Ilfracombe or Bideford-Lundy

Sightings Archives: June 2019

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘MS Oldenburg’ Lundy-Bideford 22 June 2019

Posted 26 June 2019

Wildlife Officer: Jenny Ball

Weather: Return only - clear, light easterly breeze and slight sea state.

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals
Common Dolphin  2

Seabirds
Fulmar
Gannet
Guillemot
Razorbill
Kittiwake
Herring Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Manx Shearwater

I was fortunate enough to have been staying on Lundy for a few days, so I was pleased to be able to chat to returning passengers on the trip back to Bideford.  It had been a warm and sunny, but breezy day, perfect for enjoying the walks and views on the island, and all those I spoke to had had a marvellous day out.

Common Dolphin Peter Howlett 47
Common Dolphin (Library photo: Peter Howlett)

The major excitement of the trip was a good sighting of two cetaceans, surfacing very close to the port side of the Oldenburg.  Although I didn't see them myself, a number of passengers described them quite confidently, so I'm sure they were Common Dolphin.  There were another couple of brief sightings, and we had several children on dolphin-watch for a while, but sadly no further views.  The crew reported that they had seen a large group of perhaps 40-50 dolphins earlier in the week, and apparently the Lundy warden had also seen them feeding in Jenny's Cove.

Manx Shearwater Peter Howlett 02
Manx Shearwater (Library photo Peter Howlett)

We came across a good number of Manx Shearwater, always a pleasure to watch, and I was able to get a couple of passengers to identify them with confidence.  As we neared Bideford, we passed a returning fishing vessel with a flock of mixed gulls swirling around it but as it was getting late we didn't see many other birds as we sailed up the river.

Our thanks, as ever, go to the Oldenburg's captain Jason and his friendly crew for welcoming us on board their ship.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘MS Oldenburg’ Bideford-Lundy 22 June 2019

Posted 24 June 2019

MARINElife/Lundy WLO Kevin Waterfall

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals:
Common Dolphin 25+
Harbour Porpoise 1
Grey Seal 6

Seabirds:
Herring Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Kittiwake
Fulmar
Guillemot
Razorbill
Puffin
Shag
Gannet
Manx Shearwater
Common Scoter

We left Bideford quayside and sailed down the River Torridge with a good clear commentary over the public address explaining the role of the various buildings on the banks and the history of the region, as well as pointing out gulls, herons, Shelduck and Curlews that were on the mud flats and river edges. My role on board was also announced which helped to make people feel confident in approaching me to ask for advice and information.

Both the outward crossing and my return one on 25th were in good sunshine and a calm sea, for the return it was mirror calm and never above sea state 1. I was very optimistic of some cetacean sightings and whilst there were only two dolphins seen on the way out there were lots of Common Dolphins on the return crossing.

Common Dolphin Peter Howlett 36
Common Dolphin (Library photo: Peter Howlett)

Heading out into the channel, I made my way around the decks to introduce myself to the passengers, asking what their interests were and explaining that MARINElife are now working in partnership with the Landmark Trust who manage Lundy Island, to enhance the crossing by giving guidance and help. It was also helpful as a way to find those people who were keen birders or were watching out for cetaceans.

We had a steady stream of  gulls, auks and Manx Shearwater as we headed for the North Light of Lundy and by the time it was in sight we had witnessed lots of Manx skimming across the surface and seen rafts of Razorbills and Guillemots. We started to pick up Shags as we approached the island and the captain took the Oldenburg along the East Coast such that we could see the gull colonies and some of the Grey Seals that lounge about on the rocks or spy hop from the waters close to Gannet Rock.

Reaching Lundy, quite a few people made their way up to Jenny's cove to watch the Puffins, either on their own, or in one of the guided walks lead by the Island wardens. It's good to see that the two colonies of Puffins have now expanded and a third one is active just north of The Battery. Seabirds are doing well on Lundy and many have increased in the last few years since rats were eradicated.

Puffin Peter Howlett 14
Puffin (Library photo: Peter Howlett)

The return back to Ilfracombe on 25th was a steady flow of sightings of auks, especially families of Guillemot and Razor Bills actively fishing, plus Common Scoter and Gannet and a sighting of a Harbour Porpoise as we left Lundy. The best was yet to come with over 25 Common Dolphins being seen around mid-channel. They were in groups of three to five at a time breaching and leaping out of the water to the great delight of the passengers, especially the primary school party on board. According to the ship's officers this has been common on the return crossings over the last month with up to 50 dolphins at a time.

As ever, huge thanks to the officers and crew of the 'Oldenburg' for their help and assistance.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘MS Oldenburg’ Ilfracombe-Lundy 15 June 2019

Posted 21 June 2019

MARINElife/Lundy WLO Christine Roberts

Summary of sightings:

Cetaceans:
Common Dolphin 2

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

After collecting my ticket from the Shore office I met fellow MARINElife volunteer Hazel, who was to be conducting a  MARINElife survey from the bridge of the ship during our sailing. We boarded the ship and were welcomed by the crew. While Hazel prepared for her survey, I collected my MARINElife Hi-Vis vest and headed out to meet fellow passengers.

Guillemot Peter Howlett 21
Guilemot (Library photo: Peter Howlett)

Although there were some changeable weather conditions on our outward journey, the visibility was good and we were soon enjoying views of a variety of seabirds. Initially, Herring Gull, Lesser and Great Black-backed Gull then later good sightings of Gannet and Guillemot both in flight and resting on the water. Closer to Lundy we began to see good numbers of Manx Shearwater on the wing and a couple of Puffin. As we reached Lundy, a large Grey Seal was hauled out on the rocks near the landing stage and as we waited to disembark, we spotted several moon jellyfish in the clear shallow waters by the ship.

After a brisk walk up the hill, I headed up to Jenny's Cove. A superb sight, particularly at this time of year. The cliffs were alive with constant activity of Puffins outside their burrows, nesting Fulmars and large numbers of Guillemot huddled on the ledges. On the water were good numbers of Puffin and Guillemot with some Razorbills among them.

Common Dolphin Peter Howlett 37
Common Dolphin (Library photo: Peter Howlett)

Heading back to the village, there was time for a cup of tea in the Marisco Tavern and a quick beachcomb before boarding the ship for our return journey. Sunshine and light winds blessed our return sailing.  Seabird sightings were reasonably quiet with Guillemot, Puffin and Gannets seen but as we neared Ilfracombe, 2 Common Dolphin were seen close by on the port side of the ship. A super end to the trip!

We thanked the crew for their assistance and disembarked.

MARINElife Survey Report: 'MS Oldenburg' Ilfracombe-Lundy 15 June 2019

Posted 20 June 2019

Hazel Munt, Research Surveyor for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884; Registered Company No. 5057367)

Summary of sightings

Marine mammals:
Common Dolphin Delphinus delphis 2

Seabirds:
Herring Gull Larus argentatus
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis
Guillemot Uria aalge
Razorbill Alca torda
Puffin Fratercula arctica
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis
Gannet Morus bassanus
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus
Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus
Swallow Hirundo rustica

The morning started beautifully, clear but with nice cloud cover.  I met Christine Roberts the WLO in the que to the tickets and after a little chat whilst the passengers embarked we headed to the ship.  We had the wonderful Jason as captain who as always was extremely welcoming and always helpful. I helped Christine find the leaflets and her HI-VIS. I also had a chat with the rest of the crew before we set off.

Puffin Peter Howlett 13
Puffin (Library photo: Peter Howlett)

Although clear and overcast the sea state was not too forgiving to begin with, especially viewing from the bridge so I had to head to the left side of the outside deck so I wasn't looking through salt spray.  However, we saw a few gull species shortly after setting off and also the odd Fulmar. As we crossed towards Lundy the swell was quite large with a few waves crashing over the bow, despite this we managed to see a few Guillemot and Razorbill. Fortunately, as we got closer to Lundy the swell reduced making it easier to see resting individuals with a few Gannet and even a couple of Puffin logged.

As we neared Lundy we saw the usual coastal species such as Cormorant and Great Black-backed Gull and there was a single Grey Seal hauled out close to the dock. In the calmer waters at the landing stage there were also moon jellies to be seen.

I met up with the WLO and we had a march up the hill and then went our separate ways. I walked to the halfway wall and watched Grey Seals diving and resurfacing along the coast, with Wheatears and Meadow Brown butterflies flying close by and the odd Great Black-backed Gull gliding in the distance.  I then walked over to west side and Jenny's cove and watched the hundreds of auks on the water including many Puffin.

Common Dolphin Rick Morris 01b
Common dolphin (Library photo: Rick Morris)

We headed back for the return journey said hello to Dean and Sian the warden and assistant warden and found our places on the ship, mine on the bridge on the inside this time as the conditions were flat and crystal clear. There still wasn't much to be seen, just a few auks and gulls but as we came parallel to the Devon coast two very showy Common Dolphins made it worth the wait and as we docked back in Ilfracombe we were welcomed by a large number of Herring Gulls flying around. This sudden injection of excitement made a great end to the trip.  I said my goodbyes and thanked Jason and his team and headed back to Woolacombe for the night before my journey home.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘MS Oldenburg’ Ilfracombe-Lundy 1 June 2019

Posted 03 June 2019

MARINElife/Lundy WLO Judith Tatem

Weather: Sunny, warm and dry, wind light SW, sea state slight

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals
Harbour Porpoise 3
Common Dolphin 3
Grey seal 2

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

Wildlife seen on Lundy
Soay sheep
Lundy pony
Highland cattle
Swallow
House Martin
Skylark
Meadow Pipit
Goldfinch
Chaffinch
Wheatear
Starling
House Sparrow
Blackcap
Crow
Linnet
Pied Wagtail
Red Admiral
Common Blue
Small Heath

This was my second trip to Lundy this year and I was really looking forward to seeing how the season had moved on. Once again It was a warm and sunny morning and I joined a very happy group of people on Ilfracombe pier. By 9.30am we were boarding and I went to introduce myself to the Captain, Jason and crew on the bridge. Donning my blue and white MARINElife hi-viz jacket I headed back out on to the deck as we were departing the outer arm of the pier, watched by a group of Herring Gulls, to walk around the decks talking about the wildlife that could be seen at sea and on Lundy.  I also explained about MARINElife and their environmental role.

The early part of the journey was quiet on the wildlife front with just the occasional groups of gulls and distant views of Fulmar and Gannet. About half way out we started to see groups of Guillemot floating on the sea and were entranced by flocks of thirty or more Manx Shearwater skimming over the waves. Nearer to Lundy two Harbour Porpoise approached the boat and dived, followed almost immediately by three Common Dolphin coming alongside and staying around to have a short ride at the stern. Just before we arrived on Lundy a Harbour Porpoise was seen in the distance towards the Hartland coast.

Lundy west coast Judith Tatem 01
Lundy west coast (Judith Tatem)

Arriving on Lundy I decided to head to see the Puffins. On the way from the landing jetty a large Grey Seal bottled in the cove. I passed several plants of the Lundy Cabbage and saw a couple of Common Blue butterflies when passing the garden of Millcombe house. Six weeks after my previous visit to Jenny's Cove there were far more Puffins visible over a wider area of the cliff. Lunch was very stretched out whilst I enjoyed the views and sounds of the sea bird colony and the Atlantic waves below.

On my way back across the island via the Old Light House Wheatears bobbed and Small Heath Butterflies flew amongst the short grasses. On the granite walls Navelwort climbed out of the joints. Down once more on the jetty I found my fellow passengers being entertained by a young Grey seal.

We departed shortly after 4.00pm.  There were far fewer bird sightings on the way back, however the glorious early evening sun highlighted the North Devon coast.  A lovely end to another Lundy trip.  Shortly before arriving in Ilfracombe I went up to the bridge to thank them for their kindness and hospitality.

Navelwort Judith Tatem
Navelwort (Judith Tatem)