Ilfracombe or Bideford-Lundy

Sightings Archives: October 2016

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘MS Oldenburg’ Ilfracombe-Lundy Saturday 22 October 2016

Posted 23 October 2016

MARINElife/Lundy WLO Annette Dutton

Weather: Dry and sunny, Sea State slight, Wind Easterly

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals
Common Dolphin 2
Grey Seal 2

Herring Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Greater Black-backed Gull

Wildlife seen on Lundy
Meadow Pipit

This was my last trip over to Lundy for 2016, it was dry and sunny and the sea looked calm so I was hoping to see cetaceans. I collected my ticket, boarded the Oldenburg and went up to the bridge to sort out my belongings and collect my Hi-Viz jacket. Paul, the Captain was not around so I went out onto the deck and started chatting to the passengers.

We left Ilfracombe Harbour and I scanned the area around Capstone for Porpoise as I usually see them there but I didn't see any, although a Gannet flew by as we passed Lee Bay. I moved down to the lower deck to speak to the passengers, handing out MARINElife leaflets, explaining what we do and what to see on the journey and on Lundy.

Lundy Annette Dutton 08
Lundy cliffs (Annette Dutton)

I was at the rear of the Oldenburg when I suddenly spotted something dark in the ship's wake and realised it was 2 dolphins, I shouted and several passengers came over to see but they were gone. We passed several Guillemots bobbing about and the odd Razorbill but alas saw no more dolphins.

As we neared Lundy there were masses of feeding seabirds including Gannet, Kittiwake, in vain I searched the area for cetaceans but saw none. There were a couple of regular visitors to Lundy on board so I asked if they had spotted anything but they hadn't either.

We arrived at the Landing stage and I got off the Oldenburg  pretty sharpish as I wanted to walk up to Gannet's Bay to look for seals. I sat on a bench by the shop to eat lunch then headed up the main track to three quarter wall, passing a large flock of Starling, Highland cattle and Lundy ponies, as I approached Tibbets, a flock of Soay sheep ran past.

Lundy cow Annette Dutton 01
Highland calf (Annette Dutton)

I arrived at Gannet's Bay but it was high tide so I couldn't see any seals so I finished my lunch and started to make my way back along the track. There was an easterly wind which had started to pick up so the usually sheltered eastern side of the Island was chilly and by the time I reached the village it was quite windy.

I wandered down to the landing bay and spotted a Grey Seal in the waves, the wind was fairly strong by now and the Oldenburg was rolling about. As I was waiting to board I saw another Grey Seal high up on the rocks and another one swam over and settled below.

Grey Seal Annette Dutton 05
Grey Seals in Landing Bay (Annette Dutton)

I said a silent goodbye to Lundy as we left, there were still lots of feeding seabirds and again passed several Guillemots and Razorbills plus the odd Gannet as we made our way towards the North Devon coast.

Arriving at Ilfracombe, I said my goodbyes to Paul, Vernon, Justin and the crew before leaving the Oldenburg for the last time in 2016. This was my third year volunteering for MARINElife and I would like to thank everyone who has made this possible, see you again in 2017.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘MS Oldenburg’ Ilfracombe-Lundy Saturday 15 October 2016

Posted 17 October 2016

MARINElife/Lundy WLO Steve McAusland


Weather: partially overcast, good visibility, light westerly breeze force 1 or 2

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals
Grey Seal 9

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

Terrestrial Birds
Pied Wagtail
Meadow Pipit
Meadow Pipit
Wood Pigeon
Great Tit
Carrion Crow

This was my last trip of 2016 as MARINElife Wildlife Officer and I was so looking forward to being out on the sea as the August and September trips were cancelled due to storms!

I arrived at the quay early and before collecting my ticket I had a walk around the area checking out the sea and any birds that might be around. Meadow Pipit, Pied Wagtail and the usual gulls were seen. A Sparrowhawk caught my eye gracefully hugging the contours of the car park before flying over towards the trees on the other side of Ilfracombe harbour.

Gannet Steve McAusland 03
Gannet (Steve McAusland)

Soon after, I boarded MS Oldenburg in bright autumnal weather conditions bound for Lundy. Jason the Captain and First Mate Vernon welcomed me aboard and I was soon amongst the passengers chatting and assisting some with bird identifications. As with all trips you always get to meet people from different parts of the world and today was no exception. I had a really interesting conversation with a gentleman from South Africa who told tales of his great trips that produced cetaceans that I have yet to see.

During the crossing Gannets were observed diving not too far from Morte Point, also on the crossing were Fulmar, Manx Shearwater, the usual gulls and Guillemot. Sadly no cetaceans were seen, however, a passenger did tell me that he had seen five Harbour Porpoise.

Grey Seal Steve McAusland 09
Grey Seal (Steve McAusland)

As we came towards the Lundy jetty five Grey Seal were observed both in the sea and hauled up on the rocks of Mouse Island.

I disembarked and proceeded to walk up to the wooded area around Milcombe house and finally stopping off at the 'Ugly' - a stone shelter with a corrugated iron roof and an excellent view out to sea - for lunch. I was joined here by a party of five people who had been staying on the Island, we were soon chatting about their time over the last few days and my trips and experiences of Lundy. The weather rapidly turned from bright sunshine and clouds to what could be described as a monsoon storm, heavy rain and wind battered the Island for three hours and we were all glad that the Ugly was there to keep us from the elements!

As I walked back to the jetty for the return sailing the weather changed for the better again and the sun was soon out and the wind had dropped to a slight breeze. Sadly my last trip didn't produce any cetaceans, but I look forward to next year and hopefully the opportunity to volunteer for more Lundy trips?

Before leaving the ship I thanked Jason the Captain and his crew for their hospitality this year and for supporting MARINElife.

MARINElife Survey Report: MS Oldenburg Ilfracombe-Lundy 1st October 2016

Posted 05 October 2016

Ruth Crundwell and Annette Dutton, Research Surveyors for MARINElife

Weather: Outward - overcast, light rain at first, moderate visibility: Westerly wind 4-5. Sea state 4-6.  Return - brighter, good visibility: Westerly wind changing to Easterly 4-5. Sea state 5

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 1

Gannet Morus bassanus 12
Guillemot Uria aalge 4
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 8
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 3
Juvenile gull Sp. 2
Auk Sp. 16

Annette and I met outside the Lundy Island Company booking office and greeted Alan Altoft, the Marinelife Wildlife Officer and Marinelife's Rick Morris who was undertaking the trip with his family. We were welcomed aboard the 'MS Oldenburg' by captain Jason and the crew and made our way to the bridge.

This was Annette's first survey (she also volunteers as a Wildlife Officer on this route) and as it was the final survey for the season, so hopes were high that we would get good sightings of cetaceans and seabirds that we knew were in the area.

Leaving at 10.00, we left the shelter of the harbour, but the conditions soon became challenging as we headed toward Lundy, so no cetaceans were seen, we did manage some sightings of seabirds including Gannet and Auk species, Rick also reported seeing a Storm Petrel on the outward journey.

Gannet Rick Morris 07
Gannet (Archive photo: Rick Morris)

We spent our 3 hours on Lundy enjoying watching the sea on the west coast from the comfort of the Old Light sun room before visiting St Helens church.

On the way back to the landing stage we met members of the Lundy Field Society who had been on the island for a week undertaking various surveys and activities.

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Juvenile Kittiwake (Archive photo: Mike Bailey)

The return journey was smoother and speedier than the outward one, this gave a brief glimpse of a Harbour Porpoise and a number of seabirds including Gannet, Kittiwake (including a juvenile) and juvenile Guillemot with adults on the water. Rick observed 50-60 Gannets feeding with possibly porpoises in attendance just as we left Lundy and also reported seeing a Great Skua and juvenile Kittiwake on the homeward journey.

Many thanks to the crew of the Oldenburg, especially Vernon who looked after Annette and I so well during the outward journey when we found conditions challenging.

Ruth Crundwell and Annette Dutton, Research Surveyors for MARINElife