the WLO team next season and so joined me to see what the role entails. We arrived in Bideford on an overcast morning and chilly ENE breeze, collected our tickets and promptly made our way onto the 'MS Oldenburg'. After a brief visit to the bridge to say hello to Jerry, we made our way out on deck, here we met Kevin Doble, who a few weeks earlier had attended MARINElife's ID course at Plymouth Aquarium.

Grey Seal Rick Morris 09
Grey Seal (Rick Morris)

We slipped our mooring in the River Torridge and headed downstream and straight away we were seeing Black-headed Gull, Little Egret, Mute Swan, Redshank, Black-tailed Godwit, Dunlin, Oystercatcher, Grey Heron and Shelduck. Nearing the sandbar, Cormorant were observed, likely returning from fishing. We also saw a couple of large flocks of waders on the sand, but they were too far off to positively identify, although we feel they could have been Green Sandpiper!

It was a quiet trip across to Lundy with no cetaceans seen and bird numbers fairly low, but we did get sporadic sightings of small groups of Razorbill and Guillemot plus the odd Gannet and gull.

Arriving on Lundy we accepted the offer of a lift up top in the Land Rover from Beccy the warden. Once on top, we decided to walk around the west side, this gave us sightings of various birds plus feral Goat and Soay Sheep and a brief sighting of a Harbour Porpoise as we stopped for lunch near the 'Battery'. Making our way, we headed over to the east side and by the halfway wall we encountered a couple of Fieldfare together with a solitary Song Thrush. Walking along the main path a raptor caught my attention as it was using the wind to hover over the ruins of the quarry cottages, further observation revealed it to be a Merlin.

Fieldfare Rick Morris 01
Fieldfare (Rick Morris)

Reaching the Marisco Tavern we decided to stop for a welcome cup of tea before heading down to the Landing Jetty. Grey Seal were seen looking toward the beach, we thought they might have been keeping an eye on pups, although we did not see any.

The return crossing was again quiet and shortly after entering the river section the sun set and so we popped onto the bridge to collect our bags and say our farewells to Jerry and the crew.

Thanks to Jerry and the crew of the 'Oldenburg' and to all on Lundy and the shore offices for making this another great Wildlife Officer season. See you all in 2016!

MARINElife Survey Report: ‘MS Oldenburg’ Ilfracombe-Lundy survey 10 October 2015

Posted 16 October 2015

Jess Mead & Maggie Gamble, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884; Registered Company No. 5057367)

Summary of species recorded

Marine Mammals
Common Dolphin Delphinus delphis 2

Gannet Morus bassanus 7
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 3
Great Black-Backed Gull Larus marinus 5
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 1
Guillemot Uria aalge 7
Razorbill Alca torda 48
Auk sp.  3
Gull sp.  6
Unidentified passerines  8

After collecting out tickets from the office in Ilfracombe we boarded MS Oldenburg and introduced ourselves to the extremely friendly and accommodating Captain and crew. It was a fairly windy and choppy morning making the conditions less than ideal for cetacean spotting. Despite this there were several shouts of 'fin' from the passengers and we recorded a Common Dolphin just off the front of the boat. Only a few species of seabirds were seen, the most numerous being Guillemot and Razorbill and Gannet.

Common Dolphin Peter Howlett 01
Common Dolphin (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

As we moored up on Lundy we saw a mother Grey Seal close to the jetty visiting her pup on the beach. It was a lovely sight to see and we were told that pupping on the island was well under way and we hope it will be a successful year for them.

The return survey in the afternoon was much rougher than the outward journey and our viewing even more restricted than the outward journey. We did manage to catch a glimpse (but nothing more!) of a Common Dolphin close to the ship. Very few seabirds were seen on the return trip until we reached the relative shelter of the mainland where we saw Gannet along with a few Great Black-backed and Herring Gull.

Thanks again to the Captain and crew for their help and enthusiasm throughout the day.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘MS Oldenburg’ Ilfracombe-Lundy 10 October 2015

Posted 12 October 2015

MARINElife/Lundy WLO Keith Morgan
Sea state 4-5 Easterly wind

Summary of Sightings
Marine Mammals:
Unidentified Dolphin 2
Grey Seal 1


Along with about 90 passengers I set out from Ilfracombe on a rather cloudy Saturday. I made my way around decks to introduce myself, finding a mix of first-time voyagers and repeat passengers. A group of volunteers were heading for a week assisting with whatever tasks the Warden might find for them, such as scrub clearance, fence repairs etc.  All were thoroughly looking forward to it.

Gannet Cliff Morrison 02
Gannet (Cliff Morrison)

Another group were experienced birdwatchers heading for a week's camping and spotting migrants.  As we left Ilfracombe harbour their eagle eyes were highly surprised to find a Great Egret on the rocks to the north.

Unfortunately bird sightings thereafter were few and far between - a few distant Gannets and a Razorbill bobbing on the waves.

My shouts of "fin" did manage to alert passengers to passing unidentified dolphins [one to starboard, one to port heading in the opposite direction to the ship] and at least a few caught a brief glimpse of activity.

Approaching Lundy we found a mother seal wallowing in the shallows just off the beach by the jetty [apparently her youngster was hidden nearby] and we were told that no access to beaches was allowed at present as there were many pups about.

Grey Seal Ruth Griffith 05
Grey Seal (Ruth Griffith)

Along with the other MARINElife volunteers I joined a guided tour of part of the island with the assistant ranger that took us to the village, the church, the castle, the Anthony Gormley statue and the old lighthouse.  We heard tales of the island's past, saw a number of Kestrel stalled at ease in the wind off the west coast and found lots of large, hairy Fox Moth caterpillars beside the paths.  The climb up the old lighthouse was well worth it, with excellent views in all directions.

The return to Ilfracombe was a bit more lively than the journey out.  As we headed into the waves spray broke across the boat, sending many people to shelter below deck but keeping others in amused anticipation of the next drenching!  Above deck, one solitary Gannet was seen.  Below deck, Scotland triumphed over Samoa in the Rugby World Cup.

Many thanks to the crew of the 'Oldenburg' for their help and assistance.

MARINElife/Lundy WLO Keith Morgan

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘MS Oldenburg’ Ilfracombe-Lundy 1 October 2015

Posted 08 October 2015

MARINElife/Lundy WLO Peter Jones

Summary of sightings
Common Dolphin 3
Harbour Porpoise 16
Grey Seal 5

Great Northern Diver
Herring Gull
Great Black-backed Gull

Terrestrial birds:
House Martin
Song Thrush
Common Redstart
House sparrow
Meadow Pipit
Pied wagtail

We set sail from Ilfracombe in excellent weather and calm seas, and almost immediately had our first sighting of a Harbour Porpoise. This was to continue throughout the outward sailing with over 15 animals sighted.

Harbour Porpoise Adrian Shephard 04
Harbour Porpoise (Adrian Shephard)

Birds seen during the outward crossing were a Great Northern Diver, several Guillemot on the water, plus Kittiwake and Gannet overhead. A small flock of Swallow migrating over the sea was a nice sight, and as we approached Lundy, larger groups of migrating Swallow and House Martin were seen circling over the island. A number of Grey Seal were seen around the harbour, and several Shag were sitting on rocks.

The small sheltered valleys on Lundy were alive with birds. Blackcap, Robin, Chiffchaff and Goldcrest were all showing well. A brief glimpse of a superb Male Redstart was a highlight. On the higher ground, Meadow Pipit, Stonechat, Skylark, and Wheatear were seen.

Kittiwake Adrian Shephard 02
Kittiwake (Adrian Shephard)

The return journey started well with Harbour Porpoise surfacing below circling Gannet, and we continued to enjoy regular Porpoise sightings. Three Common Dolphin showed very briefly close to the boat but unfortunately didn't linger for better views. The day's sightings were completed by a Peregrine hunting along the Devon coast.

On arrival back at Ilfracombe, I thanked the Captain and his crew for their hospitality, and returned to shore after a very enjoyable day.