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

Herring Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Greater Black-backed Gull
Manx Shearwater
Great Skua

Wildlife seen on Lundy
Soay sheep
Lundy pony
Sika Deer
House Martin

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.