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