Ilfracombe or Bideford-Lundy

Sightings Archives: August 2017

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.