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

Seabirds:
Herring Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Kittiwake
Manx Shearwater
Gannet
Guillemot
Shag

Other wildlife seen on Lundy:
Highland cattle
Lundy pony
Soay sheep
Carrion Crow
Raven
Blackbird
Chaffinch
Swallow
House Sparrow
Starling
Skylark
Grey Heron
Meadow Pipit
Linnet
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.