Ilfracombe or Bideford-Lundy

Sightings Archives: September 2018

MARINElife Survey Report: ‘Oldenburg’ Ilfracombe-Lundy 15 September 2018

Posted 23 September 2018

Emma Howe-Andrews and Poppy Lakeman-Fraser, Research Surveyors for MARINElife
Visibility: Good-Excellent, 16-20km, scattered showers, cloudy with some sunshine  Sea State: SW 3-4

Marine Mammals
Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus 4
Unidentified Dolphin sp. 2

Birds
Auk sp. Alcidae 3
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 2
Gannet Morus bassanus 5
Guillemot Uria aalge 10
Gull sp. 6
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 2
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 2
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 1

This was my first time in Ilfracombe as I had never been to Lundy Island before and as I made my way to the Lundy Office, I was thinking how picturesque and beautiful the harbour was. With the anchored boats, amazing architecture and stunning coastal cliffs, it really is a lovely place to visit and I was keen to explore it, but the MS Oldenburg awaited me. I will save it for another day!

I had arranged to meet my fellow surveyor, Poppy at the booking office to collect our tickets and this would also be her first trip to Lundy as well as her first survey, so we would both be seeing the island together through fresh eyes. After collecting our tickets and a short introduction we headed to the ship and eagerly joined the rest of the passengers waiting to board the Oldenburg.

As we waited, we saw Rick Morris on the outside deck of the ship, who would be the onboard Wildlife Officer for our trip. We gave him a quick wave, handed our ticket to the Officer as we boarded and headed to the bridge where we introduced ourselves to Jason, the Captain. Whilst Jason gave us an introduction to the layout of the bridge and where to stow our bags, Rick popped his head around to say hello and all of us talked about what the trip may bring and what had been seen recently. At this time, Captain Jason introduced us to his Chief Officer, Mike who would also be working on the bridge today.

With three blasts of her horn, the MS Oldenburg left her berth and headed out into a sea state 4, a 1 metre swell, cloudy, but dry conditions with excellent visibility. As the Oldenburg ploughed through the waves we started our survey and we were joined by a Gannet sweeping across the waves ahead of the ship. As I was stood on the port bridge wing, I heard Rick behind me shout that there were two Harbour Porpoise feeding underneath a group of circling Gannet closer to shore.

Guillemot Peter Howlett 08

Guillemot (Peter Howlett)

As much as I scanned the area with my binoculars, I could not see any breaking fins, but what a good start for Rick and the passengers, brilliant!

We continued our journey and had sightings of rafting Guillemot and a solitary Shag. It wasn't long until our first and only cetacean sighting of the trip was recorded, a brief view of two unidentified dolphin fins breaking the surface 125 metres ahead of the ship moving towards port. It was a very good spot by Poppy as the conditions were challenging due to the south-westerly winds the MS Oldenburg was sailing into. Well done!

We berthed at Lundy and decided to join a guided tour which had been organised by one of the island ambassadors, and after taking in the sights of Grey Seal hauled out on the rocks and breath-taking views it was time to return to the ship. The return journey brought calmer conditions with the sea fluctuating between 3-4, a reduced swell and views of Manx Shearwater, Fulmar and Lesser Black-backed Gull.

Lundy Emma Howe Andrews

Lundy (Emma Howe-Andrews)

We continued surveying and before we knew it, we were sailing back into Ilfracombe with the late afternoon sun casting beautiful light across the sea as we made our way back into the harbour. It was a very worthwhile trip as Lundy and its wildlife are stunning and the crew of the MS Oldenburg just wonderful. The crew couldn't have made us feel more welcome and were really interested in our work and accommodating. For me, I would go back to Lundy time and time again just to experience that.

Huge thanks go to Captain Jason, Chief Officer Mike, their crew and the staff of Lundy Booking Office who made this a very enjoyable and memorable crossing with their kind hospitality, and to The Lundy Landmark Trust for their continuing support.

Emma Howe-Andrews and Poppy Lakeman-Fraser; Research Surveyors for MARINElife

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report ‘MS Oldenburg’ Ilfracombe-Lundy 15 September 2018

Posted 23 September 2018

Rick Morris; MARINElife Wildlife Officer
Cloudy with sunny spells and the odd shower: Wind: WSW to SW 3-4. Sea state: 3-4

Summary of sightings
Marine mammals:

Harbour Porpoise 5
Grey Seal 3

Seabirds:
Puffin
Gannet
Shag
Guillemot
Great Black-back Gull
Herring Gull
Lesser Black-back Gull
Manx Shearwater
Fulmar
Oystercatcher

Terrestrial birds seen at sea: 
Swallow
Carrion Crow

Lundy terrestrial birds: 
Peregrine Falcon
Meadow Pipit
Rock Pipit
Starling
Raven
Carrion Crow
Jackdaw
House Sparrow
Swallow
Robin
Blackbird
Goldfinch

Heading down the hill as I neared Ilfracombe, I could see the fun fair was in the Harbour car park and looking beyond out to sea, I thought conditions didn't seem too bad.

After a brief visit to the shore office to say hi to Jacqui and Kate, I wandered over to where the MS Oldenburg was moored and upon boarding made my way up to the bridge. After a catchup with Jason (Captain) I made my way out to meet the passengers and was greeted by Emma and Poppy (this month's survey team) who were about to come into the bridge.

Leaving the calm water of the Harbour, we headed along the North Devon coast in a moderate sea with a slight swell. As I was explaining to a passenger that all the Puffin had now left the Island, we saw a solitary one sat on the surface within 10 minutes of sailing - a first for me to see a Puffin so close to Ilfracombe!

Puffin Rick Morris 06

Puffin (Rick Morris)

As we approached Lee Bay I noticed a small group of Gannet feeding and constant monitoring of the sea surface for a few minutes rewarded me with 2 Harbour Porpoise in with them.

The rest of the trip to Lundy was very quiet for seabirds; I expected to see a few Manx Shearwater, but only managed just the one with sporadic sightings of Gannet, Fulmar, Guillemot and gulls.

There were a few Grey Seal in the Landing Bay on our arrival and upon walking up the jetty a grey seal pup was on the beach with mum keeping a close eye just in the water.

Seal Pup 01 Rick Morris

Seal Pup (Rick Morris)

Up on top I popped into the Tavern for a cuppa and catchup with Grant before a spot of lunch and sea watching from the 'Ugly' which overlooks the East side and the Landing Bay. It was here whilst enjoying my sandwich that a female Peregrine Falcon flew beneath me heading toward the South Lighthouse.

The Ugly Rick Morris

The Ugly (Rick Morris)

Back down in the Bay the 3 of us enjoyed watching the seals and their pups before boarding for the return home under clearer skies and a calmer sea. As on the outbound, it remained very quiet on the seabird front, but nearing Bull Point, Gannet were seen, this time tracking 3 Harbour Porpoise that were heading toward Morte Point.

Looking for Porp Rick Morris

Looking for Porpoises (Rick Morris)

Safely tied off back in the Harbour, I popped to the bridge to give my thanks and farewells to Jason and Mike. Emma and Poppy joined me in leaving the boat and once off and onshore, we said our goodbyes and made our way home.

Even though it was a quiet trip, for me it's always great to have a day out to Lundy and meet up with familiar faces!

Huge thanks to Jason and his crew, the shore staff and all on Lundy for the help and support.

Please note; if you are going to Lundy during the next few months, please keep off the beaches and keep well clear of any seal haul outs to avoid disturbance!

Rick Morrios; MARNINElife Wildlife Officer

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report ‘MS Oldenburg’ Ilfracombe-Lundy 8 September 2018

Posted 16 September 2018

Jenny Ball; MARINElife Wildlife Officer (WLO)
Weather: Outward - overcast, wind SW force 5, sea state moderate, with some showers.  Return - brighter, wind SW force 5, sea state slight.

Summary of sightings:
Marine Mammals
Grey Seal 4

Seabirds
Fulmar
Gannet
Herring Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Manx Shearwater

I was very much looking forward to this trip to Lundy, having spent 6 excellent days there with the MARINElife Lundy Adventure in early July.  This time I took my husband along, to show him what the fuss is all about!

The outward sailing on the MV Oldenburg was quite wet and slippery on deck, and the choppy seas meant that we didn't expect to see very much at all.  A few Gannet and Fulmar swept by, together with one or two gulls, and people were either enjoying the bracing conditions or taking refuge in the cosy lounge!  Many people on this trip seemed to be groups of climbers, being let loose on the cliffs again after the end of the nesting season, and we had some interesting conversations about their encounters with wildlife.

As we went ashore we said hello to Dean, the Head Ranger, and walking up the hill we noticed that one of the other rangers was standing guard by the Landing Beach: a new seal pup had been seen and could safely be watched from the path.  It wasn't being very active, so we carried on up the hill, hoping to spend more time with it on our return.

We climbed to the top of the Old Light, to get an overall view of the island, and then walked over to the more sheltered side of the island, along to the quarry timekeeper's hut for our lunch.  It was very peaceful out of the wind: we watched a Cormorant diving in the bay, a couple of Kestrel hunting amongst the bracken below us, and a seal near the rocks.  The occasional flash of white out to sea was of course Gannet, but most of the sea birds left their breeding grounds some weeks ago.

Seal Pup 01 Jenny Ball

Seal Pup (Jenny Ball)

We walked back to the Landing Beach, and this time the seal pup was on the move.  The incoming tide had encouraged it to crawl up the beach: it was trying to hide under an overhanging rock, but having learnt to roll over, decided to come out again.  Meanwhile, its mother was swimming nearby, watchful but quite relaxed, and the local dominant male was cruising up and down, keeping a close eye on both of them.  Dean told us that this seal is the" Beach Master" for this stretch of coastline, ready to challenge any other incoming males in defence of his females.  There was quite a big crowd of passengers enjoying this fascinating sight; the seals are quite used to seeing people around the Landing Beach, and weren't worried at all.

Gannet Rob Petley Jones 09

Gannet (Rob Petley-Jones)

The return trip was rather calmer than the morning's sailing, but again we didn't see more than a few Fulmar and Gannet, a couple of Manx Shearwater, one solitary Guillemot, a Great Black-Backed Gull and a few other gulls.  A couple who had travelled over to Lundy last Thursday told me about the dolphins they had seen on that trip, but no such luck this time.

We thanked the Captain, Jason, and his helpful crew for supporting MARINElife, and made our way back into Ilfracombe.

Jenny Ball; MARINElife Wildlife Officer

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report ‘MS Oldenburg’ Ilfracombe-Lundy 1 September 2018

Posted 02 September 2018

Wildlife Officer: Annette Dutton

Weather: Cloudy and Dry, Sea State slight, light breeze

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals
Grey seal 6
Harbour Porpoise 2
Common Dolphin 4 - passenger sighting
Ocean Sunfish - passenger sighting

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

Wildlife seen on Lundy
Lundy pony
Soay sheep
House Martin
Meadow Pipit

I walked down to the Harbour and over to the Lundy Office to collect my ticket before boarding the MS Oldenburg. I was told there would be around 200 passengers so I joined the queue and once on board, I made my way up to the bridge to collect my Hi-Viz jacket and have a quick word with Jason, the Captain before taking up position on the top deck.

As we left, I noticed a Cormorant and an Oystercatcher but apart from that I saw no other seabirds until we neared Morte Point and a Fulmar flew by heading towards Ilfracombe. Whilst chatting to the passengers, I saw a Gannet, a small group of juvenile Guillemots and several gulls then I noticed that passengers were looking at something on the starboard side and I went over to investigate but only saw something black disappearing below the water. I initially thought it was a seal but I was later told by one of the passengers that there had been two dolphins. Another passenger told me that she thought she saw a Porpoise as we left Ilfracombe but after hearing her description we decided it was a Sunfish.

Lundy east coast Annette Dutton 2018-09
The east coast of Lundy (Annette Dutton)

As we got nearer the island there were more groups of juvenile Guillemot, Manx Shearwater and Gannet but only in small numbers. Arriving at Lundy there were two Grey Seal in the bay and a further two over in Devil's Kitchen on the high tide. I walked up towards the village and took the left turn and then onto the grassy path to Hanmers Cottage and the nearby bench for lunch.

The sea below was calm and glassy and although the visibility was good, it was hazy out towards the coast. There were few seabirds around and I saw a couple of Grey Seal below by the rocks waiting to haul out when the tide was low enough.

I didn't see anything else so I made my way over to the village and the shop where I got chatting to some people I knew before returning to the path and back down to the landing bay. The seals I had seen earlier were now hauled out on the rocks giving the passengers in the queue a good photo opportunity.

Grey Seal Annette Dutton 15
Grey Seal (Annette Dutton)

As we left the island there were lots of groups of juvenile guillemots and as I was talking to one of the passengers they spotted a couple of dolphins in the distance but I couldn't see anything and shortly afterwards another passenger said they had just seen a Harbour Porpoise. I was beginning to think I wouldn't see any cetaceans when I saw a group of Gannets circling off Morte Point above the tidal race, the sea was very choppy and I couldn't see anything at first but then spotted two Harbour Porpoise swimming away in the calmer water.

We arrived back at a very busy Ilfracombe as the Sea Ilfracombe Festival was under way and I said goodbye to Jason and the crew, thanking them for another enjoyable trip.