Ilfracombe or Bideford-Lundy

Sightings Archives: April 2016

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘MS Oldenburg’ Ilfracombe-Lundy 30 April 2016

Posted 04 May 2016

MARINElife/Lundy WLO Tony Chenery

Summary of sightings:

Cetaceans:
Harbour Porpoise 1

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

I arrived at Ilfracombe in good time, excited to be embarking on my first Lundy trip and my first outing as a MARINElife WLO. As the Oldenburg started on its way, I made my way around the decks to introduce myself to the passengers trying to spot the wildlife enthusiasts among the many bank holiday trippers. Setting out from Ilfracombe harbour the sun shone and it was comfortable out on deck. With a sea state 2, conditions were very favourable for sighting cetaceans.

Harbour Porpoise Mike Bailey 02a
Harbour Porpoise (Archive photo: Mike Bailey)

Leaving Ilfracombe we encountered Herring Gulls and heading out to sea we came across Great and Lesser Black-backed Gulls. Further on we saw Guillemot, Razorbill and Kittiwake. Approaching Lundy we encountered a single Harbour Porpoise, the Captain alerted me to its presence in front of the bow but it quickly trailed off to the port side. Coming up to the landing on Lundy we past several Shags and a lone Swallow flew past heading for the Island.

On Lundy I made my way around enjoying the scenery and wildlife, in particular a fall of Blackcaps and Willow Warblers that were flitting around in the sunlight among the available tree cover.

The return Journey quickly became exciting when we encountered several mixed feeding parties of Manx Shearwater, auks and Kittiwakes. As the feeding parties gradually grew smaller then disappeared we encountered Razorbill and Guillemot auks in ones, twos and threes.  Later these were added to by some Fulmar, several of which were intriguingly dark in colouration on the wings and back.

Razorbill Peter Howlett 07
Razorbill (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

I very much enjoyed my first trip as WLO. The return leg was particularly rewarding in terms of birdlife and it was interesting talking to some of the passengers that had been staying on Lundy, some of whom were particularly keen to hear about the work of MARINElife.

Thanks to the crew of the 'Oldenburg' for their help and assistance on my first trip as WLO.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘MS Oldenburg’ Ilfracombe-Lundy 23 April 2016

Posted 28 April 2016

Annette Dutton MARINElife WLO

Summary of sightings

Marine Mammals
Grey Seal 1

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

Wildlife seen on Lundy
Soay Sheep
Lundy Pony
Highland Cattle
Meadow Pipit
Rock Pipit
Skylark
Wheatear
Swallow
House Martin

It was sunny but cool as I walked down to Ilfracombe Harbour and the sea looked fairly calm so I was hopeful for some cetacean sightings. I boarded the Oldenburg and went up to the bridge to say hello to Jason, the Captain, and to collect my MARINElife jacket.

I waited until the tannoy announcements had been made (including one about the presence of a MARINElife WLO on board) before making my way around the decks to chat to the passengers who were keen to know what wildlife they might see on the crossing and on Lundy when they arrived.

Manx Shearwater Peter Howlett 02
Manx Shearwater (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

I saw very little until we passed Morte Point then one of the passengers pointed out a feeding frenzy of around a dozen Manx Shearwaters, I thought I saw a fin amongst them but sadly it was a piece of wood floating on the water.

The journey was surprisingly calm and it was quite warm so many of the passengers were enjoying the trip on the outer decks. As we got nearer to Lundy, I saw several Guillemot and a lone Grey Seal bobbing about on the calm sea then as we approached the landing stage there were several Shag in their usual spot along the top of Mouse Island and a couple of Oystercatchers flew away from the rocks below.

After leaving the Oldenburg I walked up to the village and headed towards half way wall. It was like a summers day and I was accompanied by Swallows and House Martins flitting about with regular appearances of Wheatear and Skylarks.

Guillemot Annette Dutton 01
Guillemot colony at Jenny's Cove (Annette Dutton)

At half way wall I stopped to take some photos of the Highland Cattle and Soay Sheep with their lambs before turning towards Jenny's Cove. I found a perch looking down into the cove and soon spotted the many Guillemot on the cliff ledges along with a few Herring Gull and the odd Kittiwake. Amongst the Guillemot rafting on the water below I managed to make out several Puffin, a Peregrine called from close by but I wasn't quick enough to see it.

I ate my lunch whilst enjoying the view and the warm sun then I headed back towards the Old Light stopping now and again to see if I could spot any cetaceans in the calm sea - sadly there were none to be seen.

Wheatear Annette Dutton 01
Wheatear (Annette Dutton)

Walking down towards the Landing Bay I saw a Kestrel fly by and Oystercatchers on the rocks below.

The return journey started off with sightings of a Gannet and a lone Kittiwake followed by regular appearances of Guillemot. As we passed Morte Point four Gannet flew by low over the water so I searched for Porpoise but no joy then another three Gannet flew by but still no Porpoise.

We arrived back in Ilfracombe and I returned to the bridge to collect my belongings and to say goodbye to Jason and to thank him for a pleasant trip.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘MS Oldenburg’ Ilfracombe-Lundy 16 April 2016

Posted 17 April 2016

Rick Morris MARINElife WLO

Summary of sightings:

Marine mammals:
None seen

Seabirds:
Great Skua
Common Tern
Great Black-backed Gull
Herring Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Manx shearwater
Gannet
Kittiwake
Fulmar
Shag
Guillemot
Razorbill

Terrestrial Birds
Ring Ouzel
Swallow
Starling
Carrion Crow
Jackdaw
Raven
Meadow Pipit
Rock Pipit
Wheatear
Skylark
Pied Wagtail
House Sparrow
Mallard
Peregrine Falcon
Willow Warbler
Linnet
Goldfinch
Robin

I arrived at Ilfracombe just after the last of the showers that now gave way to a lovely sunny morning, but with a very cold northerly wind.

After collecting my ticket and a catch up with Jacqui and Kate in the shore office I made way across the harbour to board the 'MS Oldenburg'. A quick visit to the bridge to say hello to Jason and Vernon, then out onto the decks to greet the passengers and tell them about the wildlife we may get to see.

Common Tern Martin Gillingham 02
Common Tern (Archive photo: Martin Gillingham)

It was obvious from the very start of the trip that cetacean sightings were going to be a real challenge in the sea state 5, whipped up by the stiff northerly wind, this proved the case as none were seen today. On the plus side this clean air blowing down from the Arctic made for excellent visibility, giving good distant views of Lundy Island and the Welsh coast.

Seabird numbers were very low throughout with just a few auks, a couple of Herring Gull, a solitary Gannet and the welcome sight of returning Common Tern but the highlight was a solitary Great Skua around the halfway point. Surprisingly I didn't see any Manx Shearwater considering there are good numbers around and that they have started to visit the burrows at night on the island.

Arriving on Lundy, I decided to walk along the south end and head north along the west coast and make Jenny's Cove my destination for lunch. Along the way I had the company of the ever present Meadow Pipit and Skylark as well as Wheatear, Rock Pipit and a solitary Willow Warbler. As I neared Pilots Landing I was looking at a couple of Raven that flew into view when a bird perched on the cliff caught my eye, this turned out to be a Ring Ouzel and so thought this was worthy of a photo, but trying to steady the camera even on a monopod was quite hard in the wind!

Ring Ouzel Rick Morris 01
Ring Ouzel (Photo: Rick Morris)

Nearing Jenny's Cove I heard a Peregrine and after a short while managed to locate it as it was flying over the cliff edge heading northward and I suspect it was probably hunting! Reaching Jenny's Cove I settled down to escape the wind and have lunch and look to see if the Puffin were around. Unfortunately the 'cove' was very quiet with the only residents being a few Herring Gull on the slopes and a few Kittiwake in the air.

I headed back along the halfway wall then south down the central path back to the village and then down to the boat. Along the way in Millcombe Valley, I spotted Blackcap, Linnet and Goldfinch.

The return crossing was pretty much the same as far as the weather, but seabird numbers were much better with Shag, Fulmar, Gannet, Great Black-backed and Lesser Black-backed Gull and good numbers of Guillemot, Razorbill and Kittiwake seen, as well as small groups of Manx Shearwater.

Nearing the North Devon coast a naval exercise was underway. It was the French destroyer 'Cassard' with a Royal Navy supply ship and helicopter carrier, this drew quite a lot of interest from the passengers.

French destroyer Rick Morris 01
French destroyer 'Cassard' (Photo: Rick Morris)

Heading along the coast from Morte Point to Ilfracombe, Kittiwake, Gannet and Herring Gull were seen and once in the Harbour, I said farewell to Jason and Vernon and made my way home.

My thanks to the crew, the Landmark Trust, shore office and island staff for all their help and support.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘MS Oldenburg’ Bideford-Lundy 9 April 2016

Posted 15 April 2016

Steve McAusland MARINElife Lundy Wildlife Officer.

Weather: sea state was 4 to 5 with westerly winds. Rain to begin with, sunny and warm all afternoon.

Summary of sightings:

Cetaceans:
Harbour Porpoise 1 (Brief glimpse as we passed the Saunton Hotel)
Grey Seal 7

Birds at Sea:
Manx Shearwater
Fulmar
Gannet
Black-headed Gull
Shag
Great Skua
Herring Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Kittiwake
Guillemot
Razorbill
Puffin

Estuary Birds:
Teal
Little Egret
Oystercatcher
Redshank
Swallow

Birds on Lundy:
Mallard
Peregrine Falcon
Wood Pigeon
Willow Warbler
Chiffchaff
Meadow Pipit
Wheatear
Starling
House Sparrow
Swallow
Robin
Blackbird
Dunnock
Skylark
Wren
Carrion Crow
Jackdaw
Goldfinch
Pied Wagtail

I arrived in Bideford at 07:30am for my first Lundy trip of 2016. As I collected my ticket from the Landmark Trust office I had a quick conversation with Beccy MacDonald the Island's Warden who was returning to Lundy. Following this, I proceeded to board the MS Oldenburg where I was welcomed aboard by Jason the ship's Captain. As I started my tour around the upper and lower decks the rain had ensured that many of the 108 passengers were below in the saloons, as such there was only a handful of people to talk to.

Great Skua Peter Howlett 06
Great Skua (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

The one and only cetacean sighting happened as the ship had passed over the reef which is just outside the mouth of estuary, here a brief glimpse of a single Harbour Porpoise was good to see. Birds of note were Manx Shearwater, Gannet along with Guillemot and Razorbill rafting as the ship passed them by. The usual common gulls were seen along with Kittiwake, Fulmar and a Great Skua.

As the Oldenburg made its way slowly towards the landing bay there was no sign of any seals on the rocks of Rat Island, however I did see two during my time on the island from the higher levels. As the passengers disembarked, the sun came out and everyone made their way up to the higher levels. My route this visit was to pass the wooded areas to look out for migrant birds, here I saw Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff.

Onwards towards halfway wall I spotted my first Wheatear of the year, both male and female. Arriving at Jenny's Cove, named after a ship that was wrecked off the rocks, I soon had sight of my first Puffin for 2016 along with many Guillemot, Razorbill and Kittiwake.

Puffin Peter Howlett 05a
Puffin (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

After lunch I made to make my way back to the jetty, passing the old light. Along the way were Skylark, Meadow Pipit and many more beautiful Wheatear.

Also whilst walking back, the island's Sika Deer were spotted, plus the Lundy Ponies were seen grazing over on the eastern side of the island. Other animals observed were the usual sheep and wild goats.

The crossing back to Ilfracombe was a quiet one with the same birds being seen along the way. Before disembarking I thanked Jason the Captain and Vernon the ship's first mate for his and the crews' continued support for MARINElife. I look forward to my next trip in May, this time I hope to see some of the Common and Bottlenose Dolphin that are regularly seen and even the possibility of a Minke Whale, Basking Shark or Sunfish.

MARINElife Survey Report: MS Oldenburg Ilfracombe-Lundy 2 April 2016

Posted 06 April 2016

Julie Hatcher and Charlotte Altass, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884; Registered Company No. 5057367)

Weather:
Outward - intermittent rain with moderate to good visibility, wind southeasterly force 4
Return - fine and bright with good visibility, wind southeasterly force 3-4

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals
Harbour porpoise Phocoena phocoena 1

Seabirds
Fulmar  Fulmarus glacialis 7
Manx Shearwater  Puffinus puffinus 17
Storm Petrel  Hydrobates pelagicus 3
Gannet  Morus bassanus 8
Cormorant  Phalacrocorax carbo 1
Shag  Phalacrocorax aristotelis 1
Herring Gull  Larus argentatus 18
Lesser Black-backed Gull  Larus fuscus 2
Great Black-backed Gull  Larus marinus 8
Kittiwake  Rissa tridactyla 2
Guillemot  Uria aalge 23
Razorbill  Alca torda 21
Gull sp. 6

Terrestrial birds
Swallow Hirundo rustica 3

We boarded the MS Oldenburg in light rain and were immediately shown to the bridge by the crew and welcomed by Captain Jason Mugford. Once out of Ilfracombe Harbour we took up our station for the survey on either side of the bridge as we headed along the North Devon coast. The sea was rather lumpy, making observation a little difficult but we could just make out Lundy Island in the distance.

Oldenburg Lundy Julie Hatcher 01
MS Oldenburg at the landing stage on Lundy (Julie Hatcher)

Herring and Great Black-backed Gulls followed as we left Ilfracombe behind and we were delighted to spot a few early Swallows too. As we left the North Devon coast and headed offshore we passed little groups of Razorbills and Guillemots sitting on the water and as we neared Lundy a number of Manx Shearwaters were shearing backwards and forwards across the waves in front of the boat. A couple of Fulmars and juvenile Kittiwakes also crossed our path.

As we disembarked we were met by the Lundy Warden and we joined her for a guided tour of the southwestern corner of the island. She pointed out a small specimen of the Lundy Cabbage and explained the work that has been going on to conserve this endemic plant. We also visited the Anthony Gormley sculpture temporarily installed on the island to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Landmark Trust. After an enjoyable wander on the island we returned to the pier for the return journey.

Harbour Porpoise Mike Bailey 02a
Harbour Porpoise (Archive photo: Mike Bailey)

The weather had improved for the return trip and we left Lundy in bright and much calmer conditions. Manx Shearwaters, Razorbills and Guillemots kept us busy for the first part of the crossing and we were delighted to spot a single Harbour Porpoise which crossed just in front of the bow, surfacing a couple of times. As we drew nearer to the mainland, gulls and Gannet took over and we later learned that the Wildlife Liaison Officer and a number of passengers had spotted a couple more Harbour Porpoise.

We would like to thank Captain Mugford and his crew for their kindness and for making it such an enjoyable trip.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘MS Oldenburg’ Ilfracombe-Lundy 2 April 2016

Posted 05 April 2016

Rick Morris MARINElife WLO

Summary of sightings:

Marine mammals:
Harbour Porpoise 3
Grey Seal 1

Seabirds:
Great Black-backed Gull
Herring Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Manx shearwater
Gannet
Kittiwake
Fulmar
Shag
Guillemot
Razorbill

Terrestrial Birds
Swallow
Starling
Carrion Crow
Meadow Pipit
Rock Pipit
Wheatear
Skylark
Pied Wagtail
House Sparrow
Mallard
Graylag Goose

Arriving at Ilfracombe Harbour on a rather wet and cold morning, I met up with Neil Spencer who will be joining the WLO team and also Julie Hatcher and Charlotte Altass who were conducting this month's MARINElife survey.

We boarded the MS Oldenburg and made our way to the bridge where we were greeted by the Oldenburg's new Captain, Jason Mugford and first mate Vernon. Neil joined me as I made my out on deck to have a chat with the passengers to explain the role of the Wildlife Officer and what wildlife we may encounter on the sailing. We left our mooring at 10:00  with the hope we might sight some Harbour Porpoise as we neared Morte Point, but the force 5 sea state made this difficult!

Seabird numbers were fairly low to start with, although we did see small groups of Swallow heading out toward Lundy. Once in the channel we were seeing auks in small numbers along with the odd Kittiwake, Fulmar and Gannet. As we reached the halfway point it was great to observe Manx Shearwater, these birds are truly masters of the air and they never cease to amaze me as they shear in and out of the wave troughs. Reaching Lundy a couple of Shag were busily fishing in the Landing Bay but the normal welcome party of Grey Seal were absent.

Manx Shearwater Rick Morris 03a
Manx Shearwater (Archive photo: Rick Morris)

Arriving on Lundy we were greeted by Beccy (Lundy warden) and Neil, Julie and Charlotte joined her on a guided walk whereas I was advised to go up in the Land Rover due to a bad knee! Arriving at the top I made my way to Jenny's Cove to see if I could see any of the 80+ Puffin that had arrived, unfortunately I failed to see any. Along the way Mallard, Graylag Goose, House Sparrow, Wheatear, Skylark, Meadow Pipit, Carrion Crow and Swallow were seen. I also encountered some of Lundy's land mammals - Sika Deer, Highland Cattle, Lundy Pony and Soay Sheep with recently born lambs.

Soay Sheep Rick Morris 02
Soay Lamb (Photo: Rick Morris)

Looking down into Jenny's Cove whilst trying to find the Puffin a Harbour Porpoise popped up and showed well for a couple of minutes. I spent around 30 minutes here and after eating my lunch, made way back to the Marisco Tavern taking a look at Pondsbury on route.

After a much needed mug of hot coffee I met up with Beccy and we made our way down to the Landing Bay for the return back to Ilfracombe. The wind had dropped slightly with a sea state 4 for the return but despite this some of the passengers and I did manage to spot a solitary Grey Seal and 2 Harbour Porpoise. Arriving back at Ilfracombe Harbour, we said our farewells and made our way home.

Grey Seal Rick Morris 10
Grey Seal (Archive photo: Rick Morris)

Although the weather was not great, this was still a good trip and I feel privileged to be able see the fantastic diversity of wildlife to be found between North Devon and Lundy Island.

My thanks to the crew, the Landmark Trust, shore office and island staff for all their help and support.