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