Ilfracombe or Bideford-Lundy

Sightings Archives: May 2016

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘MS Oldenburg’ Ilfracombe-Lundy 28 May 2016

Posted 03 June 2016

MARINElife/Lundy WLO: Andy Gilbert

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals
Grey Seal 3

Seabirds
Fulmar
Gannet
Herring Gull
Lesser black-backed Gull
Greater Black-backed Gull
Razorbill
Guillemot
Manx Shearwater
Shag
Cormorant
Puffin
Kittiwake

Lundy Birds
Oystercatcher
Goldfinch
Blackbird
Chiffchaff
Raven
Wren
Carrion Crow
Peregrine Falcon
Skylark
Kestrel
Wheatear
Meadow Pipit
Wood Pigeon
Starling
House Sparrow

With the SS Oldenburg almost full to capacity on this bank holiday weekend, we cruised out of the harbour and into the Bristol Channel to find a millpond - sea state zero. Excited at the perfect cetacean spotting conditions, and having toured the decks introducing myself, I set myself up on the top deck with a number of passengers ready to make the most of the conditions.

Grey Seal Peter Howlett 03
Grey Seal (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

After a couple of Razorbill and Fulmar we spotted a male Grey Seal in the water checking us out as we passed by. Unfortunately soon after that the sea mist descended and we were shrouded in fog for the rest of the journey with little more sighted than a few more auks and a Manx Shearwater disappearing into the fog.

However, once on Lundy I climbed the path from the landing bay and emerged through the fog into beautiful sunshine and the island in all its spring glory. I walked the eastern coast path past Bluebells, Sea Pinks and Red Campion and spotted lots of Green-veined White butterflies on the wing in the sunshine. I could see and hear a Chiffchaff in one of the copses and came across a group of Sika Deer quietly observing my passing.  As I approached Quarter Wall I could hear a Peregrine calling and spent some time locating it on the cliff.

Peregrine Peter Howlett 02
Peregrine Falcon (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

After eating my lunch on the cliffs I headed up onto the central plateau and found a Kestrel hunting above the heath studded with the tiny yellow flowers of Tormentil. Many Skylark flew and sang as I crossed the island to take a seat above Jenny's Cove and watch the Puffin, Fulmar and Guillemots.

Back at the landing beach a couple of Grey Seals popped out of the water to observe us as we queued to board the ship for the return journey. The fog had cleared for the trip back to Ilfracombe and the sea state had risen a little. However, that didn't help matters and it was a very quiet journey back.

Many thanks to Captain and crew of the Oldenburg for always making us welcome and supporting our work.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘MS Oldenburg’ Ilfracombe-Lundy 21 May 2016

Posted 24 May 2016

MARINElife/Lundy WLO Annette Dutton

Weather: Overcast, wind southerly, sea state moderate

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals
Grey Seal 4

Seabirds
Herring Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Shag
Oystercatcher
Guillemot
Razorbill
Kittiwake
Gannet
Manx Shearwater
Great Skua

Wildlife seen on Lundy
Lundy Pony
Lundy Goat
Swallow
House Martin
Peregrine Falcon

It was damp and drizzly when I reached Ilfracombe Harbour and I wondered what the visibility was going to be like on the crossing over to Lundy Island. I boarded the Oldenburg and went up to the bridge to say hello to Jason, the Captain, and to collect my MARINElife jacket.

The sun had made an appearance as we left the Harbour and I waited until the tannoy announcements had been made along with the additional announcement regarding the presence of a MARINElife WLO on board before making my way around the decks to chat to the passengers. I immediately saw a Gannet then shortly afterwards Julian, one of the crew came over and said he had just seen a Porpoise. I carried on talking to the passengers about the work of MARINElife and what wildlife we could see on the crossing and on the Island.

Lundy Old Light Annette Dutton 01
The Old Light on Lundy (Annette Dutton)

The sea state made moving around the decks a bit challenging and as we moved away from the coastline towards Bideford Bay it began to rain and this put a stop to my tour. I was unable to use my binoculars but managed to see several Gannet, Manx Shearwater and Great Black-backed Gull on the journey.

We approached the landing stage from the north of the island so I was unable to see if there were any seals on the rocks but I could see the row of Shag along the top of Mouse Island. As we landed the rain stopped but I could see the top of the Island was enveloped in cloud.

I made my way up to the village, keeping an eye out for seals in the bay on the way and stopping to say hello to Becky, the Warden. As I walked up a Peregrine Falcon flew by much to the delight of those on the guided walk who were behind me. I arrived at the village and the visibility was grim so I wandered over to the Old Light which was invisible until I was almost upon it. I was accompanied by the many Swallows and House Martins on the island but I didn't see or hear any other birds. I arrived at the Lighthouse and sat and ate my lunch in the newly refurbished lower light room which is an ideal place to shelter from inclement weather.

Lundy goat Annette Dutton 01
An impressive Lundy Goat (Annette Dutton)

The visibility still hadn't improved after lunch so I didn't go to Jenny's Cove as planned and made my way back to the village and over to the Castle. The mist lifted as I approached the village and I could see the sea and the Devon coast again. At the Castle I saw several Lundy Goat sat below on the grass and I noticed several Gannet flying over the sea, I scoured the waves for cetaceans but sadly saw none. I then noticed two Grey Seals in Devil's Kitchen below and as I walked back along the path down to the road I saw 2 more further along the coast.

We left Lundy and soon had regular sightings of Manx Shearwater, Gannet, Guillemot and the odd Razorbill along the way. As we passed Bull Point I saw what I thought was either a piece of wood or a seal bobbing on the water but as we got nearer it turned out to be a Great Skua. I saw several more Gannet along the coastline around Lee Bay but again no Porpoise.

We arrived back at Ilfracombe and as I had already collected my belongings, I managed to be first off the Oldenburg. Thanks again to Jason, Vernon, Julian and the crew for their help and kindness on the trip.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘MS Oldenburg’ Ilfracombe-Lundy 14 May 2016

Posted 19 May 2016

MARINElife/Lundy WLO Rick Morris

Weather: Mostly sunny with light easterly winds

Summary of sightings

Marine mammals:
Harbour Porpoise 2
Grey Seal 1

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

Terrestrial Birds on Lundy:
Swallow
Starling
Carrion Crow
Jackdaw
Raven
Meadow Pipit
Rock Pipit
Wheatear
Skylark
Pied Wagtail
House Sparrow
Mallard
Peregrine Falcon
Linnet
Robin
Wren
Dunnock
House Martin

It was a glorious sunny morning when I arrived in Ilfracombe with light easterly winds. I walked down to the harbour from the long stay car park and looking out to sea was pleased to see it looked quite calm and so I was hopeful of some cetacean sightings.

We set off on time at 10am and I made my way around the decks to have a chat with the passengers. I try to get folk to keep an eye out toward land as we head out toward Morte Point as we often get Harbour Porpoise in this area, unfortunately we saw none, although a solitary Grey Seal was seen feeding just over the halfway point. Seabirds were also very low on the outward trip (many are now on the breeding sites), with most noticeably no Gannet or Manx Shearwater seen.

Jennys Cove Rick Morris 01
Seabirds on the ledges in Jenny's Cove (Rick Morris)

Once on Lundy I decided to walk straight to Jenny's Cove to have lunch and watch the Puffin coming and going from their burrows, with a total of 57 counted. Also in good numbers on the ledges were Guillemot  together with Razorbill, Fulmar and Kittiwake. Around me you could hear the resident Meadow Pipit and Skylark and on the rocks beside me I had a Rock Pipit and Linnet for company.

For the walk back I chose the west side path to look into some of the bays in the hope of seeing seals and this produced a couple sightings. Reaching the village I stopped for a chat with some of the staff before heading down to the ship via Millcombe valley.

Puffin Rick Morris 02
Puffins on the sea in Jenny's Cove (Rick Morris)

Bird numbers increased for the return to Ilfracombe with regular sightings of Guillemot, Razorbill, Kittiwake, Gannet and a few small groups of Manx Shearwater. Upon reaching the North Devon coast I again gave more attention to looking toward land and this time was rewarded with 2 Harbour Porpoise swimming leisurely along past Lee Bay toward Bull Point. The sighting was all the more rewarding as I managed to get a good number of passengers onto them.

Arriving back into Ilfracombe Harbour (again in full sunshine), I popped onto the bridge to say 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.

Verity Rick Morris 02
Verity, Ilfracombe (Rick Morris)

MARINElife Survey Report: MV Oldenburg Ilfracombe-Lundy 7 May 2016

Posted 17 May 2016

Fiona McNie and Elizabeth Hall  Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884; Registered Company No. 5057367)

Weather: Wind E-SE 3-4, sea state 3, visibility very good, mainly cloudy.

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals
Bottlenose Dolphin Tursiops truncatus 1
Common Dolphin Delphinus delphis 1

Seabirds
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 14
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 1
Gannet Morus bassanus 11
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 4
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 60 (50 on cliffs)
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 11
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 2
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 15
Guillemot Uria aalge 19
Razorbill Alca torda 43
Gull sp.  8
Tern sp.  1
Auk sp.  8

Terrestrial birds
Swallow Hirundo rustica 1

The journey out to Lundy was exciting as usual, but perhaps from recent rain, a very large amount of natural debris such as branches and logs were floating on the surface. It's amazing how many dorsal fin shapes there are in logs, and more than one log had us fooled and excited - though just for a few seconds!

BND Peter Howlett 07
Bottlenose Dolphin (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

On approaching Lundy, the captain decided to head for the north of the island and travel down the length of it to the harbour, allowing passengers and surveyors the chance to see birds nesting in the cliffs on Lundy.  On the way back we experienced a large spring tide, which lead to so some rougher areas of sea in the races and also the Oldenburg travelling effortlessly back at very fast speeds of around 17 knots, which lead to a slightly shorter than normal return survey.

Although the crew have not been seeing many dolphins, we were graced with two sightings of dolphins - once on the journey out and once on the way back and, although not seen by the survey team, the WLO on board also managed to spot some Harbour Porpoise which some passengers on the deck saw.

common dolphin Peter Howlett 24
Common Dolphin (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

The birds kept us busy, with a steady flow of auks, shearwater, and gulls, though not in high numbers. The birds also took advantage of the floating logs with many seen using them as resting platforms.

Thanks again to the crew on the Oldenburg, for allowing us to survey, and for being so hospitable to surveyors.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘MS Oldenburg’ Ilfracombe-Lundy 7 May 2016

Posted 14 May 2016

MARINElife/Lundy WLO Steve McAusland

Weather: Sea state was force 1 to 2 with westerly winds. Cloudy at first then hot and sunny on Lundy

Summary of sightings:

Cetaceans
Common Dolphin 1
Harbour Porpoise 4
Grey Seal 1

Seabirds
Manx Shearwater
Black-headed Gull
Herring Gull
Kittiwake
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Fulmar
Guillemot
Razorbill
Shag
Gannet
Swallow
Common Tern

Birds on Lundy
Puffin
Meadow Pipit
Wheatear
Starling
Raven
House Sparrow
Wood Pigeon
Swallow
Robin
Blackbird
Oystercatcher
Skylark
Wren
Carrion Crow
Chaffinch
Goldfinch
Jackdaw
Mallard
Pied Wagtail
Chiffchaff
Willow Warbler
Whitethroat
Spotted Flycatcher

I arrived in Ilfracombe at 9:30am for my second Lundy trip of 2016 where the weather was dry and cloudy. I collected my ticket from the Landmark Trust office and proceeded to board the MS Oldenburg. Upon making my way up to the bridge I was welcomed on-board by Jason the ship's Captain. Entering the bridge's office I met up with Fiona McNie and Liz Hall who were on board to do this month's survey.

Steve McAusland WLO
Steve McAusland hard at work on the Oldenburg

Following introductions I left and proceeded to start my tour around the upper and lower decks introducing myself to the passengers. As the Oldenburg got under way I started to chat to many passengers about the possibility of seeing cetaceans. It's always a great moment when you explain to passengers that there is a good chance of spotting dolphins, porpoises, seals and much more. The ones I did speak to were very interested in the work of MARINElife and took a leaflet with a view to logging on to the website and to hopefully support the charity in the future.

One of the passengers was Charles McGibney who also volunteers for MARINElife whom I met last year when he did a Lundy survey. Charles was going to the island and staying for a number of days to do university research work relating to the Lundy seals.

Grey Seal Steve McAusland 08
Grey Seal (Steve McAusland)

As the ship passed Morte Point on the mainland we had our first sightings of Harbour Porpoise. Two animals about five minutes apart. During the crossing there were lots of trees and large branches floating by, one in the distance even looked like a tail fluke which got everyone's attention for a few seconds, sadly it was just the remains of another tree! Birds of note were Manx Shearwater and Gannet along with Guillemot and Razorbill rafting as the ship passed them by. The usual common gulls were seen along with Kittiwake and Fulmar.

As the Oldenburg made its way slowly towards the landing bay there was no sign of any seals on the rocks, however, I did see one before returning to the ship. As the 208 passengers disembarked, they began making their way up to the higher levels. I joined up with Fiona and Liz and we had lunch outside the island's shop. As Liz hadn't seen Puffins before we took the central track towards halfway wall, arriving at Jenny's Cove, I got my scope on to a total of fifteen Puffins both on the rocks and rafting on the sea. While we enjoyed the many birds and the stunning view we managed to assist over sixteen people in getting to see their very first Puffin. After a good hours spotting we began our walk back to meet up with Fiona for a cold drink in the Marisco Tavern, as we did, we saw Skylark, Meadow Pipit and many beautiful Wheatear.

Sika Steve McAusland 01
Sika Deer on Lundy (Steve McAusland)

Whilst walking back, the islands Sika Deer were spotted in a small group, the Lundy Ponies were grazing as too were the Highland Cattle. Other animals observed were the usual sheep and wild goats. The crossing back to Ilfracombe was a pleasant one and I got to chat to more people about MARINElife and I'm sure that there will certainly be a few Lundy day trippers looking to attend one of the training days that are organised for 2016.

Before disembarking I thanked Captain Jason for his and his crews' continued support for MARINElife. I look forward to my next trip in June.