Ilfracombe or Bideford-Lundy

Sightings Archives: June 2016

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘MS Oldenburg’ Bideford-Lundy 25 June 2016

Posted 29 June 2016

MARINElife/Lundy WLO Lucy Grable

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals
Common Dolphin 2
Harbour Porpoise 2
Grey Seal 6

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

Terrestrial Birds
House Martin
Skylark
Starling
Common Swift
Swallow
Linnet
Jackdaw
Meadow Pipit
Wheatear
House Sparrow
Blackbird
Peregrine Falcon
Pied Wagtail
Mallard
Coot

Lundy wildlife
Sika Deer
Highland Cattle
Soay Sheep

After excitedly collecting my ticket from the shore office, I proceeded to board the beautiful MS Oldenburg where I was welcomed aboard by Jason the ship's Captain and his crew. I placed myself on the very popular outer decks to greet the passengers and tell them about the various marine wildlife often seen on the crossing.

Once leaving Bideford, the weather soon brightened up and I was very hopeful for a glimpse of some cetaceans. Unfortunately, the sea state soon crept up to a 4 which made this difficult. I did however spot a couple of Harbour Porpoise fins amongst the white caps, but they were too far away to alert the passengers. The outward journey to Lundy was fairly quiet to begin with. Once in the channel, small numbers of Manx Shearwater, Gannet, Herring Gull, Guillemot and Razorbill were seen, but it was not until we approached the island that the numbers really began to pick up.

Puffin Peter Howlett 02
Puffin (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

Arriving on Lundy, a large number of passengers that were last to disembark stopped along the jetty and joined me watching a few Grey Seals playing around Landing Bay. It was a beautiful day for a walk so I set off along the west coast of the island for magnificent views all around. I stopped for a quick pit stop at Jenny's Cove where there were large numbers of Puffin, Guillemot and Razorbill. A majority of the passengers were able to see the Puffins here and for many it was the highlight of their day. I then carried on walking along the island until I reached the three quarter wall before taking the central track back. Five Sika Deer were leaping and bounding across the track just ahead which was a delight to see as well as frequent Highland Cattle and Soay Sheep. A huge variety of bird species were spotted on my walk including Skylark, Swallow, Meadow Pipit, Wheatear, Pied Wagtail and a single Peregrine Falcon.

Whilst waiting to board the Oldenburg for the return journey, I noticed a huge abundance of Moon Jellyfish and a single Compass Jellyfish floating in the Landing Bay. As we left Lundy behind us, a large number of Gannet were seen feeding which pleased the many photographers on-board. We were also treated to spectacular displays of Manx Shearwater for the majority of the return leg as well as the occasional floating auk.

Common Dolphin Ruth Griffith 02a
Common Dolphin (Archive photo: Ruth Griffith)

The cetacean front was looking very quiet and as I was doing the rounds one lovely lady named Sally asked me if I had seen any marine mammals yet. Low and behold at that exact moment two Common Dolphin leapt out of the water 20 metres in front of us. Later, I asked Sally to ask me the same question again, but alas no more cetaceans appeared.

The return leg was much busier with queries from the passengers, however. Questions such as "how do dolphins sleep?" and "how do dolphins talk?" were answered as well as general identification questions.

Oldenburg Lucy Grable 01
Oldenburg in Landing Bay (Lucy Grable)

Just as we were approaching Bideford, I was greeted by Beccy Macdonald, Lundy's resident warden, and we had a quick chat about all things marine before disembarking. I had a fabulous first trip to Lundy and I cannot thank the Landmark Trust, Oldenburg crew and Beccy enough.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘MS Oldenburg’ Ilfracombe-Lundy 18 June 2016

Posted 23 June 2016

MARINElife/Lundy WLO: Steve McAusland

Weather: Cloudy but clearing to sunny, westerly breeze, sea state 2

Summary of sightings:

Marine mammals
Grey Seal 3

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

Terrestrial birds
Meadow Pipit
Wheatear
Starling
Carrion Crow
Jackdaw
House Sparrow
Wood Pigeon
Feral Pigeon
Swallow
Linnet
Blackbird
Dunnock
Oystercatcher
Skylark
Goldfinch

This week's Wildlife Officer Trip to Lundy Island began in Ilfracombe, the morning started cloudy but as we made our way towards Lundy the weather brightened up and soon the sun was shining.

The crew of MS Oldenburg welcomed the many passengers on board in their customary cheery manner. This particular voyage also had the people going to the island for the four day MARINElife experience led by Rick Morris and MARINElife Patron Maya Plass.

Gannet Steve McAusland 06
Gannet (Steve McAusland)

After a brief chat on the bridge with Jason, the ship's captain, I began my tour around the upper and lower decks introducing myself to as many interested passengers as possible. As usual the conversations were positive and it's always great to hear other likeminded people's wildlife experiences.

As the ship left Ilfracombe harbour, the first birds of note were Gannet, followed by Fulmar and Manx Shearwater, all were seen within a mile of the harbour. We soon had many Kittiwake, Herring Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull and a few distant Great Black-backed Gull.

As the Oldenburg approached the Lundy landing bay the first of three Grey Seal was seen bobbing effortlessly. My afternoon was spent at Jenny's Cove scanning the nesting birds, here there were good numbers of Puffin, Guillemot, Razorbill and Kittiwake.

Puffin Steve McAusland 01
Puffin (Steve McAusland)

Just before we left Lundy Rat Island provided a further Grey Seal. The return sailing was rather quiet but six rafting Puffin were seen off the port side, much to many peoples delight.

We arrived back in Ilfracombe harbour and I thanked Jason, the captain and his crew, for another successful day on behalf of MARINElife and I look forward to my next Lundy Wildlife Officer trip in July.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘MS Oldenburg’ Ilfracombe-Lundy 11 June 2016

Posted 12 June 2016

MARINElife/Lundy WLO: Rick Morris

Weather: Cloudy with sunny periods. Winds SW 1-3

Summary of sightings:

Marine mammals:
Common Dolphin 4
Harbour Porpoise 13
Grey Seal 2

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
Rock Dove
Greylag Goose
Peregrine Falcon
Kestrel
Robin

The drive down to Ilfracombe had me wondering if I was going to get wet today as there were several showers on the way but upon reaching the harbour the dark skies lightened, the rain stopped and it stayed dry all day.

After popping into the shore office to say hello to Jacqui and Kate I joined the passengers waiting to board the 'Oldenburg' and once aboard went to the bridge to equip myself with camera and binoculars and headed out to talk to those on-board about the diversity of wildlife we see on the crossings to Lundy and on the island itself.

Rock Pipit Rick Morris 01
Rock Pipit - a common bird around Lundy's cliffs (Rick Morris)

We slipped our mooring at 10:00 under an overcast sky with light winds and a fair sea state offering good chances of spotting cetaceans! We had just left Bull Point behind us when 4 Common Dolphin appeared around 300m off the stern with a couple of passengers able to get views. Shortly after this the first Harbour Porpoise were seen with further sightings on the journey out to Lundy, thanks to a sea state of 2. This did increase to a 3 around the halfway point, but still good enough to pick out rafting auks, gulls and Manx Shearwater. Gannet numbers were still very low with only 8 seen throughout the whole day.

A Grey bull Seal was seen 'bottling' watching us watching him and again I managed to get lots of passengers to see.  We continued to get plenty of auks with the occasional charismatic Puffin as we headed into the Landing Bay under the watchful eye of another Grey Seal.

Puffin Rick Morris 04
Puffins in Jenny's Cove (Rick Morris)

I decided to walk straight up to Jenny's Cove (now under blue skies) and take in the stunning views whilst consuming the contents of my lunchbox. I was joined on my walk by a few different folk that wanted to know I bit more about our work and what to see on the island.

It was soon time to return to the ship and I made my way back via the 'Old Light', the village and down through Millcombe Valley. Having arrived at the landing jetty with plenty of time to spare, I popped into 'Devil's Kitchen' and sat watching a couple of seals with Oystercatcher noisily flying around. The wind and sea had picked up slightly for the return making it a little more difficult for distant sightings but Harbour Porpoise and a good variety of seabirds were still observed. A passenger alerted me to a single shearwater and, once I got onto it, I was able to see that in fact it was a juvenile Gannet. Shortly afterwards the 'round the world' yacht 'Challenge Wales' appeared off the port side offering great views.

Lundy path Rick Morris
The main track on Lundy (Rick Morris)

Arriving at Ilfracombe, Jason (captain) skillfully maneuvered us past some yachts to get to our mooring and once tied off, I said my thanks and joined the passengers to alight. My thanks to the crew, the Landmark Trust, shore office and island staff for all their help and support.

MARINElife Survey Report: ‘MS Oldenburg’ Ilfracombe-Lundy 4 June 2016

Posted 08 June 2016

Rick Morris and Ruth Crundwell, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884)

Weather: Out: overcast with reduced visibility, wind easterly 1-2
Return: cloudy with sunny spells, good visibility, wind easterly 1-2

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals:
Harbour porpoise Phocoena phocoena 19
Common Dolphin Delphinus delphis 60
Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus 2

Seabirds:
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 3
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 38
Storm Petrel Hydrobates pelagicus 4
Gannet Morus bassanus 9
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 3
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 20
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 7
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 2
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 2
Puffin Fratercula arctica 3
Guillemot Uria aalge 137
Razorbill Alca torda 66
Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus 2
Gull sp. 1
Auk sp. 6

We arrived in Ilfracombe on a warm misty Saturday morning, meeting Annette the WLO for this trip outside the shore office. Boarding the MS Oldenburg we made our way to the bridge and were greeted by Jason the Captain. We also met Beccy Macdonald, Lundy's resident warden who had been staying on the 'mainland' for a few days.

We left around 10 am, heading out into a near flat sea with a light sea mist. Just as we were leaving the harbour before the survey had officially started, Harbour Porpoise were seen around the headland much to the delight of those on board and on shore. After that hopes of sighting more cetaceans were high.

Common Dolphin Rick Morris 04
Common Dolphin (Rick Morris)

The flat calm sea made it easy to see even single birds just loafing on the water. Beccy helped out with sightings too and we observed a good number of seabirds including Guillemot, Razorbill and Gannet throughout the outward journey. A Grey Seal was sighted at 10.35 near Bull Point, then the welcome sight of a fin belonging to a Harbour Porpoise at 11.05. This was closely followed by sightings of more Harbour Porpoise and also Common Dolphin - at times on both sides of the ship which kept us busy until we landed on Lundy. A surprise sighting of 4 Storm Petrels two of which were together also added to the excitement and were the bird highlight of the day.

Moon jellyfish could be seen in the harbour near the jetty as we made our way up the hill to walk to Jenny's Cove, where we had our lunch watching puffins and other auks on their cliff nesting spots.

The return journey was equally as busy with sightings of Harbour Porpoise, Common Dolphin as well as a variety of auk species, Manx Shearwater, Fulmar, Gannet and gulls.

Common Dolphin Rick Morris 05
Common Dolphin (Rick Morris)

After arriving back in Ilfracombe we said our thanks to the crew of MS Oldenburg particularly Jason and Vernon who had looked after us so well and set off for a fish supper at the Lynbay chippy and to reflect on a fantastic survey.

Our thanks to the Oldenburg's crew, shore staff, and all on Lundy for all the help and support.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report ‘MS Oldenburg’ Ilfracombe-Lundy Saturday 4 June 2016

Posted 07 June 2016

MARINElife/Lundy WLO: Annette Dutton

Weather: Overcast, Sea State slight, Wind light

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals
Grey Seal 1
Common Dolphin 60+
Harbour Porpoise 10+

Seabirds

Herring Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Greater Black-backed Gull
Shag
Oystercatcher
Guillemot
Razorbill
Kittiwake
Gannet
Manx Shearwater
Storm Petrel
Puffin

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

It was a bit overcast when I arrived at Ilfracombe Harbour but the sea state was calm so I was hopeful of spotting cetaceans on the way over to Lundy Island. I met up with Rick Morris and Ruth Crundwell who were doing the monthly survey then we boarded the Oldenburg and went up to the bridge to say hello to Jason, the Captain and to deposit my belongings. Becky MacDonald, the Lundy Warden was on board returning to the Island so we had a quick chat before I went back onto the deck.

Shortly after leaving Ilfracombe Harbour and whilst waiting for the tannoy announcements to finish, I spotted 2 Harbour Porpoise in the distance looking towards the Welsh Coast, a mother and calf. As we headed offshore the cloud cleared and it was sunny and warm as I started my tour of the decks to engage with the passengers. I soon started to note the many Guillemot and Razorbill I would see on the crossing along with regular sightings of Gannet. About half way across Bideford Bay I noticed movement on the water towards Hartland Point and made out a couple of Common Dolphin but they were too far away to alert the passengers.

Common Dolphin Annette Dutton 01
Common Dolphin (Annette Dutton)

As we neared Lundy Island the sea state became very calm and glassy, I spotted some disturbance in the distance over on the starboard side which on closer inspection was several Common Dolphin then a group of passengers were pointing to the north of the island where there was a large number of them feeding along with several Manx Shearwater. Then a passenger alerted me to a small seabird flying past which he thought was a Storm Petrel, luckily he had an impressive camera and from the photos we initially thought it might have been a Wilson's Petrel but further investigation by Becky proved it to be a juvenile Storm Petrel. The Oldenburg stopped for several minutes to allow the passengers to enjoy the spectacle then carried on to the landing stage.

I re-joined Rick and Ruth and we made our way up to the village and over to Jenny's Cove for lunch. We sat in the warm sunshine watching the spectacle of the many Puffin along with Guillemot, Razorbill, Kittiwake, Fulmar and other seabirds, we also spotted a male Grey Seal in the bay and heard the call of the Peregrine Falcon.

Puffin Annette Dutton 01
Puffins (Annette Dutton)

After lunch and taking many photographs we walked back to the village and down to the landing bay, stopping at the Marisco Tavern to say hello to head barman Grant Sherman.

There were more passengers on the journey back and the Oldenburg glided through the glassy sea. Again, we passed many Guillemot and Razorbill along the way then after about 35 minutes I spotted a couple of Common Dolphin in the distance from the port side then suddenly a larger group were fast approaching the Oldenburg and swam around the bow to the starboard side. The passengers were ecstatic as the dolphins played in the bow waves then in the wash at the rear of the Oldenburg. Afterwards, one of the passengers pointed out a huge Bull Grey Seal bobbing about then I had another brief glimpse of a couple of Porpoise.

The auks stayed with us until we neared Bull Point where the sky was now overcast and it was a lot cooler. During the rest of the journey I only saw a single Gannet along the coastline around Lee Bay.

On the approach to Ilfracombe Harbour I re-joined Rick and Ruth on the bridge and we gathered our belongings, said our goodbyes to Jason and thanked him and the crew for their help and hospitality on the trip.