Ilfracombe or Bideford-Lundy

Sightings Archives: May 2017

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘MS Oldenburg’ Ilfracombe-Lundy 27 May 2017

Posted 08 June 2017

MARINElife/Lundy WLO Alison Shearer

Weather: Dry but very windy with wind moderating in the afternoon.

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals
Common Dolphin 6
Grey Seal 5 (3 male, 2 female)

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

Wildlife on Lundy
Sika Deer
Lundy Ponies
Soay Sheep
Highland Cattle
Skylark
Swallow
Rock Pipit
Meadow Pipit
Carrion Crow

A fairly busy crossing with lots of new excited visitors who were here for half term and very interested in the wildlife. As well as the day visitors there were people going to stay on Lundy and also a group who had come for a few days to survey Lundy's breeding population of Manx Shearwater.

The crossing over was quiet for the first ten minutes or so with just a few Guillemot bobbing in the water but after that there was heaps to see with something in range everywhere you looked! There were lots of Manx Shearwater which always make people smile once they quickly learn to identify them. There were also good numbers of Razorbill and Guillemot on the water.

It was a sudden, magical, surprise as I was pointing a Razorbill out to a lady when six Common Dolphin leapt right out of the water a few times exactly where we were looking. They were with us very briefly and I was pleasantly surprised that such a large number of delighted passengers had managed to see them!

Grey Seal Alison Shearer 01
Grey Seal (Alison Shearer)

As we docked there was a lone male Grey Seal over on the rocks by landing bay and on Rat Island there were many Oystercatchers calling loudly.

A lovely walk up to the pub and shop and then on up towards the halfway wall taking in the atmosphere, wildlife and scenery. Always a wonderful feel of wilderness and solitude despite the volume of visitors on the boat!

At Jenny's Cove the wind was so fierce it was difficult to hold the camera for great shots but with binoculars you could see the auks were swarming both in the water and on and around the cliffs. A mix of Razorbill and Guillemot on the rocks and Puffin by their burrows on the grass above.

Lundy Cliffs Alison Shearer 01
Auks on the cliffs at Jenny's Cove (Alison Shearer)

We walked back via the old lighthouse and saw lots of Skylark and Meadow Pipits on the way.

As we came to leave there were two male sleepy Grey seals bottling by Mouse Island and a female near the rocks by the landing bay and one sleeping in the centre of the swell at Devil's Kitchen beach.

The crossing back was much calmer. A gorgeous sunny evening with a fairly, constant stream of fantastic, interesting seabirds as before but less frequent and less in number.

A wonderful day as always and many thanks to the welcoming and wonderful staff on the island and the MS Oldenburg.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘MS Oldenburg’ Ilfracombe-Lundy 20 May 2017

Posted 25 May 2017

MARINElife/Lundy WLO Annette Dutton

Weather: Drizzly with a slight breeze, Wind SSE, Sea State calm

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals
Grey Seal 2

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

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

There was a bit of light drizzle as I arrived at Ilfracombe Harbour but it was fairly warm so I was hoping it would brighten up during the morning. There was a long queue at the quayside which didn't surprise me as I was already aware that there were over 230 passengers booked on the crossing.

I boarded the Oldenburg and saw some familiar faces from the Lundy Field Society who were over for four days for a meeting and a workshop. After a quick chat, I went up to the bridge to collect my jacket and say hello to Jason, the Captain, before returning to the top deck to find somewhere to stand.

We left the harbour and headed along the coast and I was joined by Dr Keith Hiscock, the Lundy Field Society Chairman, during our chat we didn't see any seabirds or cetaceans. Then about half way across the bay, I saw black clouds looming and it started to rain quite heavily and I was forced down to the lower deck to escape the downpour.

Grey Seal Annette Dutton 07
Grey Seal (Annette Dutton)

It was then that the crew were asking the passengers to either move to the top deck or down below in order to leave the rear of the Oldenburg free as a Coastguard Helicopter was on the way as one of the passengers had fallen ill.

It was very crowded on the top deck which made it difficult to see any thing but I managed to engage with people nearby and I started to spot the odd Manx Shearwater, auks, Kittiwake and a Gannet.

The helicopter came and dropped off a large bag which I presumed contained a stretcher and other items to make ready the casualty for picking up on the Island.

Lundy Cabbage Annette Dutton 01
Lundy Cabbage (Annette Dutton)

Approaching the landing bay there was the usual Shags and Oystercathcers and a Grey Seal in the Devil's Kitchen. I left the Oldenburg and wandered up to the village stopping to look at the Lundy Cabbage which is found nowhere else in the world.

I got some supplies from the shop and headed over to Jenny's Cove along the main track. It was sunnier now and made for an enjoyable walk until I turned at the halfway wall and was heading into a strong breeze. There were a few people at Jenny's Cove and I sat on a rock and soon spotted the Puffins in their usual place on the grassy slopes alongside the many Guillemots nearby and on the ledges.

Jennys Cove Annette Dutton 2017-01
Puffins and Guillemots in Jenny's Cove (Annette Dutton)

I returned to the village via the Old Light and it started to rain again as I walked through the village and down to the Oldenburg for the return trip. The rain stopped and it was brighter as I waited in the queue and one of the passengers spotted a Grey Seal in Devil's Kitchen and another one near the landing stage by the rocks.

The journey back was pretty uneventful with sightings of small groups of Manx Shearwater, auks and the odd Gannet then as we passed Bull Point I noticed several Gannets and a lone Manx Shearwater but sadly still no cetaceans.

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

MARINElife Survey Report: ‘MS Oldenburg’ Bideford-Lundy 13 May 2017

Posted 18 May 2017

James McCarthy and Ruth Crundwell, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884)

Weather: Sunny outbound, cloudy for the return, wind W 4-5, sea state 4, visibility good.

Summary of sightings:

Seabirds:
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 2
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 408
Gannet Morus bassanus 14
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 1
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 8
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 2
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 14
Puffin Fratercula arctica 2
Guillemot Uria aalge 10
Razorbill Alca torda 20

The MARINELife Lundy survey of May 13 started early out of Bideford and we were soon steaming to the island.

Puffin Peter Howlett 14
Puffin (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

Unfortunately, the calm conditions forecast a few days earlier had been replaced by a lumpy sea making viewing uncomfortable. As we moved away from the mainland, the swell calmed somewhat as the first seabirds came close to the MS Oldenburg. Good numbers of Manx Shearwaters gave spectacular views as they flew parallel to the ship - the day's highlight - with Puffin coming across the bows in a group of Guillemot as a supporting cast. Sadly, despite all the wishing, no fins broke the waters and we completed the outward-bound trip, cetacean free.

The island was blessed with sunshine but with a stiff westerly wind. Despite this migrant birds were in good numbers with a count of between 25-30 Spotted Flycatchers being a multi-year high count. A handful of Willow Warblers, 2 Garden Warblers and a decent number of hirundines made up for a pleasant stop on the land.

Manx Shearwater Peter Howlett 11
Manx Shearwater (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

The journey home was again cetacean free, a personal first after 10 years of MARINElife surveys! More Manx Shearwaters and auks kept us busy but in general the trip back was choppy and uneventful.

As always we would like to thank the crew of the MS Oldenburg for their hospitality.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘MS Oldenburg’ Bideford-Lundy 13 May 2017

Posted 15 May 2017

MARINElife/Lundy WLO: Maggie Gamble

Weather: Sunny and dry to start, wind SW, sea state slight to moderate

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals
Grey Seal

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

Wildlife seen on Lundy
Spotted Flycatcher
Meadow Pipit
Skylark
Swallow
Wheatear
House Martin
Blackbird
Linnet
Goldfinch

It was an early morning sailing from Bideford which gave maximum time on the Island so there was plenty of time for the more energetic to walk to the dramatic north end of Lundy.  For the trip out, a cool dull start improved and the two hour crossing to Lundy was sunny and clear. Conditions were perfect for Manx Shearwater and we had several small groups alongside the Oldenburg giving many passengers excellent views of their wonderful banking, gliding flight just above the wave surface.

Smaller numbers of auks were also seen hurrying to and fro especially closer to Lundy and a few passengers spotted Puffins. There were a couple of feeding aggregations mainly of Kittiwakes but no cetaceans this time. Strolling up the path from the pier I paused for breath and to take a picture of the moored Oldenburg in the sunshine.

Landing Bay Lundy Maggie Gamble
Oldenburg alongside in Landing Bay (Maggie Gamble)

It was a special occasion for any philatelist on Lundy this weekend as the new stamps were being issued. The beautiful artwork was by North Devon artist Sharon Read and shows some iconic Lundy birds in their Island setting.  I particularly liked the Manx Shearwater which I used to send a Puffin post card to America. As it was the "First Day of Issue" there was a busy pop up post office in the Marisco Tavern manned by Lars Liwendahl. Here you could buy first day covers or post letters and post cards with a first day frank on them.

Lundy pop up Post Office Maggie Gamble
The pop-up Post Office (Maggie Gamble)

After a sustaining cup of tea in the Tavern I made my way over to the old battery which is situated low down on the west side cliffs and gives excellent views of the passing seabirds. An added bonus was a mass of thrift in full flower on the grassy slopes. From the battery I carefully scanned a feeding aggregation of mainly Kittiwakes with a few auks and shearwaters. Beneath them was a small fish boil but no sign of any fins that I could see.  On their walks around the Island some people had enjoyed watching a pair of canoeists with an attendant flotilla of curious Grey Seals following behind.

The weather turned cooler for the return trip and unfortunately no cetaceans were spotted, although there was still plenty of bird life to admire.

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