MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘MS Oldenburg’ Ilfracombe-Lundy 10 September 2016

MARINElife/Lundy WLO: Maggie Gamble

Summary of sightings:

Common Dolphin 5
Harbour Porpoise 1

Herring Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Black-headed Gull
Manx Shearwater
Common Scoter

I drove the down the M5 to Ilfracombe in heavy rain, hoping that the forecast fine day was to become a reality - it did thankfully.

Leaving Ilfracombe with a moderate sea state was not conducive to spotting the diminutive and shy  Harbour Porpoise which are often seen around this part of the coast and so it proved. Farther out from shore we had a few Common Dolphin approach the Oldenburg from behind and then quietly fade away but fortunately quite a few passengers still managed to see them. There is something about spotting a wild cetacean which never fails to make people smile.

Common Dolphin Steve McAusland 03
Common Dolphin (Archive photo: Steve McAusland)

For the birds there was a few Fulmar, Gannet, Guillemot, Razorbill, Manx Shearwaters and a variety of gulls throughout the trip. A surprise sighting was a distinctive low flying skein of Common Scoter, a large dark sea duck. Nearer to Lundy one of the passengers picked up the erratically waving fine fin of an Oceanic Sunfish, a unique and fast growing fish, which can grow to three or metres across. The smaller ones seen in UK waters follow the warm water currents to our shores in pursuit of their prey - jelly fish.

From the track leading down to the landing dock I watched an elegant two masted sailing vessel (a ketch) approaching under sail to moor in the bay. Once back on board the Oldenburg for the return to Ilfracombe the captain made a slight detour on departure so as to pass closer to the Irene giving ample opportunity to admire this lovely vessel which was originally built in Bridgwater. It was a fairly quiet trip back but as we approached Ilfracombe a single Harbour Porpoise was spotted by at least one passenger.

Ketch Irene Maggie Gamble 2016
The Irene (Maggie Gamble)

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