MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘MS Oldenburg’ Ilfracombe-Lundy 23 June 2018

MARINElife/Lundy WLO Rick Morris
Weather: blue skies all day with very light winds, sea state: 1-2

Summary of sightings:

Marine mammals:
Harbour Porpoise 5
Bottlenose Dolphin 5
Common Dolphin c30
Grey Seal 3

Herring Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Manx Shearwater

I arrived in Ilfracombe under blue skies and so I was full of hope of some cetacean sightings. After collecting my ticket and a quick catch up with Jacqui and Kate in the shore office I boarded the grand old lady, the 'MS Oldenburg'. A brief visit to the bridge to say hello to Jason (the Captain) and then I made way around the outer decks introducing myself and the charity to all those onboard.

Manx Shearwater Rick Morris 08
Manx Shearwaters (Rick Morris)

We left the now busy harbour and made our way along the stunning North Devon coast in flat calm conditions, if any cetaceans were about today, we would be sure to see them! From the moment of our departure we were seeing Herring Gull and Fulmar followed by Manx Shearwater and auks. I thought we might pick up one or two Harbour Porpoise as we headed along towards Morte Point, but this stretch was very quiet, probably due to a few leisure boats whizzing around!

We were just over an hour into the trip when a passenger said she thought she had seen a Harbour Porpoise, further observation confirmed this with not one but two animals around 300m away. Whilst continuing to look at these, I noticed some very strange 'waves' in the flat calm water some 200m to the right of the porpoise. These 'waves' turned out to be 5 Bottlenose Dolphin swimming with a purpose, but not showing much back, just surfacing enough to take a breath of air.

Bird sightings remained constant all the way to Lundy, with many Manx Shearwater, Guillemot, Razorbill and Puffin resting on the sea and Fulmar, Kittiwake, Gannet and gulls in the air.

Horse and Foal Rick Morris 2018
Lundy pony with new born foal (Rick Morris)

On the island I only had a short walk about as I needed to finalise our MARINElife/Lundy 6 day workshop with Dean (the Warden) which takes place from 28 June-3 July. However, I was delighted to see that one of the Ponies had given birth to a beautiful foal that wasn't yet a week old.

The return home was very much like the outbound trip with very calm seas and the same seabirds. We left the Landing Jetty under the watchful eyes of a couple of Grey Seal. Another Grey Seal was spotted shortly after leaving. As we neared the hallway point Common Dolphin were seen in the distance. They were a large group of around 30 animals spread over a large area with many feeding together with Manx Shearwater, but a few individuals thrilled the passengers by coming into the bow for a play.

Common Dolphin Rick Morris 11
Common Dolphin feeding (Rick Morris)

As we neared the North Devon Coast, Harbour Porpoise were seen with more Manx Shearwater present - I always make a point to inform passengers to keep an eye on the birds as the feed on the same prey fish!

Back into the harbour and safely tied off, I said goodbye to Jason and the crew. This was a truly fantastic trip today with great wildlife sightings for the passengers to see and enjoy.

A huge thanks to the crew of the 'Oldenburg' for their brilliant help and assistance. I would also like to thank Jacqui and Kate in the shore office and all those on Lundy who are always so helpful.