MARINElife Survey Report: 'MS Oldenburg' Ilfracombe-Lundy 15 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.