Wildlife Officer: Steve McAusland
Weather: Strong westerly winds, sea state 4-5, light rain showers.
Summary of sightings:
Common Dolphin 7
Harbour Porpoise 2 (Brief glimpse)
Grey Seal 24
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
I arrived in Ilfracombe at 9:00am for my last Lundy trip of 2018 where the weather was windy and there was a good chance of rain during the crossing. The crossing was rather bumpy with the expected rain making an appearance after we were underway.
As the MS Oldenburg started out of the harbour the ships motion made it difficult to chat to as many passengers as I would normally. The ones I did speak to were very interested in the work of MARINElife and took a leaflet with a view to logging on to the website and to hopefully support the charity in the future.
Firecrest (Library photo: Peter Howlett)
The count of birds at sea was very low as was the number of species which was a first for this usually plentiful crossing. Birds of note were Manx Shearwater and Gannet along with the usual common gulls, plus Kittiwake and Fulmar. What was very surprising was no Guillemots and Razorbills were seen all day.
As the Oldenburg made its way slowly towards the landing bay there were a few Grey Seals on the rocks and a few Shag on the water. A wet afternoon ensued and the highlight was a Firecrest in the woodland next to the walled garden.
As we left to return to Ilfracombe the weather changed to give a more pleasant sailing back. Here we enjoyed 7 Common Dolphins and 2 Harbour Porpoises.
Common Dolphin (Library photo: Steve McAusland)
Before disembarking I thanked the Captain for his and his crews' continued support for MARINElife.
Maggie Gamble and Amanda Jones, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884; Registered Company No. 5057367)
Weather: Outward - overcast, wind S force 4, good visibility. Return - overcast, wind S 4-6, good visibility.
Summary of sightings:
Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus 2
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 3
Gannet Morus bassanus 34
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 8
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 3
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 2
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 62
Pomarine Skua Stercorarius pomarinus 1
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 9
Storm Petrel Hydrobates pelagicus 2
Wader sp. 18
When I arrived in Ilfracombe the residents of Ilfracombe were busy setting up for their Harbour Festival. I met up with Amanda my fellow surveyor who had already collected our tickets and we boarded the Oldenburg for what was to be Amanda's first survey.
Pomarine Skua (Library photo: Peter Howlett)
It was a quiet survey overall, no cetaceans were spotted and fairly low numbers of seabirds. However, that gave us plenty of time to cover the survey methodology and to enjoy watching the birds we saw. The great bonus of sea watching from a boat is the amazing close views you can have of these wonderful marine inhabitants. So, it was a day of quality birds and not quantity but it gave Amanda plenty of time to admire some new species. Manx Shearwaters were working the air currents and a couple of diminutive European Storm Petrels flitted past on their way to the southern tip of Africa for yet another summer. Bird of the day was a Pomarine Skua, a passage migrant on its way south to the coast of west Africa was a bonus spot by Amanda.
Storm Petrel (Library photo: Mark Darlaston)
Unfortunately Saturday was the day that the 2018 hottest, driest summer for decades finally broke. Lundy was suffering from a shortage of water but there was plenty coming down outside. The Marisco Tavern was clearly the place to be for a hot meal and a cup of tea. Afterwards I made my way back down to the pier for the return leg of the survey. Just off the beach were a couple of Grey Seals and their pupping/ breeding season will soon commence.
On our arrival back in the harbour Ilfracombe was in the middle of glorious bird-man eccentricity. Teams of people in fancy dress and various props leaping seawards off the harbour attempting to achieve flight. None of them flew as well as a Manx Shearwater and a vertical but heroic plunge was the norm. Once again our thanks go to the Landmark Trust and the Captain and crew of the Oldenburg for enabling us to continue this survey.
Nicola Simpson MARINElife WLO
Summary of sightings
Grey seal 2
Lesser Black-backed Gull
I arrived at Ilfracombe harbour at 9.15am, ready to check in and board the Oldenburg for our journey to Lundy. I met the two MARINElife surveyors, Maggie and Amanda, onboard for our trip. Ilfracombe was very busy as people were setting up for a festival starting later that day.
We boarded and set off at around 10am, the weather was cloudy with a gentle breeze. Heading out into the channel I made my way around the decks greeting people, whilst keeping an eye out for any sightings.
We saw plenty of gulls as we left the harbour and as we headed out into the channel. A little further out we spotted Gannet and Manx Shearwater. I spoke to many passengers and families who were looking forward to their visit to Lundy and spotting wildlife once on the island. As we arrived into Lundy seabird numbers started to increase once again and we saw many gulls.
Grey Seal off Lundy (Nicola Simpson)
We disembarked onto Lundy, although it was overcast, I had a lovely walk around the island stopping and chatting to passengers I had met on our outward journey.
As we waited to re-board the boat for our return journey I spotted two Grey Seals popping out of the water to wave us off. On our return journey we had additional sightings of Kittiwake, Fulmar and Shag. We returned to Ilfracombe in good time, with the festival now in full swing and people jumping off the pier in front of a panel of judges.
I disembarked thanking the Captain and his crew for the wonderful journey and their assistance.
Wildlife Officer: Hazel Pittwood
Summary of sightings:
Common Dolphin 5
Unidentified dolphins 9 (seen from the Island)
Minke Whale (probable, seen by passenger/crew member)
Great black-backed Gull
Lesser black-backed Gull
After travelling down to Ilfracombe the evening before and being met with thick fog I was relieved to see the air had cleared on the morning of the sailing! With good visibility and a lovely, calm sea state 1 I was excited for my first time volunteering as a Wildlife Officer on this journey.
After introducing myself to the friendly crew I waited until the ship departed the dock and then headed out onto deck to talk with the passengers. Wearing a MARINElife high-vis jacket to be easily identifiable, I explained my role on the journey as a volunteer present to help spot and identify wildlife as an added element to this crossing.
West coast of Lundy (Hazel Pittwood)
We were accompanied out of port by a flock of Herring Gull, consisting mainly of juveniles. The crew had reported seeing large numbers of Manx Shearwater over the past few days and sure enough it wasn't long before we started seeing these magnificent birds. Sightings of Gannet, Fulmar, Cormorant and Guillemot followed. We also had a fantastic view of an Ocean Sunfish as it passed close by the ship on the starboard side!
We then had our first cetacean sighting of the journey, I spotted fins breaking the surface in the middle distance on the port side and I called out to let passengers know and explained to them where to look to see these animals. As we kept watch it became clear they were Common Dolphin and their behaviour suggested they were feeding.
Passengers were thrilled to see the occasional solitary Puffin along the way and it was a delight to see numerous Kittiwake. As we came into dock a passenger shouted that they had seen a whale, a crew member also confirmed that they had seen the animal, which he believed was a Minke Whale (this is indeed the most likely, as the most common whale dwelling in shallow waters around the UK). Sadly I didn't see it!
Grey Seal in Landing Bay, Lundy (Hazel Pittwood)
The sight of at least six Grey Seals bobbing inquisitively around the island near the jetty provided great excitement as we left the ship. I sat and watched them on the shore as a huge male seal drifted lazily, allowing the tide to carry him to and fro. I walked up to the top of the island and sat in the long grass. As I ate my lunch I watched as a pod of dolphins moved across the sea in the distance.
Compass Jellyfish (Hazel Pittwood)
Whilst waiting to board the ship I joined passengers in spotting jellyfish moving slowly in the shallows. On this return journey we were treated to more of the same in terms of seabird sightings, but no more cetaceans. Flocks of Manx Shearwater, a few hundred strong, were an impressive sight. Lots of passengers approached me to ask what they were, captivated by their graceful, gliding flight.
Thank you as always to the crew of the MS Oldenburg for their kind assistance.