MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘MS Oldenburg’ Ilfracombe-Lundy 5 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.