Ilfracombe or Bideford-Lundy

Sightings Archives: September 2017

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘MS Oldenburg’ Ilfracombe-Lundy 23 September 2017

Posted 01 October 2017

Tess Milton; MARINElife/Lundy WLO

Summary of sightings:
Marine Mammals
Harbour Porpoise 1
Grey Seal 11+ 1 pup

Seabirds:
Gannet
Herring Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Razorbill
Cormorant

I set off from my house bright and early on Saturday morning, the weather was cloudy and drizzly all the way down to Devon, so I was pleasantly surprised to arrive in Ilfracombe to find sunshine and a pleasant breeze!

I parked right outside the Lundy Shore Office on Ilfracombe Pier and went in to get my tickets and let them know I had arrived - they were really welcoming and friendly which was lovely after a rather long drive (made longer by missing my turning on the M5!). I joined the queue of excited passengers to board the MS Oldenburg.

Once on-board, I received another lovely warm welcome from Jason and the rest of the crew. It was 16 degrees already and the forecast was set to remain nice all day, so I was keen to get the trip underway. All 144 passengers on-board and happy, we set-off for Lundy Island promptly at 10am sharp.

The crew warned me that the channel has been really quiet of late, and they weren't wrong! After walking around the boat and introducing myself to the passengers, I settled myself in a spot ready with my binoculars to spot anything that wanted to show itself to us!

I saw the odd juvenile Herring Gull as we left Ilfracombe, and as we left the coastline to enter the channel, myself and a fellow passenger thought we may have seen a Harbour Porpoise. We couldn't be 100% sure and it didn't show itself again if it was one, so that spot remained a 'maybe'.

As we went further into the channel any Herring Gull activity diminished, it was very quiet indeed until we were closer to Lundy when we started to enjoy seeing Gannet flying or sitting on the water. As we entered the harbour at Lundy Island, we were quickly accompanied by two Grey Seal who seemed to want to know what we were doing.

Herring Gull Adrian Shephard 03

Herring Gull (Adrian Shephard)

I disembarked from the boat and started to walk up the hill towards the village, enjoying a stop off at the beach to watch a Grey Seal pup making its way down to the water's edge, clearly not impressed by the influx of visitors to the peace and quiet!

I made my way up to the village and had a jacket potato in the Maristo Tavern, which was lovely! After I'd eaten this, I took a little stroll before finding a sunny spot and enjoying the peace and tranquillity of the island with a good book! It was a beautiful September day to be on the island.

We all gathered on the pier for our return journey around 3.30pm, there were 8 Grey Seal all basking on the rocks on the outside of the harbour, and a large male having a good sleep on the beach right by the MS Oldenburg, which gave us all something to marvel at before boarding for our return journey.

The journey back to Ilfracombe was much the same as the outward journey - we enjoyed some lovely Gannet as we departed the Island, but as we got further into the channel and neared Ilfracombe, sightings more or less dried up to nothing.

Gannet Adrian Shephard 14

Gannet (Adrian Shephard)

Despite the lack of wildlife sightings, it was a thoroughly enjoyable day to Lundy Island - and the crew on board the MS Oldenburg truly make it a welcoming and comfortable day out. Massive thanks to them all, and hope I see them all again soon!

Tess Milton; MARINElife Wildlife Officer

MARINElife Survey Report: ‘MS Oldenburg’ Ilfracombe-Lundy 16 September 2017

Posted 22 September 2017

MARINElife/Lundy WLO: Annette Dutton

Weather: Sunny/cloudy, wind NW, sea state 3-4

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals
Harbour Porpoise 3
Grey Seal 6 + 1 pup

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

Birds on Lundy:
Kestrel
Meadow Pipit
Rock Pipit
House Martin
Swallow
Raven

The weather was a bit cooler than previous trips but it was not as windy as it had been during the week so I was hoping for a good crossing. I arrived at Ilfracombe harbour and boarded the Oldenburg, popping up to the bridge to say hello to Jason the Captain and to collect my Hi-Viz jacket.

I took up position on the upper deck and waited for the boat to depart, I didn't see much as we left the harbour then I spotted 2 Gannets as we passed Lee Bay. I saw little else as we cruised along westwards then I saw a Swallow fly over and another Gannet as we approached Lundy.

Grey Seal Annette Dutton 11
Grey Seal (Annette Dutton)

Arriving at Lundy, I saw a couple of Shag at the end of Rat Island, a Grey Seal on the rocks below and as I walked along the landing stage I spotted another Grey Seal in the Devil's Kitchen.

Rob gave me a lift up to the village in the Land Rover and on the way he stopped to point out a Grey Seal pup on the beach behind some rocks.

From the village I walked over to the North Light where there were still lots of House Martins and Swallows flitting about and I carried on to Battery Point to sit on the rocks for lunch. A Kestrel flew by and I could see a lot of Gannets feeding in the distance towards the top of the Island but there was no sign of any cetaceans.

I retraced my steps and then walked over to my favourite bench by Hanmers cottage where I saw Ravens, Meadow Pipits and more House Martins and Swallows.

Grey Seal Annette Dutton 12
Grey Seal pup (Annette Dutton)

I made my way down towards the landing stage and noticed some of the passengers looking down onto the beach and as I reached them I could see that the Grey Seal pup was still there. It was high tide so no one could get onto the beach which was a relief as people getting too close to the pup could deter the mother from feeding.

I took some photos and carried on down, stopping at Devil's Kitchen to watch 2 Grey Seals that were bobbing about and I also saw a male and female by the rocks near where the pup was on the beach.

The return crossing was very pleasant with sightings of the odd Razorbill and Gannet then as we passed Bull Point there was a larger group of Gannets feeding and I briefly saw 2 Harbour Porpoise below them. As we carried on past Lee Bay I saw a few more Gannets a glimpse of another Harbour Porpoise.

We arrived at Ilfracombe and I said goodbye and thanks to Jason and the crew before leaving the Oldenburg.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘MS Oldenburg’ Bideford-Lundy 9 September 2017

Posted 13 September 2017

MARINElife/Lundy WLO Steve McAusland

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals:
Common Dolphin 1
Grey Seal 7

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

Estuary Birds:
Teal
Little Egret
Redshank
Oystercatcher
Swallow

Birds on Lundy:
Willow Warbler
Meadow Pipit
Starling
House Sparrow
Swallow
Robin
Blackbird
Skylark
Wren
Carrion Crow
Goldfinch
Jackdaw
Spotted Flycatcher
Goldcrest
Raven

I arrived in Bideford at 07:30 and collected my ticket from the Landmark Trust office, then swiftly boarded the MS Oldenburg where I was welcomed aboard by Paul the ship's Captain. I quickly started my tour around the upper and lower decks while the Oldenburg made its way down the estuary towards the open sea. As I chatted to some of the passengers the rain started and waterproofs were soon being put on!

Grey Seal Steve McAusland 10
Grey Seal pup on Lundy (Steve McAusland)

Once we were out of the estuary the sea state made it impossible to walk around the decks. I had the pleasure of chatting to a group of people and the banter was really good. The one and only cetacean sighting happened as the ship had passed the one hour mark of the voyage, it is always good to see a Common Dolphin. Birds of note were very few due to the weather conditions. Manx Shearwater, Gannet along with Guillemot rafting as the ship passed them by. The usual common gulls were seen along with Kittiwake, Fulmar and my first Great Skua this year.

As the Oldenburg made its way slowly towards the landing bay there were four Grey Seals on the rocks of Rat Island. However, I did see another three during my time on the island from the higher levels, including a pup which was in the rocks. As the passengers disembarked, the sun came out and everyone proceeded to walk up to the higher levels. My route this visit was to walk along the east side of the island looking for birds and at the same time cast an eye out to sea for cetaceans. Unfortunately there were very few migrants visible just the odd Willow Warbler and Goldcrest.

Goldcrest Steve McAusland 01
Goldcrest (Steve McAusland)

The crossing back to Bideford was more or less the same conditions as the outward crossing as the Oldenburg passed over the sand bar before entering the estuary the ship surfed the waves much to the enjoyment of many of the passengers.

Before disembarking I thanked Paul the Captain and Vernon the ship's first mate for his and the crews' continued support for MARINElife. I look forward to my last trip this season in October.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report ‘MS Oldenburg’ Ilfracombe-Lundy 2 September 2017

Posted 04 September 2017

MARINElife Lundy Wildlife Officer WLO Rick Morris

Weather:
West: Cloudy, wind S-SW 2-3, sea state 3
East: Cloudy with sunny spells, wind WSW 3, sea state 3

Summary of sightings:

Marine mammals:
none seen at sea

Seabirds:
Great Skua
Gannet
Shag
Guillemot
Great Black-backed Gull
Herring Gull
Manx Shearwater
Fulmar

Terrestrial birds seen at sea:
Swallow

Lundy terrestrial birds:
Meadow Pipit
Rock Pipit
Starling
Carrion Crow
House Sparrow
Swallow
Robin
Blackbird
Sotted Flycatcher
Linnet

Arriving at the long stay car park opposite the harbour, I could see the MS Oldenburg berthed on the outer wall as it was now low tide. It was a rather cloudy morning with a couple of large black clouds threatening to spill their contents on us, fortunately, they did not.

After a brief visit to the shore office to collect my ticket from Kate and a quick hello to Jacqui, I made my way to join the passengers waiting to board.

We departed Ilfracombe on schedule with a full boat and after a tour around the decks to enlighten everyone why I was there I began my search for wildlife, now with lots of eager eyes to assist.

I have to say, this trip was probably the quietest one I have ever done, with a fair sea state of 3, light winds and good visibility, no cetaceans were seen throughout. I expected seabird numbers to be low, but on the way out, all I saw was a few Gannet, 3 Fulmar and a sighting of a solitary smart looking Guillemot in winter plumage followed by 6 Swallow heading south, presumably having just left Lundy.

Grey Seal Rick Morris 12
Grey Seal (Rick Morris)

Arriving at Lundy, 6 Grey seal were on the rocks on Mouse Island and some of the island's Shag were busily fishing in the Landing Bay. Looking past Mouse Island, in the tidal race, Gannet were circling with some diving in to feed, my hope was that there may be cetacean activity as well, but no fins were seen.

I had arranged prior to this trip to meet up with Dean, Lundy's Warden, and after a casual walk up to the village, we met up in the Marisco's garden for a welcome mug of tea whilst discussing plans for the 2018 Lundy Adventures.

Looking at the time, I decided that as the southwesterly wind was picking up a little, I would spend an hour at the 'Ugly' overlooking the waters of the east side. Here I observed Herring and Great Black-back Gull and Gannet over the sea with a dozen or so Carrion Crow patrolling the cliffs, Swallow, Meadow and Rock Pipit and a Spotted Flycatcher were also seen.

Great Skua Rick Morris 01a
Great Skua (Library photo: Rick Morris)

Back at the Landing Jetty, a couple of curious Grey seal were keeping an eye on us, with 6 more seen in the Devil's Kitchen. The return back to Ilfracombe was again very quiet with just a couple of Gannet, a few Fulmar and a solitary Manx Shearwater. We did see one bird of note, a Great Skua around half an hour out.

Back at Ilfracombe, I collected my bag from the bridge and said farewell to Jason and Vernon, as this was my last trip of the season.

My thanks to Jason, Vernon and the crew of the 'Oldenburg' and to all on Lundy and the shore offices.