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