Ilfracombe or Bideford-Lundy

Sightings Archives: March 2018

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report ‘MS Oldenburg’ Ilfracombe-Lundy 31 March 2018

Posted 01 April 2018

MARINElife/Lundy WLO Rick Morris

Summary of sightings:

Marine mammals:
Grey Seal 1

Herring Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Great Black-backed Gull (juv)
Manx Shearwater
Sandwich Tern

Leaving home on a rather cold blustery morning I made my way to Tiverton to pick up Annalisa, a MARINElife volunteer, who was also coming on the trip. We continued onward to Ilfracombe under grey skies with rain, still feeling hopeful of some good wildlife sightings. Reaching the harbour, the rain eased off and we made our way to the shore office, where we met MARINElife's patron Maya Plass. She was joining us for the trip as we had arranged a meeting on Lundy with the warden.

After boarding and having a catch up with the crew we made our way onto the outer decks where Maya offered to don the blue and white Hi-Viz and talk to the passengers. This sailing also had a MARINElife survey team on board and we briefly met up with the survey team, Maggie and Mary.

Sandwich Tern Rick Morris 01
Sandwich Tern (Library photo: Rick Morris)

Leaving the comfort of the harbour, the sea state picked up in the bitterly cold NE winds, making it quite difficult for observations. We did see a solitary Sandwich Tern as we passed by Morte Point followed by Fulmar, Herring Gull and Gannet and, leaving the North Devon coast behind, started seeing Manx Shearwater, Guillemot and Razorbill all the way to Lundy.

We arrived at the landing jetty with not one seal in sight - presumable they were all on the west side sheltering from the wind! We made our way up to the village and headed straight for the Marisco Tavern for a welcome hot drink before our planned meeting with Dean - the Lundy warden. This was the first Wildlife Officer trip of 2018 and it was great to see the familiar faces of the islands staff.

Puffin Rick Morris 06
Puffin (Library photo: Rick Morris)

Leaving Lundy behind us for the return home, the sea state dropped slightly enabling a good view of a Puffin that was rafting on the surface around the halfway point. A Grey Seal with his fish dinner which delighted those that saw it was a bonus as we approached the mainland.

We said our farewells and thanks to Jason and his crew back in Ilfracombe and made our way to the Lynn Bay chippy for the best Haddock and chips in the land!

As ever, huge thanks to the crew of the 'Oldenburg' for their help and assistance.

MARINElife Survey Report: Lundy Ferry ‘Oldenburg’ Ilfracombe-Lundy 31 March 2018

Posted 01 April 2018

Maggie Gamble and Mary wood, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884; Registered Company No. 5057367)

Westbound: Cloudy, wind NNW 5, sea state 4-5, with some swell
Eastbound: Cloudy, wind NNW 4, sea state 4-3.

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals:
Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus 1

Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 3
Gannet Morus bassanus 4
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 7
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 6
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 3
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 5
Guillemot Uria aalge 25
Razorbill  Alca torda 30
Larus sp. 3
Auk sp. 26

The drive down to Ilfracombe was in heavy rain with the remains of fresh snow on the southern edge of Exmoor and later on in the journey the river was in spate. We left Ilfracombe prompt at 10am and as we made our way along the headland we looked hopefully for Harbour Porpoise who frequent this area but the sea state wasn't conducive for spotting these typically undemonstrative cetaceans.

Kittiwake Peter Howlett 17
Kittiwake (Library photo: Peter Howlett)

The Oldenburg made excellent time to the Island and the crossing was cool but dry. Birds were fairly sparse but the gulls and Gannets were around and as we neared the island there were increasing numbers of small groups of auks on the sea including a single Puffin picked up by Rick who was the Wildlife Officer on board. Since Lundy Island was cleared of its rat population the Puffin and Manx Shearwater are nesting in increasing numbers.

It's been generally a challenging spring for wildlife and Lundy Island when we arrived was fairly quiet with less written on the sightings board than usual at this time of year. However, the rain had stayed on the mainland, so we had a dry if somewhat windy walk along Lundy's dramatic coastline. This bracing walk was followed by a much needed mug of tea in the Marisco Tavern.

Grey Seal Peter Howlett 07
Grey Seal (Library photo: Peter Howlett)

The return crossing was again quiet regarding sightings and the only marine mammal definitely spotted was a male Grey Seal surrounded by wooden flotsam. There was quite a lot of wood floating around due to the recent spring tides. These floating dark shapes making it even harder to pick up any brief glimpse of a porpoise fin.

We again made excellent time back to Ilfracombe and our thanks go to the Captain and crew of the Oldenburg for allowing us on board to continue this survey.