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

Tess Milton; MARINElife/Lundy WLO

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

Herring Gull
Great Black-backed Gull

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