Ilfracombe or Bideford-Lundy

Sightings Archives: September 2019

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘MS Oldenburg’ Ilfracombe-Lundy 14 September 2019

Posted 17 September 2019

MARINElife/Lundy WLO Steve McAusland

Weather: warm and sunny, slight breeze, good visibility

Summary of sightings

Marine Mammals
Harbour Porpoise 3
Common Dolphin 26
Grey Seal 9

Birds at sea
Great Black-backed Gull
Herring Gull

Birds on Lundy
Spotted Flycatcher
Willow Warbler
House Martin
Sand Martin
House Sparrow
Carrion Crow
Meadow Pipit

As I arrived in Ilfracombe on a beautiful sunny morning the queue on the quay was very long and, as I found out later, the ship was full! I met Jason the Captain on the bridge and also Mary Ferry who was onboard for this month's MARINElife Lundy survey.

Harbour Porpoise Steve McAusland 02
Harbour Porpoise (Library photo: Steve McAusland)

As the ship left the harbour, we soon had three Harbour Porpoise feeding along the rocks. They were seen by quite a few passengers who were delighted to catch sight of these cetaceans. Birds on route were sparse, however, whilst talking to some of the passengers we spotted two groups of three Common Dolphins under many Gannets that were diving from great heights!

Upon arriving at Lundy I made my way up to Millcombe to look for Spotted Flycatchers and within a few minutes I managed to see four along with some other birds as listed above. The afternoon was spent looking for a recently recorded Black-headed Bunting but sadly there was no sign of it.

Common Dolphin Steve McAusland 01a
Common Dolphin (Library photo: Steve McAusland)

The journey back was very pleasant with 20 Common Dolphins putting on a wonderful show that was seen by nearly everyone on the top deck. Arriving back in Ilfracombe I thanked the Captain and crew for continuing to support MARINElife and I look forward to my final trip of the year in October.

MARINElife Survey Report: 'MS Oldenburg' Ilfracombe-Lundy 14 September 2019

Posted 16 September 2019

Mary Ferry, Research Surveyor for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884; Registered Company No. 5057367)

Weather: Westbound: Sunny with glare, sea state 1, with very slight swell
Eastbound: Sunny with glare, sea state 1 inc. 2 half way across, with slight swell

Summary of sightings

Marine mammals:
Common Dolphin Delphinus delphis 32 in 2 groups

Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 2Fulmar  Fulmarus glacialis 4
Gannet  Morus bassanus 28
Guillemot Uria aalge 89
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 6
Cormorant Phalacrocorax aristotelis 7
Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus 1

It was a mild, sunny day with over 240 visitors boarding MS Oldenburg, many of whom were staying on the island for a holiday of seven days or longer. The quay was very busy with a visiting fayre that had appeared during the week, restricting the queuing space and adding to the excitement.

The crossing was soon underway and within 15 minutes we had a display of over 20 Gannet feeding to port, close to shore, with very agitated water and plenty of dives to excite passengers sitting on that side of the ship. Thereafter sightings were less dramatic consisting of a few small groups of 1-3 Guillemot, a couple of potential Puffins before we came across two large rafts of Guillemot, one straight ahead and another 15 minutes later to starboard. As we approached Lundy, a Great Crested Grebe was sitting on the water preening itself. As we approached harbour, three Grey Seals came to inspect proceedings, one pup hauled itself onto the rocks for a better look, under the guidance of its mother, another pup was in the water close by.

Guillemot Rick Morris 02a
Guillemot (Library photo: Rick Morris)

Once on the island it was obvious that the beaches were off limits due to the pupping season and the information available suggested the seabird colonies were quiet, with most young fledged, so I headed for the centre of the island. I took cover from the heat and explored the farm and the abundance of Swallows and insects for them to feed on. It was a beautiful day, the sky criss-crossed with plane trails and no real clouds in sight.

On getting back to the harbour to board for the return trip, the same three seals entertained the passengers with their inquisitiveness, daring to come closer and then deciding better of it, repeating this sequence several times much to the amusement of the passengers.

There were many more bird sightings on the return trip with many Guillemots rafting, mixed with a few Razorbills. About halfway across a group of 20 Common Dolphin were sighted dead ahead, leaping to both port, starboard and dead ahead. They came close to the ship as we passed through them to port, some joined us to bowride, causing much excitement among the passengers. The dolphins headed off to the west.

Common Dolphin Peter Howlett 062
Common Dolphin (Library photo: Peter Howlett)

After another 20 minutes, another pod of Common Dolphin were spotted to starboard a long way off but close enough to spot the leaping, some almost out of the water. This was a smaller pod, maybe of 12 or so individuals who were also heading to the wester. A pair of noisy Fulmar to port caught some attention but as we came nearer to Ilfracombe sightings quietened down once more.

My thanks go to the Captain and crew of the Oldenburg for allowing me on board to continue this survey. The additional sightings from the bridge were gratefully received.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘MS Oldenburg’ Ilfracombe-Lundy 7 September 2019

Posted 08 September 2019

MARINElife/Lundy WLO Scott Handy

Weather: Light northerly wind, sea state 3, warm, with blue sky and light cloud.

Summary of sightings

Marine mammals:
Common Dolphin 1
Grey Seal 17

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

Other wildlife seen on Lundy:
Highland cattle
Lundy pony
Soay sheep
Carrion Crow
House Sparrow
Grey Heron
Meadow Pipit
Large White
Meadow Brown
Red Admiral
Painted Lady

At 09:15 the 175 Oldenburg passengers were met by a glorious clear blue sky with scattered light cloud, the air was warm and there was a gentle northerly breeze blowing into the harbour. There were several species of gulls circling above and hanging out on the rocks and only minutes after setting sail out into the bay our journey crossed paths with a curious and seemingly very large Grey Seal. I chatted with many passengers on the outbound voyage, several of whom talked excitedly of their previous experiences with whales and dolphins and their admiration of the island's iconic Puffins. For the majority of the outward journey it was incredibly quiet for birdlife, with sporadic sightings of Gannet, a few Manx Shearwater and a couple of Fulmar. As we approached Lundy we spotted the occasional Guillemot, a Shag or two and quite a few gulls.

Grey Seal Andrew Stephens 01
Grey Seals (Andrew Stephens)

As we disembarked the Oldenburg we were greeted by a group of four Grey Seals basking in the sun on the rocks and another two were spotted close by in the water which was a great welcoming. With only three and a half hours until boarding for the return journey I was determined to embark on a mega stomp to explore the island. I was keen to spot the resident Kestrel and Peregrine Falcon but I was not blessed with such luck. However, I caught sight of an array of birdlife including several species of seabirds on the cliffs, the Grey Heron at Pondbury, many butterflies, caterpillars and countless bumblebees and beetles. It was a glorious and very pleasurable wildlife hike.

House Sparrow Andrew Stephens 01
House Sparrows (Andrew Stephens)

As I met the passengers at the dock waiting to board the Oldenburg, the group of Grey Seals had expanded to 17 which was a fantastic send off. The voyage back was similar to the outward journey with only small numbers of seabirds, until we hit the jackpot. Upon hearing a passengers call of excitement letting out a big 'wooooooooooow' as I turned around I was amazed to see a sole Common Dolphin leaping several times clear out of the water just 15 metres or so from the boat. All of the passengers, as well as myself, were chuffed to have been blessed with such a sighting, but as quickly as it arrived it disappeared also. Approaching the mainland around Woolacombe and Mortehoe we spotted many Gannets and gulls along the breath-taking and dramatic rocky coast towards Ilfracombe. Sadly no Harbour Porpoises but on the whole it was a fantastic sail and an amazing day out with nature. I'd like to thank Captain Jason and all of the Oldenburg crew for another enjoyable trip.