Ilfracombe or Bideford-Lundy

Sightings Archives: April 2017

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report ‘MS Oldenburg’ Bideford - Lundy Saturday 29 April 2017

Posted 05 May 2017

MARINElife/Lundy WLO: Steve McAusland

Weather: Warm and sunny to start becoming overcast, warm, sea state 2

Summary of sightings:

Marine mammals
Grey seal 2

Birds at sea
Manx Shearwater
Shag
Fulmar
Guillemot
Razorbill
Gannet
Kittiwake
Puffin
Herring Gull
Great Black-backed Gull

Birds on Lundy
Teal
Willow Warbler
Pied Wagtail
Oystercatcher
Linnet
Wheatear
Whitethroat
Buzzard
Peregrine
Kestrel
Raven
Meadow Pipit
Skylark
Robin
Blackbird
Dunnock
Blackcap
Chiffchaff
Goldfinch
House Sparrow
Mallard

Arriving early in Bideford for my first Lundy trip of 2017 as Wildlife Officer I was made very welcome at the shore office and was soon on the quay waiting to board MS Oldenburg along with a great many passengers. Here I also met Simon Dell a well-known professional tour guide who I have met on many occasions, he was going to the Island and we chatted for some time whilst waiting our turn to board. Once on board Jason the Captain also greeted me and I made ready for speaking to passengers that showed an interest in wildlife and discussed MARINElife and what the charity does.

As the ship left the quay, we passed Crow Point on the starboard side and then a few minutes later Northam Burrows to the port side. Once clear of the sand bank, Oldenburg's engine was opened up and we were soon making good speed. Almost half way towards Lundy the engines were cut to an almost stop for quite some time as a mayday message was received from a yacht that had lost engine power. Communication with the Ilfracombe lifeboat made sure that is was soon on its way to assist and we then continued towards Lundy.

Puffin Steve McAusland 02
Puffin in Jenny's Cove (Steve McAusland)

Sadly no cetaceans were seen this trip, however the birds at sea were Gannet, Fulmar, Guillemot, Razorbill and the spectacular Manx Shearwaters that have returned to breed on Lundy following their journey all the way from Patagonia!

As we reached Landing Bay on Lundy the passengers disembarked. Before I made my way up to look for migrant birds, I introduced myself to Dean the new Warden and his assistant. After scanning the wooded areas for possible rare migrants, I made my way see the Lundy Puffins for the first time this year.

At Jenny's Cove, I counted 53 Puffins and caught up again with Simon Dell who had led his party to see the famous sea parrots. Sadly, a carcase of a Porpoise could be seen floating on the sea below - surrounded by gulls 'the circle of life continued'.

Leaving the Island, the journey back gave sightings of the same birds with a few Swallows along the way.

Bristol Channel waves Steve McAusland 01
Surf over the sandbank (Steve McAusland)

As the ship passed through the sand bank on route to Bideford we were treated to some awesome waves crashing through.

When alongside, I thanked Jason, Vernon, and crew for another superb trip and their continued support for MARINElife. I look forward to my next trip to Lundy, which is in July when this time I will be staying on the Island for four days along with some of the other regular MARINElife Wildlife Officers.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report ‘MS Oldenburg’ Ilfracombe-Lundy Saturday 22 April 2017

Posted 29 April 2017

MARINElife/Lundy WLO: Annette Dutton

Weather: Sunny and dry, wind NW, sea state slight

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals
Harbour Porpoise 1
Common Dolphin 1

Seabirds
Herring Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Greater Black-backed Gull
Shag
Oystercatcher
Guillemot
Kittiwake
Gannet
Cormorant
Fulmar
Manx Shearwater

Wildlife seen on Lundy
Soay Sheep
Meadow Pipit
Rock Pipit
Skylark
Swallow
Wheatear
House Martin

I walked down to Ilfracombe harbour looking forward to the crossing to Lundy as the weather was set to be sunny with little wind. I boarded the Oldenburg and went up to the Bridge to get my hi-viz jacket and to say hello to Jason, the Captain, before returning to the top deck to talk to the passengers.

As we left the harbour and cruised towards Lundy I saw a couple of Gannet and a Fulmar then no further sightings until we reached the open sea when someone shouted 'dolphin' and I spotted it in time to see that it was a Harbour Porpoise.

Closer to Lundy, two Swallows flew over the Oldenburg and more seabirds such as Manx Shearwater, Guillemot, Razorbill, Fulmar, Kittiwake appeared and we also saw a Barrel Jellyfish.

Lundy Annette Dutton 09
Old Light and gorse (Annette Dutton)

As we landed at the island I saw several Shag on the top of Mouse Island and a couple of Oystercatchers flying about the rocks.

I decided not to go to Jenny's cove on this visit so I made my way up towards the village and took the path past Hanmers holiday cottage to sit on the nearby bench for lunch. I could see a Grey Seal below in Devil's Kitchen and also saw Swallows, House Martins and a Meadow Pipit.

Walking over to Castle Keep it was very warm and I sat down again in the sun to scan the sea for cetaceans but only saw a Grey Seal swimming along. There were many Wheatear, Swallows and Skylark flying around and I carried on along the coastal path to Shutter Point passing Seals Cave where I saw another Seal and when I arrived at Shutter Point I had another look for cetaceans but only saw a Grey Seal, a Gannet and a couple of Shag.

Walking back towards St Helen's Church the smell of the gorse was lovely and the bells started to peal as there were groups of bell-ringers on the island.

I arrived back in the village and wandered down to the landing stage to board the Oldenburg for the return journey. Shortly after leaving I began to see small groups of Manx Shearwater, Guillemot and Razorbills and a very brief glimpse of a Common Dolphin swimming towards Lundy. I also saw lots of Barrel Jellyfish as we cruised along.

common dolphin Peter Howlett 24
Common Dolphin (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

The sightings of seabirds continued until we reached the coast then I spotted a Gannet by Bull Point and two Swallows flew over as we passed Lee Bay.

We arrived back in Ilfracombe and I returned to the Bridge to say thank you and goodbye to Jason and Vernon.

MARINElife Survey Report: MS Oldenburg Bideford-Lundy 15 April 2017

Posted 18 April 2017

Hannah Claydon and Hazel Munt, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884; Registered Company No. 5057367)

Weather: Wind NW, sea state 2-4, visibility good

Summary of sightings:

Seabirds
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 37
Gannet  Morus bassanus 2
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 5
Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus 1
Sanderling Calidris alba 20
Herring Gull  Larus argentatus 98
Kittiwake  Rissa tridactyla 6
Guillemot  Uria aalge 10
Razorbill Alca torda 13
Gull sp.  4

Terrestrial Birds
Swallow Hirundo rustica 1

It was a bright and fresh start to the day, with weather forecast to be fine and dry; ideal for the crossing as well as spending the day on Lundy. Hazel and I first met at the Lundy Island booking office where we joined up with Rick Morris, who was representing MARINElife as the Wildlife Officer for the day. We were then welcomed aboard the MS Oldenburg by Captain Paul and the crew and made our way to the bridge.

This was mine and Hazel's first visit to Lundy Island and the first survey of the season, so we were both optimistic for what we might be able record out at sea.

Kittiwake Peter Howlett 09
Kittiwake (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

Having left the harbour at 08:30, the ship was soon greeted by a sea state 4 which made spotting cetaceans a little tricky, however a number of seabirds were observed, including Manx Shearwater, Herring gull, Shag and some rafting Razorbill as we entered the Landing Bay. We were also fortunate to sight a lovely Kittiwake, Gannet and Guillemot. In terms of cetaceans, none were observed during the outward crossing.

The survey across to Lundy took roughly two hours, allowing approximately six hours on the island to enjoy before returning to the jetty and boarding the MS Oldenburg for the homeward bound survey.

Conditions during the return journey were much calmer, which enabled 20 Sanderling to be sighted as well as several Manx Shearwater shearing gracefully in front of the ship. As we neared Bideford harbour, a group of 41 juvenile and 24 adult Herring gulls were sighted. Again no cetaceans were observed from the bridge, however, from the deck Rick reported a sighting of a deceased Harbour Porpoise.

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

Our thanks go to the staff and crew of MS Oldenburg who were very accommodating and made the crossing an enjoyable experience.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘MS Oldenburg’ Bideford-Lundy 15 April 2017

Posted 17 April 2017

Rick Morris MARINElife Lundy Wildlife Officer (WLO)

Weather: Overcast with sunny periods, wind NE 2-4 sea state 3-4 with 1m swell at times

Summary of sightings

Marine mammals:
Harbour Porpoise 3 + 1 dead
Grey Seal 30+ (around island trip)

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

Estuary birds
Little Egret
Grey Heron
Oystercatcher
Cormorant
Shelduck
Mute Swan
Cormorant
Wader Sp.

Lundy terrestrial birds:
Peregrine Falcon
Meadow Pipit
Rock Pipit
Willow Warbler
Wheatear
Skylark
Starling
Raven
Carrion Crow
House Sparrow
Swallow
Robin
Goldfinch
Mallard

This was my first Wildlife Officer (WLO) trip for 2017 although I did visit the Island last month to meet Dean the new warden. Arriving in Bideford on an overcast morning and chilly NW breeze, I collected my ticket and upon joining the rest of the passengers waiting to board I met up with this month's MARINElife survey team, Hazel and Hannah. Hazel's mum and Hannah's friend came along for the trip and joined the passengers on deck whilst we popped up to the bridge and after getting myself ready, made my way out on deck to introduce myself.

We left our mooring in the River Torridge and headed downstream just after 08:00. An Oystercatcher was heard and Grey Heron, Little Egret and Shelduck were seen, also seen were several groups of 2nd and 3rd year Herring Gull. Swallow were seen heading inland and on nearing the sandbar I spotted 3 Harbour Porpoise of which those passengers close by had a brief sighting.

Once out in the channel we were getting sightings of small groups of Razorbill and Guillemot plus the odd Gannet. Also seen were the occasional Kittiwake and Fulmar and once out around the halfway point, Manx Shearwater were seen in groups ranging from just a few birds to one group of around 50+.

Willow Warbler Rick Morris 01
Willow Warbler (Rick Morris)

We were greeted at the jetty by Dean (Warden) and Rob (Manager), I then made my way up top, joined by Hazel and her Mum and we decided to walk around the west side where we saw a couple of black Rabbit. Reaching Jenny's Cove, we stopped for lunch and watched the small number of Puffin that were present together with Guillemot, Razorbill, Kittiwake, Fulmar and gulls.

The NE breeze made it chilly to stay at Jenny's for too long, so Hazel and Mum went on to the north end whilst I made my way back as I said I would help out with the planned round the island trip aboard the 'Oldenburg'. During my walk back I observed Willow Warbler, Meadow Pipit and Skylark amongst others! I also came across Sika Deer, Soay Sheep, Highland Cattle and Lundy Ponies.

Reaching the Marisco Tavern I stopped for a welcome mug of tea and a quick catch up with Grant before heading down to the Landing Jetty. There were still no Grey Seal to be seen in the Landing Bay and at 16:00 we set sail for the cruise around the island. We made our way around in an anti-clockwise direction, taking in the east side first and it wasn't too long before we started to see seals, especially in Gannets Bay. It was just after passing here that I noticed a seal that was smaller and different from all the Grey Seal and this animal turned out to be a Common (Harbour) Seal, not so 'common' in these parts!

Common Seal Rick Morris 01
Common Seal (Rick Morris)

We continued on around the north end taking a wide birth of the 'Hen and Chickens' giving good views of the North Lighthouse before continuing along the west side. More seals were seen and we all enjoyed the sight of the seabird colonies - Guillemot, Razorbill, Puffin and Kittiwake along the way. After rounding the southern end, passing Rat and Mouse islands, we arrived back at the Jetty ready to collect those passengers waiting to go back to Bideford.

The return crossing was peppered with Guillemot, Razorbill and Manx Shearwater and quite a few juvenile Kittiwake. The only cetacean seen was that of a dead Harbour Porpoise around three quarters of the way back, a truly sad sight for all those that saw it.

Thanks to Paul, Vernon and the crew of the 'Oldenburg' and to all on Lundy and the shore offices.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report ‘MS Oldenburg’ Ilfracombe-Lundy 8 April 2017

Posted 13 April 2017

MARINElife/Lundy WLO Annette Dutton

Weather: Sunny and dry, wind SE, sea state slight

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals
Harbour Porpoise 1

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

Wildlife seen on Lundy
Soay Sheep
Sika Deer
Highland Cattle
Meadow Pipit
Skylark
Swallow
Wheatear
Oystercatcher
House Martin

The weather was forecast to be glorious and I wandered down to Ilfracombe harbour in the warm sunshine, when I arrived I saw that it was already busy as nearly 200 passenger had booked for the trip over to Lundy Island.

I boarded the Oldenburg and went up to the bridge to get my hi-viz jacket and say hello to Jason, the Captain, before I went back onto the deck to position myself so the passengers could see where I was.

We left on time and sailed along the North Devon coast passing Capstone, Tunnels Beaches, Lee Bay and Morte Point but all I saw was a solitary Fulmar.

Many of the passengers were staying on Lundy so I gave advice about the wildlife, walks on the island and where to go to see the Puffins. I was chatting to the Reverend Brenda Jacobs, Vicar of St Helens Church, who was going over for a meeting when I was alerted to a dolphin sighting but sadly I didn't see it. However, Vernon, the First Mate saw it and thought it was the Risso's Dolphin he had seen on a previous trip.

The sea was lovely and calm but void of cetaceans and seabirds as we glided towards Lundy.  As we got nearer I saw a several Shag, Razorbill, Guillemot and a couple of Barrel Jellyfish floating by.

We arrived at the Landing Bay and I was disappointed that there were no Shag along the top of Mouse Island and also no Grey Seals on the rocks or in the water.

I left the Oldenburg and walked up to the village then along the main track where I was followed by swirling and noisy Skylarks. I reached Halfway Wall and crossed over to Jenny's Cove and was surprised to see how few birds were on the ledges compared to my visit last week. There were no auks rafting on the sea below but after a short while I spotted a couple of Puffins bobbing about in the sea. I also saw my first Swallow and Wheatear as I sat in the lovely sunshine.

Wheatear Annette Dutton 02
Wheatear (Annette Dutton)

I walked back to the village along the lower path passing the Battery and then over to the Old Lighthouse before walking down to the Landing Stage for the return journey.

Back on the Oldenburg I sat on the starboard side in the sun and chatted to Grant Sherman from the Marisco Tavern who was traveling back to the mainland. We saw lots of Barrel Jellyfish as we cruised along and after 20 minutes into the journey I spotted a Harbour Porpoise but it was gone before I could alert the passengers.

As we neared the coast I started to see more seabirds such as Razorbill, Guillemot, Kittiwake, Fulmar and Manx Shearwater but a noticeable lack of Gannet around Bull Point.

We arrived back in Ilfracombe and I returned to the bridge to collect my belongings and to say goodbye to Jason and to thank him for an enjoyable trip.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report ‘MS Oldenburg’ Bideford-Lundy 1 April 2017

Posted 09 April 2017

MARINElife/Lundy WLO Annette Dutton

Weather: Sunny with showers, Wind NW, sea state slight

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals
Grey Seal 2

Seabirds
Red-throated Diver
Manx Shearwater
Gannet
Shag
Cormorant
Herring Gull
Oystercatcher
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Greater Black-backed Gull
Kittiwake
Sandwich Tern
Guillemot
Puffin

Wildlife seen on Lundy
Soay Sheep
Sika Deer
Lundy Pony
Highland Cattle
Meadow Pipit
Rock Pipit
Skylark
House Martin

This was the first WLO trip of 2017 and I was looking forward to going back to Lundy Island, this time with my husband for company. The sun was shining as we walked from the car park to the Oldenburg and Julian greeted us as we boarded then I made my way over to the bridge to have a quick chat with Jason, the Captain before returning to the deck.We departed from Bideford Quay on time and as we cruised along the Estuary, I started my tour of the decks introducing myself to the passengers and talking about the work of MARINElife and what wildlife we were likely to see on the journey and on the Island.

I didn't notice anything as we made our way towards the channel but spotted a Cormorant as we passed Westward Ho! There were few seabirds about until we got about halfway across when I saw diver, identified as a Red-throated Diver by one of the passengers who is a regular visitor to Lundy and who then spotted a Sandwich Tern on a piece of wood.

The weather stayed reasonably fine although we did get a couple of showers which produced a lovely rainbow and provided some of the passengers with a photo opportunity.

As we got nearer Lundy I saw a lone Manx Shearwater then started to pick up the odd Gannet, Guillemot, Fulmar and several Oystercatchers. As we arrived at the landing stage it was nice to see the usual line up of Shag along the top of Mouse Island.

We left the Oldenburg and walked up towards the village, turning to follow the road and onto the path leading up past Hanmers holiday cottage to my favourite bench and viewpoint. The sound of Skylarks filled the air and House Martins flew by and I saw a seal in the bay below while we ate our lunch in the sunshine.

First stop after lunch was a stop at the Castle to scan the sea to see if any cetaceans were about but sadly saw none so we carried on walking back to the village and along the main track where we saw the Sika Deer in a field next to the Highland Cattle then we passed the Lundy Ponies before crossing over to Jenny's Cove.

Grey Seal Annette Dutton 06
Grey Seal (Annette Dutton)

It was nice to sit at Jenny's Cove in the sun especially as it was not too windy. There were already quite a few Guillemots on the ledges along with a some Kittiwakes and Herring Gulls. There were groups of auk rafting on the sea below and amongst them I could just about make out a Puffin or two.

We started to walk back towards the Old Light, stopping to look in the Lamp Room then across to the Marisco Tavern for a drink and a chat to regular birders who told me that they had seen over 30 Puffin in Jenny's Cove earlier on in the day. Walking down towards the Landing Bay I saw a seal swimming about and a group of Oystercatchers flying past.

The return journey started off with sightings of small groups of Manx Shearwater, Guillemot and Razorbill which continued until we reached the estuary then, as we neared the North Devon coast, we were treated to a lovely sunset.

Bristol Channel sunset Annette Dutton 01
Photo: Annette Dutton

We arrived back in Bideford and I returned to the bridge to collect my belongings and to say goodbye to Jason, Vernon and Julian and to thank them for an enjoyable trip.