Ilfracombe or Bideford-Lundy

Sightings Archives: May 2019

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘MS Oldenburg’ Ilfracombe-Lundy Saturday 25 May 2019

Posted 31 May 2019

MARINElife/Lundy WLO Annette Dutton

Weather: Sunny and dry, light breeze, sea state slight

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals
Bottlenose Dolphin 2
Common Dolphin 6+
Harbour Porpoise 4
Grey Seal 8

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

Wildlife seen on Lundy
Soay sheep
Lundy pony
Sika Deer
Swallow
Skylark
House Martin
Wheatear

I arrived at a busy Ilfracombe harbour with many passengers looking forward to the Bank Holiday break and the local boats were getting ready for the day's visitors. I boarded the Oldenburg and went to the bridge to collect a Hi-Viz jacket and then returned to the upper deck to talk to the passengers.

I met Paul, the Captain on deck and soon afterwards the Oldenburg left the harbour and began to cruise along the coast. I spotted a Gannet nearby then as we approached Lee Bay I saw some splashes in the water which were caused by 2 Harbour porpoises but I soon lost sight of them. Soon afterwards, I was chatting to some passengers and I saw a large brown seabird which I recognised as a Great Skua. Later on a passenger who had taken photos confirmed that it was a Great Skua rather than an Arctic Skua.

Common dolphin Peter Howlett 41
Common Dolphin (Library photo: Peter Howlett)

There were more seabirds around than the previous Saturday and I saw small groups of Manx Shearwater, Guillemots and Razorbills then as we moved onwards into the channel, I could see Common Dolphins on the starboard side looking east and then looking towards the mainland there was another small group of Common Dolphins and 2 larger Bottlenose Dolphins leaping out of the water behind them.

As we approached Lundy there were more of the same seabirds then 2 Harbour Porpoise showed briefly on the port side.

Lundy Annette Dutton 11
Hanmers Cottage, Lundy (Library photo: Annette Dutton)

There was the usual line of Shag atop Mouse Island as we landed and there were Oystercatchers and a Grey Seal in the bay. I left the Oldenburg and walked up to the village taking the track over towards Hanmers Cottage to sit on the nearby bench for lunch. There were many House Martin, Swallow, Meadow Pipit and Skylark as I enjoyed the views and amazing weather and in the distance I could see a group of Sika Deer by the copse further along the coast.

I wandered over to the Castle and spotted a Grey Seal by the islands then walked along the path towards Shutter Point. Although I was in glorious sunshine, there was a bank of sea fog over the middle of the island and I couldn't even see the Old Light so I went back to the village and into the Marisco Tavern for a cold drink and a chat to Grant.

Grey Seal Annette Dutton 07
Grey Seal (Library photo: Annette Dutton)

I walked down to the landing bay and had a quick paddle in the crystal clear sea before joining the queue to board the Oldenburg. There was a Grey Seal in the Devil's kitchen and one swimming near the rocks by the pier then as we left Lundy I could see a further 4 seals hauled out on the rocks below Rat Island.

As we sailed along, I saw the same sea birds as on the outward crossing but no cetaceans although some of the passengers told me they had seen a Harbour Porpoise on the port side during the journey. The weather changed slightly and became overcast and cool but changed again as we neared Ilfracombe and we arrived in warm sunshine. I collected my belongings and said goodbye and thanks to Paul and the crew before leaving.

MARINElife Survey Report: Lundy Ferry ‘Oldenburg’ Ilfracombe-Lundy survey 18 May 2019

Posted 25 May 2019

Maggie Gamble and Mary wood, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884; Registered Company No. 5057367)

Weather: Westbound: Cloudy, wind slight, sea state 1-2, with long low swell
Eastbound: Some cloud, wind slight, sea state 2-3

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals:
Common Dolphin Delphinus delphis 6

Seabirds:
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 3
Gannet Morus bassanus 3
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 10
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 17
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 4
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 3
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 60
Guillemot Uria aalge 189
Razorbill Alca torda 21
Puffin  Fratercula arctica 4
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 3
Auk sp. 19

Terrestrial birds at sea:
Swallow  Hirundo rustica 5

It was yet another lovely spring day as we drove to Ilfracombe for a 10am departure on the Oldenburg.  As we left and made our way along the headland, we looked hopefully for Harbour Porpoise who frequent this area, the conditions were perfect for spotting this small often shy cetacean but frustratingly we failed to spot any! Perhaps they were feeding elsewhere.

Oldenburg Lundy Maggie Gamble 01
Oldenburg at Lundy (Maggie Gamble)

The Oldenburg made excellent time to the Island in some very pleasant sailing conditions. Birds were fairly sparse but there were quite a few Guillemots and as we neared the island there was a small group of Puffin and an occasional Manx Shearwater who were still somehow managing to get enough lift from the sea surface. The few Fulmar seen were having to work harder than they prefer as a good force seven is perfect conditions for these great travellers.  Since Lundy Island was cleared of its rat population the Puffins and Manx shearwater are nesting in increasing numbers. Many Lundy visitors make Jenny's Cove on the west side of the island their favourite destination to watch the Puffin colony there.

Common Dolphin Peter Howlett 31
Common Dolphin (Library photo: Peter Howlett)

Halfway to the island we could see some rafting auks and a small group of Common Dolphin who appeared to be feeding in that area. Later as we were just approaching the landing stage on Lundy and I was about to halt the survey the bridge crew alerted us to three common Dolphin who appeared from the landing stage area and raced towards the bow of the ship. Unfortunately for both species - dolphin and human - they didn't have enough time or space to indulge in a spot of bow riding.

More birds were evident on the way back Including Razorbill which we had failed to spot on the way over to Lundy. We again made excellent time back to Ilfracombe and our thanks go to the Captain and crew of the Oldenburg for allowing us on board to continue this survey.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘MS Oldenburg’ Ilfracombe-Lundy Saturday 18 May 2019

Posted 24 May 2019

MARINElife/Lundy WLO Annette Duttton

Weather:  Sunny and dry, light breeze, sea state slight

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals
Bottlenose Dolphin 5
Common Dolphin 4

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

Wildlife seen on Lundy
Soay sheep
Lundy pony
Highland cattle
Swallow
Skylark
Goldfinch
House Martin
Wheatear
Cuckoo

I arrived at Ilfracombe Harbour and noticed 2 large coaches parked by the quayside so I presumed there was a large group going over to the island. I met Lundy Field Society secretary Michael Williams who told me that the Cloud Appreciation group were over for a few days and they had booked the entire Island, we were then joined by former Lundy Warden Beccy MacDonald who was going over with her family for a few days.

I boarded the Oldenburg, collected my Hi-Viz jacket and said hello to Jason the Captain then went back on deck where I was approached by passengers including members of the Cloud group for information about the wildlife we would see on the journey and on Lundy.

The weather was ideal, it was warm and sunny with calm seas and my first sighting was of a Gannet as we sailed out of the harbour. We journeyed towards the channel and I saw the odd Guillemot, Razorbill and other seabirds as I toured the upper and lower decks. Then with Lundy in sight, one of the passengers alerted me to something in the distance - dolphins! I struggled to focus on them as there were a lot of people on the deck but  managed to see a group of animals which looked too big to be Common Dolphins and looked more like Bottlenose Dolphins.

Cuckoo Annette Dutton 01
Cuckoo (Annette Dutton)

We continued towards Lundy and I went towards the bridge to look for seals on the rocks, I spotted a couple of auks in the water but they suddenly dived before I could identify them. I then saw that MARINElife surveyors Maggie and Mary were onboard for the monthly survey and they told me that they were Puffins.

As we approached the landing stage, Mary alerted me to some Common Dolphins in the bay but they  swam away after briefly swimming around the Oldenburg - much to the joy of the passengers.

I left the Oldenburg and walked towards the village and took the track past Bramble Villas and stopped for lunch on the steps by the shop. I walked to the Old Light and had a quick look inside, then, as I came out I heard a Cuckoo nearby and managed to spot it on the wall by the graveyard so I took several photos before moving on.

I continued my walk to the sound of Skylarks with Swallows, Martins, Wheatear and pipits flying around me and I passed carpets of Bluebells and Sea Thrift on the rocks. Arriving at Jenny's cove I saw that many of the passengers were already there and took up position to look for Puffins. I heard one of the nearby passengers pointing out a Peregrine and saw it flying towards us then down and back over to rest on one of the stacks. There were many Guillemots with the Puffins and the usual nesting seabirds.

It was time to walk back to the village and I took the main track passing the Soay sheep, Lundy ponies and Highland cattle then continued through the village and down into Millcombe where I saw the Lundy Cabbage on the way.

Lundy cabbage Annette Dutton 03
Lundy Cabbage (Annette Dutton)

I boarded the Oldenburg and had a quick sit down before touring the decks, a group of about 12 - 15 Manx Shearwater passed by and I saw a Gannet and 2 Puffins with regular sightings of Guillemot and Razorbill as we sailed along. I also spotted a Barrel Jellyfish but not the numbers previously seen.

The Oldenburg arrived at Ilfracombe Harbour on the high tide and I went up to the bridge to chat to Maggie and Mary before saying goodbye and thanks to Jason and the crew.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘MS Oldenburg’ Ilfracombe-Lundy Saturday 11 May 2019

Posted 23 May 2019

MARINElife/Lundy WLO Steve McAusland

Weather: Sunny, warm, light breeze, sea state  2

Summary of sightings:

Marine mammals
Grey Seal 3

Seabirds
PuffinManx Shearwater
Black-headed Gull
Herring Gull
Kittiwake
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Fulmar
Guillemot
Razorbill
Cormorant
Shag
Gannet

Birds on Lundy
Stonechat
Meadow Pipit
Whitethroat
Wheatear
Starling
Raven
House Sparrow
Wood Pigeon
House Martin
Swallow
Linnet
Robin
Blackbird
Dunnock
Oystercatcher
Chiffchaff
Skylark
Wren
Blackcap
Carrion Crow
Chaffinch
Blue Tit
Magpie
Pied Wagtail

Arriving in Ilfracombe at 09:30am I was really looking forward to my first trip to the Island for 2019, it already felt warm and I was optimistic for a fabulous day of weather and the day didn't disappoint, as the sun shone all day with the temperature in the 70's. After boarding the MS Oldenburg, I made my way up on to the bridge to meet Jason Mugford the ship's captain. Then, after collecting the essential items for the trip (MARINElife leaflets, binoculars and my camera) I proceeded to start my tour around the upper and lower decks introducing myself to the passengers.

Kittiwake Steve McAusland 02
Kittiwake (Library photo: Steve McAusland)

The outward passage gave me an opportunity to point out sea birds such as Manx Shearwater, Gannet, Razorbill and Guillemot. The usual gulls were seen along with Kittiwake and Fulmar.

As the Oldenburg made its way slowly towards the landing bay, we had sight of a very large Grey Seal. Soon everyone disembarked and began to make their way up to the higher levels. My planned route was to take in the southern coastal footpaths along and past the old battery and then on towards halfway wall and lunch overlooking Jenny's cove. Here I met and helped many of the visitors with locating the Puffins. After lunch I made my way back to the jetty stopping for some time to view the birds.

Whilst walking back the island's Sika Deer were running around in many directions. Other animals observed were the usual sheep along with Lundy ponies and wild goats.

Guillemot Steve McAusland 01
Guillemot (Library photo: Steve McAusland)

The crossing back to Ilfracombe was calm, with the same birds being seen along the way. Sadly, no cetaceans were seen this trip and I look forward to my next Lundy trip in September.

Before leaving the ship, I thanked Jason the Captain and his crew for their support.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘MS Oldenburg’ Ilfracombe-Lundy Saturday 4 May 2019

Posted 11 May 2019

MARINElife/Lundy WLO Amanda Jones

Weather: Sunny, warm and dry, slight ESE, sea state moderate.

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals:
Grey seal 1

Seabirds:
Herring Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Guillemot
Shag
Kittiwake
Cormorant
Fulmar
Oyster Catcher
Gannet
Storm Petrel

Other wildlife
Barrel Jellyfish
Small White Butterfly

Wildlife seen on Lundy
Soay sheep
Lundy pony
Sika Deer x 4
Swallow
House Martin
Skylark
Wheatear
Starling
House Sparrow
Crow
Sparrowhawk

As I reached Ilfracombe quay the sunshine was warm and the queue of excited passengers were happily waiting to board. This was my first trip as Wildlife Officer and second trip to Lundy and I was as excited as everyone else. We boarded and after I introduced myself to the captain and crew we were away at 10am with Herring Gulls and a few Cormorant in the harbour. I introduced myself to the passengers explaining who I was and why I was on board. We chatted about wildlife around our coasts, on Lundy and all about the role of MARINELife and conservation.

A few Guillemot and Herring Gull were seen on the outgoing trip. In the water at least six Barrel Jellyfish floated past. On arrival at Lundy two very loud Oystercatchers greeted us and small, blue jellyfish clustered by the landing jetty.

Lundy Sika Amanda Jones
Sika Deer (Amanda Jones)

I walked round to the old lighthouse. Here I saw a flock of Starling settle on the church tower in the distance. A Lundy Pony and foal were grazing in the field and the farmland sheep were surrounded by lambs. As I sat and rested in the distance four Sika Deer could be seen at first walking slowly along the ridge then running in fright before posing for a photograph. Skylarks sung merrily overhead flitting in the blue sky.

As I walked back towards the church a pair of Wheatear were ahead of me flying back and forth. Then a Sparrowhawk sliced through the air and was gone into the landscape.

Lundy ponies Amanda Jones
Lundy ponies (Amanda Jones)

As I am disabled I cannot walk very far so I was delighted to have a trip back down in the Landrover with the Warden (who had also driven me up upon arrival). It is great to have the accessibility to the island and I thanked him very much. Joining the other waiting passengers we saw one Grey Seal in the Landing Bay.

Returning we saw several passing Barrel Jellyfish and more seabirds including Gannet and a Lesser Black-backed Gull who stayed with the ship for some time.

As we sailed into Ilfracombe Harbour I thanked the crew for their kindness and hospitality and look forward to seeing them again soon.