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

Herring Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
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.