Ilfracombe or Bideford-Lundy

Sightings Archives: August 2016

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘MS Oldenburg’ Ilfracombe-Lundy 27 August 2016

Posted 28 August 2016

MARINElife/Lundy WLO Ruth Crundwell

Summary of sightings:

Common Dolphin 12
Harbour Porpoise 1
Dolphin sp. 1 (passenger sighting)

Manx Shearwater
Herring Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Auk sp.
Storm Petrel (passenger sighting)
Great Skua (passenger sighting)

We left Ilfracombe harbour on a slightly cloudy Bank Holiday Saturday, with a fresh easterly breeze making the sea state 4 with some white caps to the waves. However, with reports of cetacean sightings on recent sailings I was optimistic we would we see some on this one.

Manx Shearwater Tim Balmer 01
Manx Shearwater (Archive photo: Tim Balmer)

Heading out into the channel, I made my way around the decks to introduce myself to the passengers, explaining how MARINElife is working in partnership with the Landmark Trust, who manage Lundy Island, to enhance the crossing by giving guidance and help.

The outward journey was relatively quiet with just a few sightings of Gannet and Manx Shearwater halfway across to Lundy, although a passenger later informed me he had seen the fin of single dolphin and a Storm Petrel. Approaching Lundy we passed a raft of Herring and Lesser Black-backed Gulls made up of adults and their recently fledged young. We also saw Shags flying past heading further offshore to feed. Reaching Lundy, I stayed around the south end of the island for lunch.

common dolphin Peter Howlett 26
Common Dolphin (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

The return trip back to Ilfracombe was a little more exciting. Things kicked off with spotting the fin of a lone Harbour Porpoise, which only came up once on the starboard side. Then, while looking at Manx Shearwaters on the port side, we were treated to the sight of Common Dolphin in pairs heading towards the boat on the starboard side on two occasions.

Other bird sightings on the return jounrey included many juvenile gulls, auks in winter plumage and a juvenile tern and a passenger mentioned he had seen a Great Skua.

As ever, huge thanks to the crew of the Oldenburg for their help and assistance.

MARINElife Survey Report: ‘MS Oldenburg’ Bideford-Lundy 6 August 2016

Posted 10 August 2016

Fiona McNie and Alan Sumnall; Research Surveyors for MARINElife
Westward: sea state mainly 1 and 2. Return: sea state 2 and 3

Marine Mammals
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 1
Common Dolphin (Short-beaked) Delphinus delphis 36

Gannet Morus bassanus 67
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 5
Guillemot Uria aalge 76
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 8
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 54
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 47
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 2
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 7
Gull sp. 123
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 6
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 1

Terrestrial Birds
Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos 5

The survey kicked off with a Harbour Porpoise sighting not far from shore and as we approached Lundy we encountered three distinct Common Dolphin groups.  There were potentially a few larger dolphins nestled in the group, possibly males, but we were unable to get a clear view of them for confirmation.

Birds were also steady on the journey with lots of sightings of Kittiwake and Guillemot, and it was really lovely to see quite a few adult Guillemot with their chicks.

Guillemot Adrian Shephard 01

Guillemot parent and chick (Adrian Shephard)

Off effort sightings were also excellent, and these started with a Peregrine Falcon, in the estuary under the bridge, swooping down towards the water.  Also within the estuary were numbers of Little Egret resting on trees, accompanied by Grey Heron, most likely a heron colony which egrets were utilising. The birds on Lundy themselves were really good too, and with the great bird expertise of Alan, we spotted Wheatear, Dunnock, Meadow Pipet, a few remaining Puffin, Wren, Swallow, Kestrel, and even one more sighting of Common Dolphin spotted from Lundy Island when walking along the coast path.

Swallow Adrian Shephard

Swallow (Adrian Shephard)

In addition, a nature tour group on the Oldenburg, led by a well-known local ecologist were lucky enough to spot 2 Leatherback Turtle as the vessel was coming into Lundy.  These would have been in a very similar place to where we saw the Common Dolphin, so unfortunately had been missed by the surveyors, but it's exciting to know they were there.

So all in all a great day, and our thanks go to the staff and crew of the Oldenburg who were very accommodating as ever.

Fiona McNie and Alan Sumnall; Research Surveyors for MARINElife

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘MS Oldenburg’ Bideford-Lundy 6 August 2016

Posted 09 August 2016

MARINElife/Lundy WLO Vicky Dewar-Fowler

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals:
Common Dolphin 30+
Grey seal

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

Other birds:
Little Egret
Grey Heron
Meadow Pipit

I arrived in Bideford on a bright sunny day for my first trip as a wildlife officer and my first solo trip to Lundy. Once on board the MS Oldenburg I made my way to the bridge to be greeted by the crew, this was also where I bumped into the MARINElife survey team.

As we left Bideford, to head down the Torridge estuary, I began to make my way around the ship to introduce myself to the paying passengers, explaining the work that MARINElife is carrying out and to let them know I would be on hand to answer any questions they may have about any of the wildlife seen on the crossing.

As I was making my rounds I was approached by Simon Dell, a Lundy tour guide, who told me about the wildlife he had seen on the crossings in the past few weeks and showed me the photos he had taken of Common Dolphin. With his knowledge we soon spotted a Peregrine on one of the uprights of the high bridge over the Torridge, along with a number of Little Egret and a few Grey Heron before reaching Appledore.

common dolphin Peter Howlett 21
Common Dolphin (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

Once we reached the channel I began my rounds again introducing myself to as many passengers as possible and heard reports of dolphins being spotted in the north Devon area only the day before. I had a lot of interest from a number of passengers wanting to know more about what they may see, particularly regarding the cetaceans and the Puffins on the Island and was engaged in conversation for the majority of the journey.

In the channel we started to pick up numerous species of gull, both adults and juveniles, Fulmar and Manx Shearwater. About an hour and a half into the journey I was alerted to something being spotted in the water (bringing a cetacean discussion with a couple of passengers to an end), the survey team had spotted a pod of 30+ dolphin, which became easily identifiable as Common Dolphin. As the boat neared the pod the excitement built up and the pod split with good views of the dolphins now being seen from either side of the ship. A little further on I spotted a few more dolphin a greater distance out on the port side. As we reached Lundy, Gannet and Manx Shearwater were spotted.

Once on Lundy I joined the Survey team for lunch before heading out of the village to walk up the east side of the island. From the path we spotted a small pod of dolphin out in the distance and numerous Grey Seals hauled out on the rocks. We were also joined on our walk by a number of bird species including Kestrel, Peregrine, Cormorant, Meadow Pipit and Wheatear. Half way up the island I left the survey team heading north and crossed the island in the hope of catching a glimpse of any remaining Puffin at Jenny's cove. After some time scanning the rocks I caught a glimpse of a pair of distinctive orange feet and saw a pair of Puffin tucked in amongst the cliffs surrounded by gulls.

Kestrel Peter Howlett 01
Kestrel (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

I then headed back down to the harbour ready for the return crossing. As the queue was building the crowd were entertained by some Grey Seals a the quayside. Once on the Oldenburg, Simon, the Lundy guide, informed me that he had seen two Leatherback Turtles from the island.

The return crossing was quieter than the journey out with gulls, Gannet and Manx Shearwater being seen. A number of Guillemot were seen resting on the water as we approached the mouth of the estuary mouth and a large number of juvenile gulls were disturbed by the MS Oldenburg within the estuary.

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