Ilfracombe or Bideford-Lundy

Sightings Archives: May 2018

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘MS Oldenburg’ Ilfracombe-Lundy 26 May 2018

Posted 28 May 2018

MARINElife WLO Jenny Ball

Weather: Misty on outward journey, with light NE wind and slight sea. Some drizzle and otherwise calm conditions on the return.

Summary of sightings:

Marine mammals:
Grey Seal 1
Common Dolphin 5
Bottlenose Dolphin 10

Seabirds:
Fulmar
Gannet
Greater Black-backed Gull
Guillemot
Herring Gull
Kittiwake
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Manx Shearwater
Oystercatcher
Puffin
Razorbill
Shag

Terrestrial birds:
Carrion Crow
Chiffchaff
House Martin
House Sparrow
Linnet
Raven
Rock Pipit
Skylark
Starling
Swallow
Wheatear

This was to be my first visit to Lundy, so I joined the large crowd of Bank Holidaymakers on board the MS Oldenburg for the 2 hour crossing. The forecast windy conditions had not materialised, and instead we set off on a calm but misty trip on the Bristol Channel. I could see a couple of nesting Fulmar on the cliffs outside the harbour, together with a number of gulls and swooping hirundines, and once on our way we came across a few Guillemot, Manx Shearwater and Gannet. I enjoyed talking to the passengers, all eagerly anticipating their visit to Lundy: a group of children knew all about cetaceans, having found a corpse and a skull on a previous holiday, a couple of ladies had a new I-Spy Birds book and were keen to tick a few of them off, and there was lots of interest in wildlife in general.

The Captain, Jason, told me that several pods of Harbour Porpoise had been seen on recent crossings, along with a 2km-long stream of cuttlefish bones. There were quite a number of cuttlefish bones, sadly caught up with a lot of plastic and other rubbish, but we saw no cetaceans on the way out…

Lundy west coast Jenny Ball 01
Glorious display of Thrift on the Lundy cliffs (Jenny Ball)

Once on the island, I walked through increasingly murky conditions to Jenny's Cove to see the Puffins - there are apparently around 25 pairs, all on one of the six or so available nesting areas.  Although very distant, it was lovely to see them, a regular stream flying in and out, and others walking around amongst the thrift. The mist lifted as it was time to head back, so I could appreciate a little more of the island I was walking through. A Grey Seal came along to see us off Lundy, and a good few passengers waiting to board the MS Oldenburg borrowed my binoculars to get a better view.

Oldenburg Jenny Ball 01
Oldenburg alongside at Lundy (Jenny Ball)

The large number of Razorbill seen on the water on the way in were no longer there but again we had intermittent views of Gannet, Guillemot, Manx Shearwater and various gulls during the crossing.  We also had a really great experience: a group of around five Common Dolphin approached the boat, leaping clear of the water and giving passengers a brilliant view, and at the same time a larger group of what I think were Bottlenose Dolphin cruised by in the other direction. This group included at least two juveniles, and was swimming purposefully towards Lundy. A passenger reported seeing a Sunfish, which they said was unusually early in this area, and another passenger told me an extraordinary story of seeing dolphin corralling their prey, from a view point at the extreme north end of the island.

Many thanks to the captain and crew of the MS Oldenburg, and to the Landmark Trust for their generous cooperation - what an interesting first WLO trip to Lundy!

MARINElife Survey Report: MS Oldenburg Ilfracombe-Lundy 12 May 2018

Posted 14 May 2018

Alan Sumnall and Nicola Simpson Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884; Registered Company No. 5057367)

Weather: The weather was clear throughout the survey, around 50% cloud, with sunshine at times. Slightly windy conditions created more challenging surveying conditions on the outward journey.

Summary of sightings:

Seabirds
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 54
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 11
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 4
Great Skua Stercorarius skua 1
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 3
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 11
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 12
Razorbill Alca torda 13
Guillemot Uria aalge 63

We were welcomed on board in Ilfracombe by the friendly crew, then headed up to the bridge to meet the Captain who showed us to our survey location. We set off from Ilfracombe at around 10:00, the weather was clear, although a little windy.

Lundy Alan Sumnall 01
Approaching Lundy (Alan Sumnall)

Seabird sightings began shortly after we set off with numerous Fulmar, Razorbill and Guillemot spotted flying and on the water. As we continued on towards Lundy we also observed Herring Gull and Shag. We arrived at Lundy Island around midday and were greeted with sightings of Grey Seal in the harbour.

We spent several hours walking around Lundy Island, taking in the sights of the stunning coastline and enjoying the glorious weather. As well as observing several more Grey Seal along the coast we also spotted a variety of birds, including Puffin, Wheatear and Whimbrel. We were also lucky to be visiting when the endemic Lundy Cabbage was in flower, and got to see one of the associated endemic insects - the Lundy Cabbage Flea Beetle!

Great Skua Peter Howlett 26
Great Skua (Library photo: Peter Howlett)

We returned to the MS Oldenburg for our return journey and set off at around 16:30. The weather on the way back was once again clear, with a little wind, and sea conditions were excellent. A variety of birds were spotted on our return, including Great Black-backed Gull, Manx Shearwater, Kittiwake and Great Skua. We arrived back in to Ilfracombe at around 18:30 and disembarked the MS Oldenburg.

Once again our thanks go to the Captain and very helpful and friendly staff and crew of the MS Oldenburg who made this a very enjoyable crossing.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘MS Oldenburg’ Ilfracombe-Lundy 12 May 2018

Posted 13 May 2018

MARINElife/Lundy WLO Annette Dutton

Weather: Sunny and dry, wind SE, sea state slight

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals
Grey Seal 3

Seabirds
Herring Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Greater Black-backed Gull
Guillemot
Razorbill
Oystercatcher
Shag
Kittiwake
Gannet
Cormorant
Fulmar
Manx Shearwater

Wildlife seen on Lundy
Soay Sheep
Lundy Goat
Lundy pony
Skylark
Goldfinch
Swallow
House Martin
Wheatear
Kestrel

I walked down to Ilfracombe Harbour in the sunshine and as I went to join the queue I saw someone in a MARINElife tee shirt sat on the steps, this turned out to be Nicola who was there with Alan to do the monthly survey. We had a chat and boarded the Oldenburg, went up to the bridge to say hello to Jason, the Captain and then I left to take up position on the top deck.

Although the sea was calm there was a fair swell and the Oldenburg rose up and down as we cruised along. My first sighting was a Razorbill followed by 2 Fulmar flying past, as we passed Morte Point and moved into the channel I spotted Gannet and Guillemot. There was nothing else until we neared Lundy when I saw Manx Shearwater, Shag, Oystercatcher and a Grey Seal by the rocks near the landing stage.

Lundy Annette Dutton 11
Lundy coast at Hanmer (Annette Dutton)

Arriving at the village I walked along the track past St Helena's church which was looking like a new pin after the renovation works then along the grassy path leading to the bench by Hanmers holiday cottage where I had lunch. There were lots of Swallows and Martins flying about and I saw another Grey Seal below in the bay past Millcombe and a Kestrel flew by.

I walked over to the Castle and along the path towards Shutter Point passing some Lundy Goats, it was lovely to see the pink of the Sea Thrift in patches along the way. I sat on the rocks at the end and enjoyed the dramatic views down to Shutter Rocks accompanied by  more Swallows and Martins flying about but I saw nothing in the sea below.

I walked back to the village and down Millcombe Valley where I spotted a patch of Lundy Cabbage on the hillside and as I wandered down further I saw a Barrel Jellyfish below the path to the Landing bay. Passengers waiting in the queue were treated to a Grey Seal swimming close to the pier.

Lundy Cabbage Annette Dutton 02
Lundy Cabbage (Annette Dutton)

I met up with Nicola and Alan back on the bridge then I went back out onto the deck, the conditions were ideal for spotting cetaceans but sadly I saw none. The return journey saw the same seabirds as the outward journey and we were soon back in Ilfracombe harbour.

I returned to the bridge to collect my belongings, thanked Jason and the team and left the Oldenburg with Nicola and Alan.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘MS Oldenburg’ Ilfracombe-Lundy 5 May 2018

Posted 12 May 2018

MARINElife/Lundy WLO Maggie Gamble

Summary of sightings:

Cetaceans:
None seen

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

I had an enjoyable drive to Ilfracombe in glorious sunshine and the Devonshire banks were studded with Primroses.

The Oldenburg was fairly full including many passengers booked to stay on the Island, some for a few days and others for up to two weeks. Lundy has beguiled many and there are regulars who return every year for a visit. As we left Ilfracombe harbour under the farsighted gaze of Verity, the sunshine persisted and with such a calm sea, I was very optimistic about the chance of some cetacean sightings. The early part of the trip out from Ilfracombe is usually good for Harbour Porpoise and I was sure we would see some but on this occasion they remained elusive. The lack of wind seemed to encourage most birds to swim with just an occasional Gannet and a few Manx Shearwater flying low over the water. A distant floating object caught my attention which at first confused the eye. On closer inspection it resolved into part of a small pallet with a small crew of Guillemots all stood to attention as we cruised past each other.

Wheatear Peter Howlett 02
Wheatear (Library photo: Peter Howlett)

On approaching Lundy it became apparent that the fog which was forecast along part of the coast was settled over the Island. A single Grey Seal was sighted swimming off the port side as we approached the landing stage. A few of the resident Shag were also seen as they commuted to and from their fishing areas.

With the swirling fog concentrated along the west side and patches of sunshine elsewhere, Lundy was all atmosphere and charm. I made my way past the old light where the air was full of recently arrived Swallows with just a few Sand Martins amongst them.  The fog did not deter the resident Skylarks who filled the air with their song and on the ground, my first Wheatear of the year - a very smart  male!  I headed on down to the old battery which was built for conditions such as this! but it's been some years since these old cannons were fired to warn off passing ships in fog. The battery was deserted with just an occasional passing auk or Fulmar but the drifts of Thrift were just coming into full colour.

Lundy Maggie Gamble 2018-01
The Old Battery - Lundy (Maggie Gamble)

At four pm after the usual mug of tea at the Marisco Tavern, it was back to the jetty to board the Oldenburg for the trip back to Ilfracombe.  On this return trip the fog really closed in as we made our way steadily back to the harbour and hampered any efforts to look for wildlife.

As ever, many thanks to the captain the crew of the 'Oldenburg' for having MARINElife on board.