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

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

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

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.