Ilfracombe or Bideford-Lundy

Sightings Archives: July 2017

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘MS Oldenburg’ Bideford-Lundy 29 July 2017

Posted 02 August 2017

MARINElife/Lundy WLO: Alison Shearer

Weather: Overcast with heavy rain at times, light winds, sea state moderate and slight on return

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals
Harbour Porpoise 4
Grey Seal 28

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

Terrestrial Birds
Kestrel
Skylark
Swallow

Despite the overcast day it was fairly busy on the Oldenburg with lots of first time visitors. The crossing over had quite a cross swell which made finding any cetaceans a bit tricky but we did manage to spot a couple of Harbour Porpoise just as we left Bideford.

Harbour Porpoise Peter Howlett 20
Harbour Porpoise (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

Bird sightings were a bit thin at first but Manx Shearwater numbers increased as we got nearer mid-way. There were also a few Gannet of various ages and moulting Guillemot resting on the surface.

As we docked at the landing stage there were numerous Grey Seals sleeping in the water by Rat Island - despite it being high tide. We enjoyed a lovely walk up to the pub for lunch and then on to the shop and visitor centre to catch up with the Lundy staff.

Afterwards we walked down to the castle to watch the seals hauling out in their favourite spots as the tide went out, always an entertaining sight. We came back via the old lighthouse enjoying the stunning coastal views on the way. There were various landbirds to be seen including a Kestrel hovering over a kill.

Grey Seal Ruth Griffith 04a
Grey Seals (Archive photo: Ruth Griffith)

On the way back down to the landing stage we paused to look for the Lundy Cabbage and were lucky to find a few plants still in flower. With time to spare we were able to indulge in a bit of rock-pooling - the pools on Lundy being particularly good for this pastime. There was a good number of Grey Seals asleep on the rocks around the landing, including one sleeping on the rocks at Devil's Kitchen beach who was undisturbed by our bit of rock-pooling.

The crossing back was much calmer but was overcast with heavy rain, conditions not really conducive to looking for wildlife. Despite the weather we managed to see a few Gannet, Guillemot, Fulmar, Manx Shearwater and another two Harbour Porpoise.

A usual we had a wonderful and tranquil day and our thanks to the welcoming and wonderful staff on the island, in the ticket office and on the MS Oldenburg.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘MS Oldenburg’ Ilfracombe-Lundy 22 July 2017

Posted 27 July 2017

MARINElife/Lundy WLO Lucy Grable

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals
Common Dolphin 5
Bottlenose Dolphin 3
Grey Seal 8

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

Terrestrial Birds
Wren
Raven
House Sparrow
Starling
Peregrine Falcon
Rock Pipit
Meadow Pipit
Wheatear
Carrion Crow
Little Egret
Linnet
Skylark

Other Wildlife
Six Spot Burnet Moth
Meadow Brown Butterfly
Clouded Yellow Butterfly
Highland Cattle
Soay Sheep
Lundy Goat
Moon Jellyfish
Compass Jellyfish

The sun was shining as I collected my ticket from the shore office and boarded MS Oldenburg, which was a pleasant surprise given the miserable weather the day before! I briefly popped up to the bridge to say hello to this month's MARINElife research team, Rick and Annalisa, before heading out to the top deck to introduce myself to the passengers.

The outward journey was relatively quiet with just a few sightings of Gannet, Fulmar, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Kittiwake and Herring Gull. There was also a very brief visit from five Common Dolphin on the starboard side of the boat roughly half way through the journey. Approaching Lundy Island, we saw over 400 Manx Shearwater flying around Landing Bay which was definitely one of the highlights of the day! Three grey seals were also spotted hauled out on the rocks joined by a number of noisy Oystercatcher.

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

After disembarking, I made my way to Jenny's Cove along the central path joined by Rick and Annalisa. We had a quick look at Pondsbury, the largest pond on the island, and spotted two Little Egret. Continuing on our way we also saw two Peregrine Falcon circling near the halfway wall. We stopped for lunch at Jenny's Cove and looked to see what breeding seabirds remained with our fingers crossed for a few straggling Puffin - unfortunately none were to be seen. We did spot what looked to be an auk species at the bottom of the ledge. I was later told by a MARINElife supporter who had been on the island four days that the Puffins were seen rafting out at sea the day before and so we had only just missed them! During our lunch we did see a few seabirds including Kittiwake, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Herring Gull, Gannet, Manx Shearwater, Shag and a Fulmar with a chick.

On the walk back to the jetty we saw a number of terrestrial birds including juvenile Linnet, Wheatear, Rock Pipit and Meadow Pipit. There was also a sleepy Grey Seal bottling close to Landing Bay and a couple more seals sleeping near the rocks.

BND Mike Bailey 02a
Bottlenose Dolphin (Archive photo: Mike Bailey)

As we came to leave I spotted large numbers of Compass Jellyfish and Moon Jellyfish which interested many passengers. Conditions were perfect for cetacean spotting on the return journey and we had a fantastic encounter with three Bottlenose Dolphin putting on acrobatic displays of leaps, giving many passengers excellent views of them. A number of people then approached me to ask me what species they were and I explained how to distinguish between the most common dolphin species and also porpoises. The rest of the journey was fairly quiet on the sightings front with good numbers of Manx Shearwater and Herring Gull.

As we arrived back in Ilfracombe I thanked and said my farewells to the crew. I look forward to my next trip in August!

MARINElife Survey Report: ‘MS Oldenburg’ Ilfracombe-Lundy 22 July 2017

Posted 25 July 2017

Rick Morris and Annalisa Renee, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884)

Weather:
Westbound: Cloudy with sunny spells, wind NW 2-3, sea state 4, swell 1-2m
Eastbound: Cloudy with sunny spells, wind SW 1-2, sea state 2-3, swell 0-1m

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals:
Harbour porpoise Phocoena phocoena 1
Common Dolphin Delphinus delphis 5
Bottlenose Dolphin Tursiops truncatus 3
Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus 1

Seabirds:
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 6
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 542
Gannet Morus bassanus 11
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 3
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 3
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 4
Puffin Fratercula arctica 1
Guillemot Uria aalge 17
Larus Gull sp. 30
Auk sp. 4

We arrived in Ilfracombe on a somewhat cloudy morning with the threat of the odd shower; thankfully it was much better than the previous day's high winds and torrential rain!

As we made ourselves ready, Lucy Grable (MARINElife's WLO) made an appearance and after a brief catch-up made her way out to greet the passengers.

We reversed off our mooring on the harbour outer wall and came about to head toward Lundy Island and we started our survey with Annalisa recording our first effort entry into the records.

Manx Shearwater Rick Morris 07
Manx Shearwater flock in Landing Bay (Rick Morris)

As expected, with most having left the breeding ledges, seabird numbers were low throughout the survey with the exception of some 400+ Manx Shearwater in the Landing Bay as we neared the island. As for cetaceans, a small group of 5 Common Dolphin popped up just off the bow in the heavy swell and proceeded to head off down the starboard side.

Once on the island, we decided to walk up to Jenny's Cove to see if there were (wishful thinking) any Puffin left on their breeding ledge, but alas none were to be seen. In fact, the whole of Jenny's Cove was devoid of all the auks with just a few Herring Gull, Shag and a Fulmar on the ledge with a chick.

Back on board the 'Oldenburg' we resumed the survey shortly after leaving the landing jetty under the watchful eyes of a couple of female Grey Seal. Around 30 minutes had passed when a single Harbour Porpoise gave a brief sighting on the port side followed 10 minutes later with Annalisa spotting a Grey Seal 'bottling' on the starboard side. About 20 minutes later, whilst I was recording some gulls, Vernon (Oldenburg's first mate) told me there were splashes and white water some 500m off the port side. I looked intensely and finally a big splash caught my eye followed by 3 Bottlenose Dolphin leaping high out of the water giving us great profiles for identification.

BND Peter Howlett 26
Bottlenose Dolphin (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

The rest of the survey was spent recording a few seabirds until we returned to Ilfracombe, where we gathered up our equipment and said our farewells to Jason and his crew.

Our thanks to Jason, the Oldenburg's crew, shore staff, and all on Lundy for all the help and support.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘MS Oldenburg’ Bideford-Lundy 15 July 2015

Posted 23 July 2017

MARINElife/Lundy WLO: Andy Gilbert

Weather: sea state 4-5, clear visibility on outward and fog/mist on return.

Summary of Sightings:

Marine Mammals:
Harbour Porpoise 2
Common Dolphin 29
Grey Seal 15+

Seabirds:
Cormorant
Shag
Guillemot
Razorbill
Kittiwake
Herring Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Manx Shearwater
Gannet
Swallow
House Sparrow
Starling
Oystercatcher
Rock Pipit
Meadow Pipit
Wheatear
Skylark
Carrion Crow
Raven
Goldfinch
Mallard
Shelduck
Little Egret
Grey Heron
Curlew

Today's trip from Bideford to Lundy certainly turned out to be a day of two halves with lovely clear skies in the morning followed by fog for the second half of the day. Despite this we had some excellent sightings.

The crossings from Bideford are always longer days as the Oldenburg has to cruise up the Taw and Torridge estuary and these crossings are governed by the tides more than the Ilfracombe route is. As we headed towards Appledore in the morning, we passed the Little Egret and Grey Heron roost on our port side with a dozen of these large birds in the trees. A couple of Harbour Porpoise showed very briefly but clearly beside the ship as we exited the estuary into open water.

Common Dolphin Andrew Gilbert 01
Common Dolphin (Andrew Gilbert)

The crossing was a little choppy but thankfully the weather was dry and 40 minutes in we picked up 8 Common Dolphin riding the wake of the ship. Kittiwake, Guillemot, Razorbill, Manx Shearwater and Great Black-backed Gulls accompanied us for the voyage and another 45 minutes later even more dolphins appeared. Over twenty Common Dolphin raced into the ship from the starboard side and many of the passengers managed to get good views of their acrobatics as they breached and played around us and the completely full ship was buzzing afterwards. We continued on and seabird numbers increased as we got closer to the island. On Rat Island, next to the landing bay, a couple of Grey Seals were hauled out on the rocks enjoying the sunshine.

I spent a couple of hours walking the lower cliff path on the eastern side of the island and enjoyed Meadow Brown and Small Heath butterflies and many Six-spot Burnett moths.  Linnets, Rock Pipits and Meadow Pipits flitted around the cliffs whilst Raven, Lesser Black-backed Gull and a pair of calling Peregrines soared above the skyline. As I climbed back up to the plateau amidst Skylarks and dozens of juvenile Wheatear the fog rolled in and shrouded the island in a steady drizzle which continued for the rest of the afternoon.

Grey Seal Andrew Gilbert 01
Grey Seal (Andrew Gilbert)

A large contingent of MARINElife supporters boarded the Oldenburg for the return journey after spending 5 days on the island undertaking surveyor training and other wildlife themed activities.  The crossing provided a single Common Dolphin sighted next to the ship along with Gannet and Manx Shearwater and the excellent day ended with a good number of Curlew on the estuary before we docked at Bideford at 9.30pm.

As always, many thanks to the crew of the Oldenburg for accommodating and supporting our work so cheerfully.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report ‘MS Oldenburg’ Ilfracombe-Lundy 8 July 201

Posted 18 July 2017

MARINElife/Lundy WLO: Stephie Millin

Weather: Sunny spells, sea state calm

Summary of Sightings:

Marine mammals:
Common Dolphin
Harbour Porpoise 6
Grey Seal 14

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

Arriving at Ilfracombe harbour I was pleased to see the sun breaking through the thin clouds and a very calm sea. On this particular trip to Lundy I happened to be accompanied by 11 other MARINElife volunteers so I was feeling hopeful for plenty of sightings with so many binoculars at the ready.

We boarded the MS Oldenburg, settled down on the port side and as we departed I left the keen-eyed volunteers to wander around the boat and talk to passengers.

Too busy chatting to passengers I managed to miss the first 3 sightings of Harbour Porpoise which were typically always on the opposite side to where I was standing. I'm told that with time you can develop the art of talking and spotting at the same time. I was however readily spotting plenty of Guillemot and their young as well as Razorbill, Herring Gull and a Kittiwake and a solo Gannet.

Catching up with the MARINElife volunteers I found there were also sightings of Common Dolphin, 6 Manx Shearwater and a single Puffin!

Shag Stephie Millin 01
Shag (Stephie Millin)

Back with the other passengers again as we were less than 30 minutes from Lundy I was determined to make my own sighting of a cetacean. The majority of sightings had been on the port side so I wasn't feeling lucky stood starboard. As I chatted away about the lack of Basking Shark sightings around the south west I saw a fin, a bold dark triangle against the perfectly calm waters with Lundy in the distance. A positive ID of a Harbour Porpoise and thankfully also seen by 6 or 7 of the passengers around me too.

As we approached Lundy we could see 7 Grey Seals on a rock and then another 7 on the next rock and probably plenty more swimming around in the waters. Additionally, Shag, Oystercatcher, Great Black-backed Gull and Lesser Black-Backed Gull were all spotted around the shoreline and landing bay.

With 4 hours on the Island before boarding for the return I was straight up the hill and over to Jenny's Cove for the famous Puffin sightings. I was amazed that it actually was predominantly Puffin in this cove but staying in one spot for a good 45 minutes I also saw more Guillemot and a couple of Fulmar to add to the list. Happy with these sightings I crossed over to the east of the island and sat on the cliff close to Tibbetts building watching the seals. One seal in particular caught my attention as it appeared to be tangled in some orange rope. It was hard to tell if it was enjoying playing with the rope, spinning round and round, or trying to get rid of it but eventually the rope and the seal were separated. Over to my right I saw the lifeboat from the Oldenburg with two crewmembers on board, the small motor had attracted the attention of two curious seals, which swam around the boat and followed them wherever they would go. As it neared 3 o'clock and I was nearly 2 miles from the landing bay I started walking back, still spotting seals and Oystercatcher along the east side.

Waiting to board at the landing bay several people in the queue had their binoculars aimed towards Rat Island, I wondered if they were just spying on the swimmers in the shallows but then up popped the head of a Grey Seal. A nice close spotting, even for people without binoculars. As we boarded, all along the side of the ship you could see a couple of Compass Jellyfish and lots of Moon Jellyfish which have been multiplying and swamping the coasts of Devon and Cornwall this week.

Harbour Porpoise Stephie Millin 01
Harbour Porpoise (Stephie Millin)

Onboard and homeward bound in beautiful calm waters myself and my fellow passengers still had enough energy to keep an eye out for marine life.  Almost straight away we had a sighting of a Harbour porpoise.  It appeared 3 or 4 times giving me time to direct people's attention to the port side. I moved to the back of the ship and had another sighting of a Harbour Porpoise in the wake. As we travelled back along the coastline towards Ilfracombe, there were still plenty of Guillemot floating around and a Herring Gull accompanied us back into the harbour. A great day of sightings and a great opportunity with MARINElife to be back on Lundy Island.

Big thanks to the crew of Oldenburg and to all the lovely passengers I had the pleasure of talking to about their Lundy experiences.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘MS Oldenburg’ Ilfracombe-Lundy 1 July 2017

Posted 08 July 2017

MARINElife/Lundy WLO Ruth Griffith

Weather: Sunny on outward, cloud/drizzle on homeward. Sea state slight.

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals
Common Dolphin 8
Harbour Porpoise 1
Grey Seal 1

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

The sun was shining as I made my way to the shore office at Ilfracombe to collect my ticket. I boarded the ship and said hello to Jason and the crew. As we departed, I made my way around the decks introducing myself as Wildlife Officer and answering any initial questions that passengers had.

Manx Shearwater ~Ruth Griffith 02
Manx Shearwaters (Ruth Griffith)

Just 10 minutes into the journey I spotted a Harbour Porpoise surfacing on the starboard side off the stern, and pointed it out to the passengers I was talking to at the time. As we travelled along the coast I sighted auks such as Guillemot and Razorbill along with Herring Gull. Not long after, I caught a brief glimpse of a single Common Dolphin off the port side. About half way into the journey some splashing in the distance caught my eye off the starboard side and I alerted nearby passengers to see a group of 4-5 Common Dolphin leaping out of the water. I could see there was at least 1 juvenile in the group. As we neared Lundy I picked up Manx Shearwater, Kittiwake, Shag and Fulmar. After we docked at Lundy I caught up with Dean, the warden before making my way up towards the village. As I made my ascent towards the village, a curious Grey Seal popped up in the Landing Bay.

Robin Ruth Griffith 01
Robin (Ruth Griffith)

On the Island, I walked along the east coast before finding a spot to sit and have lunch. From there I spent a while watching a flurry of seabird activity in a nearby cove; many Manx Shearwater, along with Lesser and Great Black-backed Gull, auks, Shag and Fulmar. Further out, Gannet were diving into the sea, but alas, no cetaceans below. Throughout my observations, I was accompanied by a very friendly Robin.

The homeward journey began with sightings of Manx Shearwater in large numbers, Guillemot and Gannet. Visibility wasn't as good on this journey but despite this, about an hour in, I caught sight of 2 single Common Dolphin off the starboard side travelling in the opposite direction to the boat. As we neared Ilfracombe I also saw Shag and Herring Gull. Once at Ilfracombe I said farewell to Jason and the crew.

Many thanks to all of the lovely crew of the MS Oldenburg for their kindness and hospitality.