Ilfracombe or Bideford-Lundy

Sightings Archives: July 2016

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

Posted 03 August 2016

MARINElife/Lundy WLO Steve McAusland

Weather: Bright sunshine and westerly breeze, sea state 2

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals
Common Dolphin 15
Harbour Porpoise 1
Grey Seal 6

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

Terrestrial birds
Meadow Pipit
Wheatear
Starling
Carrion Crow
Jackdaw
House Sparrow
Wood Pigeon
Swallow
Linnet
Oystercatcher
Skylark
Goldfinch
Spotted Flycatcher
Pied Wagtail
Cormorant

This week's Wildlife Officer trip to Lundy Island began in Ilfracombe, the sun was shining and the crew of MS Oldenburg were soon welcoming the many passengers on board. With me this trip was Ruby, my fiancée who like me, was looking forward to another excellent trip. Before boarding Emma who, along with her husband had recently attended a MARINElife training day, introduced herself and we chatted in the queue for the ship. Although primarily interested in volunteering to take part in the MARINElife surveys I took the opportunity to tell her about the role of wildlife Officer and what was involved.

After a brief chat on the bridge with Jason the ship's captain and Vernon the first mate, I began my tour around the upper and aft deck introducing myself to as many interested passengers as possible. Within 10 minutes of leaving Ilfracombe a single Harbour Porpoise made a few passengers run to the port side to catch a glimpse of this small cetacean.

Fulmar Peter Howlett 16
Fulmar (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

The first birds of note were Gannet, followed by Fulmar and Manx Shearwater. All three species were seen within a mile of the harbour. We soon had sightings of Kittiwake, Herring and Lesser Black-backed Gull and a single Great Black-backed Gull.

As we approached Lundy landing bay the first of six Grey Seal was seen. Our afternoon was spent in the wooded area around Milcombe house looking for birds of note, here a Spotted Flycatcher showed itself. Stopping for lunch on the eastern side of the Island, we conducted an hour of sea watching. Looking down to the sea there were many Razorbill, Guillemot, Gannet and the usual gulls.

Wheatear Steve McAusland 01
Wheatear on Lundy (Steve McAusland)

There were also numerous Goldfinches seen, perhaps not surprising as the species is one of the true success stories with a huge increase in their population throughout the UK. In the surrounding area the gorgeous sound of Skylark was heard and I watched many fly very high continuing their song. Linnet, Meadow Pipit and both adult and juvenile Wheatear were plentiful too.

During our descent towards the landing bay we stopped off to watch a very large shoal of Mullet that were very close inshore. As we expected, a playful Grey Seal soon appeared to start moving through them, it didn't take any of the fish, which suggests it was already full from an earlier meal.

During the return sailing two separate pods of Common Dolphin thrilled everyone on board. Firstly a pod of 12 individuals, then within 10 minutes 3 more were breaching within 500 metres of the ship.

Common Dolphin Steve McAusland 02b
Common Dolphin (Archive photo: Steve McAusland)

For me, volunteering as a MARINElife Wildlife Officer is always a great privilege as we get to meet some wonderful like-minded people interested in cetaceans and birds. However, when you point out a Porpoise or dolphin to passengers that have never seen a cetacean before, it is always a thrill for both them and me!

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

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘MS Oldenburg’ Bideford-Lundy 23 July 2016

Posted 27 July 2016

MARINElife/Lundy WLO Annette Dutton

Weather: Wind southwesterly, sea state slight, dry, warm and sunny

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals
Grey Seal 17
Common Dolphin 2
Harbour Porpoise 10

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

Terrestrial birds
Little Egret
Meadow Pipit
Kestrel
Wheatear
Peregrine Falcon

I was looking forward to the trip from Bideford as there is more time to spend on the island giving us the opportunity to walk to the northern tip of Lundy. Joining me today was my husband and we arrived at Bideford, parked up then wandered down to where the MS Oldenburg was docked. There was a long queue and by the time we boarded there were no seats and even the standing room was limited. I went up to the bridge and introduced myself to Paul, the Captain and to collect my hi-viz jacket.

The Oldenburg left Bideford and started to make her way up the Torridge estuary passing Appledore and Instow then out to sea. I started to go round the decks and chat to the passengers then a tannoy announcement was made telling the passengers that a WLO was on board for this trip and people came over to speak to me. A lot of the passengers were eager to see the Puffins and I advised where they would find them.

North Light Lundy Annette Dutton
North Light, Lundy (Annette Dutton)

There were few sightings along the estuary then as we reached the open sea one of the regular passengers we were chatting to spotted something below in the water and he and my husband agreed it was an Ocean Sunfish although I didn't see it. Another passenger I spoke to on the lower deck who was also a regular visitor to Lundy told me he had just seen two Sandwich Terns.

I saw the odd Gannet, Guillemot, Kittiwake and Shag and I also had a very brief sighting of two Common Dolphin. As we neared the landing stage, I saw the large male Grey Seal that usually hangs around the bay and the row of Shag along the top of Mouse Island.

By now it was lovely and sunny and we left the Oldenburg to wander up to the village and along the main track stopping at Gannet's Bay to look at the seals below and to watch the Peregrine flying about. We continued to the top of the island where the views were fantastic, there were more seals in the sea below and we sat for a while overlooking the North Light.

There was a 'round the island' trip scheduled for 3.30 but as we wanted to explore the North of the island we decided to leave it and made our way along the coast path passing the Soay Sheep and over to Jenny's Cove to see the Puffins. A passenger alerted us to a Peregrine sat on top of the stack in front on the grassy slope where there must have been over 100 Puffins. The masses of Guillemot I had seen on the ledges on my previous trips had gone and I spotted a Kittiwake and it's chick hidden on a ledge.

Puffin Annette Dutton 02
Puffin at Jenney's Cove (Annette Dutton)

After a while the Puffins flew off the slopes and rafted on the sea below so we left and wandered back to the village for a quick pint in the Marisco Tavern before walking down to the landing stage.

The Oldenburg was arriving back from the 'round the island' trip and we boarded, managing  to find a spot by the railings on the port side to do some sea watching. The conditions were good as we left Lundy and we had only just left the island when I saw a group of four Porpoise swimming nearby then as we moved along we saw a further six much to the joy of the nearby passengers who saw them.

Again, seabird sightings were similar to the outward trip and as we approached Bideford I saw lots of Little Egret in the trees. The Oldenburg spun around to face seawards before docking and I went to the bridge to collect my belongings and to say goodbye to Paul and Vernon and to thank them for their help and support on the journey.

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

Posted 21 July 2016

MARINElife/Lundy WLO Neil Spencer

Summary of sightings:

Marine mammals
Grey seal 4

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

I arrived in Ilfracombe on an overcast day and after collecting my ticket joined the queue of 150 other passengers waiting to board the Oldenburg. This was my first trip as a solo WLO but once on the bridge Skipper Jason was friendly and welcoming. He told me that recent crossings had been quiet in terms  sightings, although they had seen some Puffins recently but no Gannets.

The sea conditions were slight and with the overcast skies the sea colour was a dull grey, not the easiest condition to spot marine life. Heading out into the channel, I made my way around the decks to introduce myself to the passengers, explaining the work of MARINElife and the partnership with the Landmark Trust who manage Lundy Island.

Manx Shearwater Peter Howlett 11
Manx Shearwater (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

As we started to make our way across we began to see gulls and numerous Manx Shearwater. The Manx Shearwater provided many good opportunities to actively engage passengers in spotting their characteristic flight behaviour. Although the conditions were not the best for spotting cetaceans the crossing out to Lundy did provide a chance to see Shag, Guillemot, Kittiwake, Lesser and Great Black-back Gull, as well as the shearwaters.

On reaching Lundy there were 3 or 4 Grey Seals in the harbour which were enjoyed by the passengers, again this provided more opportunities to engage passengers in conversations about marine wild life on Lundy.

After seeing the seals in the harbour I made my way along the east coast footpath with the intention of seeking out an opportunity to spot any Peregrine Falcon. I was not disappointed and I was able to watch the Peregrines in action as well as seeing them resting on rocks above the quarry.

Peregrine Peter Howlett 03
Peregrine Falcon (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

The return back to Ilfracombe was fairly quiet with sporadic sightings of gulls, Common Tern, Manx Shearwater, Guillemot, Razorbill and several juvenile Gannet who seemed to be following us.

Many thanks to the crew of the 'Oldenburg' for their friendly help and assistance.

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

Posted 11 July 2016

MARINElife/Lundy WLO: Julie Hatcher

Summary of sightings:

Mammals
Grey Seal

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

Waders
Little Egret
Grey Heron
Curlew

Having collected my ticket I waited on the quayside at Bideford while the passengers boarded the MS Oldenburg, everyone seemed excited in anticipation of the trip. Although overcast it appeared fairly calm as we headed down the river and out of the estuary. Passing the saltmarsh as we headed down-river to the open sea I saw several Little Egret, a Grey Heron and a flock of very well camouflaged Curlew.

I spoke to a few people as I made my way around the decks to introduce myself to the paying passengers. Everyone wanted to know what sort of animals we might see on the crossing. As we left the estuary behind the swell picked up and I pointed out a couple of juvenile Gannet flying low over the waves. Small numbers of Guillemot, Razorbill and a Fulmar passed us and as we started to near Lundy their numbers increased.

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

Groups of 20 or so Manx Shearwater were active on either side of the ship, shearing gracefully over the waves in the strong wind. We spotted several pairs of what appeared to be adult and fledgling Guillemots sitting on the water and paddling away as the boat approached.

Although we all watched keenly we did not spot any cetaceans but as we sailed into the sheltered waters of the cloud-topped island there were 3 or 4 Grey Seal popping their heads up to watch us tie up to the quay.

Low cloud was covering the top of the island and very strong winds battered the west side. After a short walk around the southwest corner of the island and saying hello to the little piglets in the farm I took shelter in the warmth of the Marisco Tavern for lunch and then headed back down to explore the rock pools and seashore close to the landing bay.

GBB Gull Peter Howlett 08
Great Black-backed Gull (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

The first half of the return voyage was exhilarating but the strong wind and big waves made cetacean spotting tricky. However, we were entertained instead by close views of Manx Shearwater, Gannet, Guillemot and Razorbill as well as several Great Black-backed and Herring Gull that followed the ship. Several passengers also spotted jellyfish as we neared the mainland. As we enjoyed the calm and shelter of the estuary and approached Bideford I made my way to the bridge to thank Captain Jason and his crew for their help and assistance.

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

Posted 08 July 2016

MARINElife/Lundy WLO: Annette Dutton

Weather: Dry with sunny periods, sea state moderate, wind northwesterly

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals
Common Dolphin 2 (mother and calf)
Grey Seal 4

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

Wildlife seen on Lundy
Lundy Goat
Soay Sheep
Lundy pony
Wheatear
Meadow Pipit
Linnet
Swallow
House Martin

I arrived at Ilfracombe Harbour, collected my ticket from the office then waited in the queue to board the Oldenburg. After a short hold up due to an incident with the mobile gangway we all boarded and I went up to the bridge to say hello to Jason, the Captain and to sort my belongings out.

I started to go round the decks as soon as we left the harbour as I could see it was going to be a bit rough and we had already started to roll about a bit. The announcements were made then Julian announced my presence as MARINElife WLO and I waved at everyone which made it a lot easier to introduce myself. Many of the passengers were keen to find out what they may see on the journey and on Lundy, especially the Puffins.

Common Dolphin Charles McGibney 01
Common Dolphin (Archive photo: Charles McGibney)

My first sighting was of a Gannet followed by a Manx Shearwater and an auk although. About half way across one of the nearby passengers alerted me to a couple of dolphins to the starboard side of the ship which I saw were a mother and her calf. The sightings of Gannet, Manx Shearwater and auks continued until we neared Lundy then a Razorbill hovered over us for a while providing a photo opportunity for one of the passengers and someone shouted 'Penguin'.

 

On the final approach to the Island I saw a Puffin bobbing about and as we were turning towards the Landing Stage I noted two Guillemot, four Manx Shearwater, a Gannet and a Shag. There were also two Grey Seal below the rocks of Mouse Island.

 

Leaving the Oldenburg, I stopped for a quick chat to Becky, the Warden, who was on the Landing Stage then wandered up towards the village. Although Becky had told me of the huge numbers of Puffin at Jenny's Cove, I decided to explore the south of the Island and took the road up to the Castle then followed the track past Hanmers cottage and stopped for lunch on the nearby bench. By now the skies were clear and it was lovely and warm on the sheltered eastern side of the Island but a passing couple told me it was quite windy on the western side.

Lundy Annette Dutton 07
Hanmers Cottage and the Lundy coast (Annette Dutton)

After lunch I walked along the southwest of the Island for a while and it was a lot cooler and quite windy which made cetacean watching tricky. I headed back towards St Helens Church and crossed back over to Shutter Point where I met a couple of the passengers who pointed out some rafting auks below, on closer inspection there were 12 Razorbill. Nearby I noticed a Grey Seal down below in the water and a Kestrel hovering nearby. I started to make my way back to the village, stopping to say hello to a Lundy foal before carrying on down to the Landing Stage.

The journey back was still a bit bumpy but it was sunny and warm and many of the passengers were having a snooze in the sun. I saw the same seabirds as on the way over with the usual Gannet by Bull Point and a juvenile Gannet passing Lee Bay but sadly no cetaceans this time. We arrived at Ilfracombe and I went back to the bridge to collect my bag and said goodbye to Jason and the crew as I left the Oldenburg.

 

MARINElife Survey Report: ‘MS Oldenburg’ Ilfracombe-Lundy 2 July 2016

Posted 02 July 2016

This survey was cancelled for logistical reasons.