Ilfracombe or Bideford-Lundy

Sightings Archives: August 2017

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘MS Oldenburg’ Bideford-Lundy 26 August 2017

Posted 31 August 2017

MARINElife/Lundy WLO Lucy Grable

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals
Harbour Porpoise 10
Bottlenose Dolphin 8
Common Dolphin 30
Grey Seal 59

Seabirds:
Herring Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Guillemot
Razorbill
Gannet
Shag

Terrestrial Birds:
Grey Heron
Little Egret
Wheatear
House Sparrow
Meadow Pipit
Rock Pipit
Raven
Starling
Swallow
Linnet

It was a perfect day for a trip to Lundy Island with clear skies, calm seas and temperatures set to soar to 24°C. We departed Bideford with a full boat and headed along the River Torridge. The journey started off quietly with a dozen Little Egret and a single Grey Heron seen in the trees around Northam and the occasional Herring, Lesser Black-backed, Great Black-backed and Black-headed Gull, but the quietness didn't last long.

As we left the estuary and entered the Bristol Channel I caught a glimpse of the fins of three Harbour Porpoise on the starboard side and was able to point them out to those close by. Shortly afterwards another pod of Harbour Porpoise came into view on the port side. This time there were five individuals and they were much closer to the boat much to the delight of the passengers. I also saw a couple of Harbour Porpoises in the distance and tried to show a few passengers, but they soon disappeared. Before long we were arriving into Landing Bay where a couple of Grey Seals were swimming around.

Grey Seal Peter Howlett 01
Grey Seal (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

Once on the island I met up with my partner Gary and decided to make the most of the glorious weather and excellent visibility and climbed up to the top of the old lighthouse. The views did not disappoint; we had 360 degree views of the Atlantic Ocean, Bristol Channel and an aerial view of Lundy Island itself. We decided to walk around the whole of Lundy and do a seal count sticking to the outer coastal paths. We stopped for lunch at the northern end of the island just east of North Point where we were joined by seven Grey Seals frolicking in the sea and a couple hauled out on the rocks. The walk along the eastern side of the island was abundant with Grey Seals and in total we counted 59!

Once back on the Oldenburg we were treated to great views of Guillemot floating on the water's surface and also a couple of Gannet diving. I told the passengers that diving seabirds often have accompanying marine mammals and not long after we spotted some distant Harbour Porpoise. The sea was so calm that we were able to observe the small species from a distance.

Common Dolphin Adrian Shephard 01a
Common Dolphin (Archive photo: Adrian Shephard)

Shortly afterwards I caught a glimpse of a splash on the port side. I made my way over there and alerted the passengers to a pod of Bottlenose Dolphin. Just ten minutes later a pod of approximately 30 Common Dolphin came into view this time on the starboard side. As we approached them, they split into two groups with some swimming underneath the boat, providing great views of their distinctive markings. The entire boat was buzzing with excitement and I was approached by many passengers asking what the difference is between a dolphin and porpoise.

What a perfect start to the bank holiday weekend. As always thank you to Jason the Captain and the entire crew of the Oldenburg for their hospitality and help.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘MS Oldenburg’ Ilfracombe-Lundy 19 August 2017

Posted 26 August 2017

Annette Dutton MARINElife/Lundy WLO

Weather: Sunny/cloudy, wind westerly 4, sea state moderate

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals
Grey Seal 15+
Common Dolphin 30+

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

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

Other wildlife
Ocean Sunfish 3

As I walked down to Ilfracombe Harbour, I could see that the sea looked rough and although it was quite windy, it was warm and sunny. I boarded the Oldenburg and popped up to the bridge to sort myself out and had a chat to Jason the Captain and the two MARINElife surveyors, Maggie and Tony who were onboard to conduct the monthly survey.

I took up position on the upper deck and was joined by regular visitor to Lundy, Martin who was hoping to spot some of the more unusual species. As soon as we left the harbour, Martin alerted me to a raptor on the starboard side flying towards us and it turned out to be a juvenile Osprey, I also saw a couple of Gannets in the distance too.

Osprey Peter Howlett 01
Osprey (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

As we approached Morte Point I spotted something silvery to the starboard side next to a seabird. This turned out to be something Martin and I had been discussing earlier - an Ocean Sunfish being 'cleaned' by a Fulmar. Shortly afterwards another Sunfish, fin waving away, was seen off the port side followed by another.

I saw nothing after that until we neared Lundy when 2 Manx Shearwater, a Fulmar and a couple of Gannets put in an appearance. As we arrived at the landing stage there were the usual Shag and Grey Seals on Rat Island plus a couple of Grey Seals in the bay.

Dean, the Warden kindly transported me to the village where I sat by the shop and had my lunch. I then walked up the main track, accompanied by lots of House Martins before taking the path over to the eastern side of the island and down to the Quarry Pond and the Quarry Timekeepers hut where I made use of the bench for a while before continuing back up.

I rejoined the main track where there were flocks of House Sparrows and Wheatear flitting about and I saw a solitary Swallow amongst the House Martins as I headed back towards the village, stopping to admire a Lundy Pony on the way.

Back at the landing stage I met up with Maggie and Tony for a chat before boarding the Oldenburg. There were 2 Grey Seals bobbing about giving passengers in the queue a good photo opportunity.

Grey Seal Annette Dutton 10
Grey Seal (Annette Dutton)

The return crossing was much smoother and apart from a few seabirds I didn't see much until we approached the Devon coast where a large group of Gannets were feeding and as we passed through them about 30 Common Dolphins suddenly surrounded us which caused a lot of excitement amongst the passengers.

I saw a few more Gannets along the coast by Bull Point but nothing else and we arrived back in Ilfracombe after a pleasant journey. Back on the bridge, I had another chat with Maggie and Tony then thanked Jason, Vernon and Julian before leaving the Oldenburg.

MARINElife Survey Report: ‘MS Oldenburg’ Ilfracombe-Lundy 19 August 2017

Posted 24 August 2017

Maggie Gamble & Tony Chenery, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884)

Weather:
Westbound: Cloudy with sunny spells, wind W 5, sea state 5, swell 2m
Eastbound: Cloudy with sunny spells, wind W 4, sea state 4, swell 1m

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals:
Common Dolphin Delphinus delphis 5
Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus 1

Seabirds:
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 31
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 13
Gannet Morus bassanus 83
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 1
Guillemot Uria aalge 22

Terrestrial birds:
Dunlin Calidris alpina 3

Other wildlife:
Ocean Sunfish Mola mola 1

The outward survey leg was quiet with little bird and no mammal activity recorded. A nice surprise however was a view of an Ocean Sunfish. These potentially huge fish visit our waters in pursuit of their prey - jellyfish.

Ocean Sunfish Tom Brereton 01a
Ocean Sunfish (Archive photo: Tom Brereton)

Arriving at Lundy after the two hour crossing we could see some swimmers in the water closely watched by some attentive Grey Seals. Walking up through the scrub below the village I spotted an obvious migrant a very smart Wood Warbler. Unfortunately, this is a bird whose UK population has decreased by more than 50% since 1995 and I seldom hear their distinctive call near me anymore.

Having visited the Marisco Tavern for a mug of tea, the local shop beckoned for some retail therapy and I purchased the new Lundy tea-towel beautifully painted with some iconic images of Lundy Island and it's wildlife - an ideal present for any Lundy-phile.  At this time of year the Puffins have left the Island but there were plenty of Grey Seals to be seen just off shore and their pupping season will soon begin.

Common Dolphin Peter Howlett 50
Common Dolphin adult and juvenile (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

At the end of a rather lazy afternoon on the Island watching the sea go by it was time to head back to the Oldenburg for boarding. The return leg of the survey was more productive with sporadic recording of Fulmar, Manx shearwater and the occasional Gannet. At about mid-crossing Tony spotted a lot a Gannet feeding activity some distance ahead, with many birds actively diving in pursuit of fish. As we drew closer we could see the distinctive fins of Common Dolphin underneath all the Gannets. It was a great sight to see and as we passed through them, passengers on both sides had great views as some of the dolphin came and interacted with the Oldenburg. We also sighted at least one Juvenile amongst the group.

After all that concentrated activity the sightings were reduced to an occasional Gannet as we made our way back into Ilfracombe Harbour. Thanks again to Captain Jason, the Oldenburg's crew, shore staff, and all on Lundy for supporting these surveys.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘MS Oldenburg’ Bideford-Lundy 12 August 2017

Posted 14 August 2017

Rick Morris MARINElife/Lundy WLO

Weather:
West: Cloudy, wind NW 3-4, sea state 4 with 1m swell at times.
East: Cloudy with sunny spells, wind NW 2-3, sea state 3-4 with slight swell.

Summary of sightings:

Marine mammals:
Harbour Porpoise 17
Common Dolphin 28
Bottlenose Dolphin 3
Grey Seal 5

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

Birds seen in the River Torridge:
Little Egret
Grey Heron
Curlew
Oystercatcher
Cormorant
Black-headed Gull
Mediterranean Gull
Peregrine Falcon

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

Today's WLO trip departed from Bideford with a full boat at a little after 08:30 under grey skies with the threat of a shower of rain. Fortunately, the rain stayed away and as we sailed down the River Torridge, we observed Curlew, Oystercatcher and Grey Heron on the far bank and as we passed Northam on our port side, in the trees, Little Egret could be seen.

We headed out into the Bristol Channel and once over the sand bar, the sea state picked up making it a little challenging for surface observations. However, I pick out 5 Harbour Porpoise from 3 sightings and 16 Common Dolphin from 3 sightings, this included a mother and calf right in the Landing Bay as we approached Lundy to the delight of those on the port side that saw them. Also in the Landing Bay was the Tall Ships Youth Trust vessel, the Stavros S Niarchos.

Stavros S Niarchos Rick Morris 01
Stavros S Niarchos (Rick Morris)

I spent my time on the island visiting the Old Battery, then back to the south side before stopping at the Marisco for lunch. As I still had a few hours to while away and with a stiff northwesterly wind blowing, I decided to spend some time at the 'Ugly' for a seawatch. There were many Gannet and Manx Shearwater feeding way out in the tidal race, possibly with Harbour Porpoise. Shortly before I decided to go down to the Landing Bay, a Peregrine Falcon gave a fly by before disappearing towards the South Lighthouse.

Back on board the Oldenburg, we set off for home at 18:30 with a few Grey Seal keeping an eye on us. Within minutes of leaving, I picked up around 30 Gannet diving in to feed and I told those passengers close by to keep an eye on the surface, as this was a good indicator of possible cetacean presence. As we continued to observe and we drew a little closer, there was indeed Harbour Porpoise present and I managed to count 9 animals.

Harbour Porpoise Rick Morris 05
Harbour Porpoise (Archive photo: Rick Morris)

Leaving Lundy behind us, after around 45 minutes, a small group of Common Dolphin came racing down the port side to the excitement of a couple of families with small children that saw them. Around 20 minutes later I picked up a large group of Gannet and Manx Shearwater feeding about a mile ahead of the ship, even at that distance I could clearly see the Gannet diving in. Again, I told everyone in earshot to keep watching the 'birds' and again there were cetaceans present, this time 3 Bottlenose Dolphin, with one animal clearing the water with big leaps. I wondered if these could be the same 3 animals I observed a couple of weeks earlier on the monthly survey!

Another 15 or 20 minutes passed by and a Harbour Porpoise 'popped up' with another a little further on. Nearing the sand bar a passenger next to me shouted "dolphins" and another small group of Common Dolphin went down the side, with 4 of them clearly seen playing in the wake.

Common Dolphin Rick Morris 10
Mother and calf Common Dolphin (Archive photo: Rick Morris)

As we sailed up the River Torridge, daylight was failing, but still enough light to give a great view of a Peregrine Falcon in the trees on our starboard side, followed by lots of Little Egret and a few Grey Heron roosting in the trees. Over on the far side, now to our port, 20+ Curlew were seen, with some flying past the bow giving their distinctive call.

Passing under the A39 road bridge I pointed out to some children the mermaid that has been painted on one of the support structures, before we drew up alongside our berth.

My 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 5 August 2017

Posted 11 August 2017

MARINElife/Lundy WLO Annette Dutton

Weather: Sunny/cloudy, wind SW, sea state calm-moderate

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals
Grey Seal 25+
Common Dolphin 3+

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

Wildlife seen on Lundy
Meadow Pipit
Rock Pipit
Skylark
Wheatear
House Martin

Ilfracombe harbour was buzzing with activity when I arrived as the preparations for the annual Birdman Festival were underway with stalls and a music stage being setup. The passengers were already boarding so I joined the queue, said hello to Julian who was collecting tickets and went up to the Bridge where Captain Paul was on duty. After a quick chat, I collected my Hi-Viz jacket and took up position on the upper deck.

Common Dolphin Annette Dutton 03
Common Dolphin (Archive photo: Annette Dutton)

As we left the harbour and I could see several Gannets feeding but no sign of Harbour Porpoise. The boat started to roll a bit as we passed Capstone and moved onwards towards Lundy but otherwise the crossing was fine. As we neared Bull Point I saw a large group of around 15 Gannets feeding, we passed them on the starboard side and amongst them I saw 2 Common Dolphins much to the delight of the passengers nearby.

As we headed into the channel a passenger alerted everyone to another Common Dolphin on the port side but there was only the one and it soon disappeared out of sight. I spotted a couple of Manx Shearwater and then several more plus a lone Razorbill as we started to near Lundy.

Approaching the landing stage I saw the line of Shag atop Rat Island and over 25 Grey Seals hauled out on the rocks below. I disembarked and said hello to Sian and Rob who kindly took me up to the village in the Land Rover.

Meadow Pipit Annette Dutton 02
Meadow Pipit (Annette Dutton)

I collected some supplies from the shop and wandered back past St Helena's Church to the path which took me to my favourite bench by Hanmers holiday cottage overlooking the Landing Bay. As I was finishing my sandwiches I noticed something white in the bay below and knew it was an Ocean Sunfish, something I was hoping to see during my trip. It moved further out then tipped up and swam away with its distinctive fin waving about. I also noted a couple of seals still on the rocks and two more in Devil's Kitchen plus several Gannets feeding at the north end of the Island.

After sitting for a while enjoying the warm sun and peace and quiet, I walked over to Castle Keep and checked the rocks below for seals but the tide had moved them along. There were lots of House Martins flitting about and many butterflies.

I walked along to the Rocket Pole and the pond before making my way back to the village then back down to the landing bay where I sat for a while on the rocks in Devils Kitchen. The tide was coming in and a seal was bobbing about watching us watching it.

Grey Seal Annette Dutton 09
Grey Seal (Annette Dutton)

We left Lundy and I could see a large group of seabirds feeding in the distance but too far away to identify or see cetaceans amongst them. I saw the same seabirds on the way back along with a seal and as we passed Bull Point there were several Gannets again but no dolphins this time.

The Birdman Festival was still going on as we docked and I said thank you and goodbye to Paul, Vernon and Julian before disembarking and making my way through the crowds.