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

Great Black-backed Gull
Herring Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Manx shearwater

Terrestrial Birds on Lundy:
Carrion Crow
Meadow Pipit
Rock Pipit
Pied Wagtail
House Sparrow
Rock Dove
Greylag Goose
Peregrine Falcon

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.