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