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