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

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

Estuary birds
Little Egret
Grey Heron
Mute Swan
Wader Sp.

Lundy terrestrial birds:
Peregrine Falcon
Meadow Pipit
Rock Pipit
Willow Warbler
Carrion Crow
House Sparrow

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.