Ilfracombe or Bideford-Lundy

Sightings Archives: October 2019

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘MS Oldenburg’ Ilfracombe-Lundy 19 October 2019

Posted 25 October 2019

MARINElife/Lundy WLO Annette Dutton

Weather: overcast with a light breeze, sea state slight to moderate

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals
Harbour Porpoise 1
Grey Seal 25+

Lesser Black-backed Gull
Greater Black-backed Gull
Herring Gull

Wildlife seen on Lundy
Soay sheep
Lundy pony
Rock Pipit
Meadow Pipit

It was raining as I walked down to Ilfracombe Harbour but by the time I arrived it had stopped and was clearing up. I collected my ticket and waited in the queue, the passenger numbers were in the 70s again so it was going to be a quiet trip.

The Oldenburg was rolling about a bit as I boarded and I went to the bridge to get my Hi-Viz jacket and to say hello to Jason, the Captain.  As we left the Harbour I could see Lundy in the distance then shortly afterwards a crew member came over and told me they had seen a Harbour Porpoise from the Bridge as we passed Lee Bay.

The Oldenburg was pitching and rolling as we went along and I spotted a Gannet on the water and then started to see more auks, mainly Guillemots.

The sun was shining as we headed into the Channel and then, as we neared Lundy, I noticed a large group of seabirds on the starboard side in the distance near the north end of the Island - they appeared to be mostly Gannets along with auk and gull species but I couldn't see any cetaceans below them.

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Bull Grey Seal (Annette Dutton)

Approaching the jetty, I saw the usual line of Shags atop Mouse Island and several Grey Seals bobbing about with some hauled out on the rocks. As I disembarked, I saw a Barrel Jellyfish by the jetty and a large male Grey Seal on the beach by Devils' Kitchen.

I walked up to the village and continued up the main track turning to pass the Old Light and over to the rocks overlooking the Battery. I sat on the rocks and scanned the sea for cetaceans and seabirds but saw nothing so I returned to the Old Light and sat in the lamp room to make notes. As I left, I had the opportunity to take a peek at the Old Light holiday cottage nearby, a cosy setup for one with stunning views.

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Grey Seals (Annette Dutton)

I walked back to the village and I met up with Rowan, a poet who had been on the Island the last time I was there and we had chatted on the way over. He had returned to present a poem he had written for some of the staff. We walked down to the landing bay and by now there were more seals hauled out on the small beach and on the rocks providing photo opportunities for the passengers.

I boarded the Oldenburg and said goodbye to Dean the Warden as it was my last trip of the season and donned my hi-viz jacket for the return trip. I saw the Barrel Jellyfish again in the water below so took some photos and a short video. The sea was calm and it was still sunny as we left Lundy and as we turned to head eastwards we passed a large group of over 70 seabirds which were confirmed as Kittiwakes by Tim Jones who was onboard.

Barrel Jellyfish Annette Dutton 01
Barrel Jellyfish (Annette Dutton)

It was a pleasant journey and Rowan gave an impromptu performance at the rear of the ship for several passengers which was excellent, he recited the poem he had written for the Lundy staff  -  the poem and a blog about his visit to Lundy is on his website Door to Door poetry.

As we approached Morte Point I saw 2 Gannets and a brief glimpse of a fin, a Harbour Porpoise in the same spot as my previous visit.

Arriving in Ilfracombe I said my goodbyes to Jason and the team and thanked them for their help over the year. This was my 6th season of volunteering as WLO for MARINElife and I want to thank everyone involved for giving me this amazing opportunity and I hope to be back in 2020.

MARINElife Survey Report: 'MS Oldenburg' Ilfracombe-Lundy 12 October 2019

Posted 15 October 2019

Alan Sumnall and Nicola Simpson Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884; Registered Company No. 5057367)

Weather: wind S-SW 2-4, overcast, visibility mainly very good

Summary of sightings

Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 1
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 2
Gannet Morus bassanus 9
Guillemot Uria aalge 23
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 1
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 7
Razorbill Alca torda 1
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 1
Swallow Hirundo rustica 2

We were welcomed on board in Ilfracombe by the friendly crew, then headed up to the bridge to meet the Captain who showed us to our survey location. We set off from Ilfracombe at around 10:00, the weather was dry, but overcast.

Seabird sightings began shortly after we set off with a scattering of Gannet, then Razorbill, Guillemot, Manx Shearwater and finally a couple of Cormorant and a Shag made an appearance as we approached Lundy Island. The MARINElife Wildlife Officer on board spotted a couple of Common Dolphin along the way which managed to avoid getting recorded on the survey. We arrived at Lundy Island around midday and were greeted with sightings of Grey seal in the harbour, including a pup making his way across the beach into the water.

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Guillemot (Library photo: Peter Howlett)

We spent several hours walking around the island, taking in the sights of the stunning coastline. Whilst on the island we spotted a variety of birds, including Rock Pipit, Meadow Pipit and Wheatear.

We returned to the MS Oldenburg for our return journey and set off just before 16:00. The weather on the way back was overcast, but sea conditions were excellent. A variety of birds were spotted on our return, including Black-headed Gull, Herring Gull, Gannet and Guillemot. A couple of Swallow also flew alongside us mid-way.  We made excellent time and arrived back in to Ilfracombe at around 17:30 and disembarked the MS Oldenburg.

Once again our thanks go to the Captain and very helpful and friendly staff and crew of the MS Oldenburg who made this a very enjoyable crossing.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘MS Oldenburg’ Ilfracombe-Lundy 12 October 2019

Posted 14 October 2019

MARINElife/Lundy WLO Steve McAusland

Weather: cloudy, cool and breezy, wind SW, sea state 4

Summary of sightings:

Marine mammals
Common Dolphin 2
Grey Seals 33

Black-headed Gull
Herring Gull
Manx Shearwater

Birds on Lundy
Water Rail (heard in Milcombe)
Spotted Flycatcher
Greylag Goose
Carrion Crow
House Sparrow
House Martin
Sand Martin
Meadow Pipit

My last Lundy trip of 2019 began in Ilfracombe on a rather dull and breezy morning, having checked in with the staff of the shore office and joined the passengers on the quay to board the MS Oldenburg.

I made my way to the bridge to meet Jason Mugford the Captain and to also meet fellow MARINElife surveyors Nicola Simpson and Alan Sumnall who were doing the monthly Lundy survey.

As the ship left Ilfracombe harbour I noticed that there were plenty of Herring Gulls rafting on the sea. I then started to move around the ship to meet some of the passengers to talk about MARINElife and to tell them what they might see during the crossings to and from the Island.

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Common Dolphin (Library photo: Steve McAusland)

The ship was moving at speed in the direction of Lundy and as it passed by the Bull Lighthouse two Common Dolphins passed the port side giving a brief view to myself and a couple of passengers. Moving towards the island the birds seen were limited to just eight species. We arrived at the Landing bay and could see many Grey Seals hauled out on the rocks and a few also swimming around the jetty, much to the delight of the disembarking visitors.

Goldcrest Steve McAusland 01
Goldcrest (Library photo: Steve McAusland)

I spent time in the Milcombe area looking for birds of note, Blackcaps were everywhere as were Goldcrests. Swallows could be seen flying very close over the bracken and I heard a Water Rail near the walled garden! I spent some time there then I walked up the main track and back in search of other notables birds, two Ravens and many Wheatears were seen along with good numbers of mixed hirundines. Before returning to the jetty for the return journey I stopped off in Milcombe and caught sight of three Spotted Flycatchers.

The same birds were seen on route and we arrived back in Ilfracombe where I thanked the Captain and crew for supporting MARINElife and I look forward to hopefully more trips in 2020.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘MS Oldenburg’ Ilfracombe-Lundy 5 October 2019

Posted 06 October 2019

MARINElife/Lundy WLO Annette Dutton

Weather: overcast with a westerly breeze, sea state moderate

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals
Harbour Porpoise 1 (2 by passengers)
Grey Seal c.30 + 6 pups

Lesser Black-backed Gull
Greater Black-backed Gull
Great Skua

Wildlife seen on Lundy
Soay sheep
Lundy pony
Rock Pipit
House Martin
Meadow Pipit

I had not been over to Lundy for some time and this was one of my last trips for 2019 so I wanted to make the most of it. I arrived at Ilfracombe Harbour and popped into the office to collect my ticket, I remarked that it seemed very quiet and was told that there were only 75 passengers going over which didn't surprise me as the weather had been dreadful on Friday.

I met some of the Lundy 'regulars' on the quayside and after a short wait, we boarded the Oldenburg and I went to the bridge to get my Hi-Viz jacket and to say hello to Paul, the Captain. We left Ilfracombe and the outward journey passed very quietly, I chatted to the passengers as we rolled along and the only seabirds I saw were 2 Guillemots, one being a juvenile.

About halfway across it started to rain and visibility was poor, the people on the top deck moved below and then as we approached Lundy the rain cleared and the sun came out. I didn't see any more seabirds apart from the usual line of Shag atop Mouse Island and several Grey Seals beginning to haul out on the rocks.

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Grey Seal pup (Annette Dutton)

I disembarked and stayed on the pier to take photos of the seals and was alerted by Dean, the warden, to a pup behind me. Having taken some photos of that one I started walking up towards the village and saw that there were 5 more Grey Seal pups on the beach so I stopped again to take photos being careful not to disturb them.

Continuing towards the village I took the turning to the left and made my way up the grassy slope to my favourite bench by Hanmers Cottage. The sun was shining and I could hear the seals below and Meadow Pipits flitting about then a Peregrine Falcon flew over me at speed scattering the Crows. I also noticed a Gannet circling over the Landing bay then flocks of House Martins and Swallows passed overhead.

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Grey Seal pup (Annette Dutton)

I headed over to the Castle and saw the Peregrine flying below me and counted over 15 Grey Seals on the rocks, continuing to the village I stopped to check out the Radio Room accommodation where  a friend of mine was staying then carried on to the shop to get a cold drink.

Time had passed quickly so I began walking back down to the bay and as I came out of Millcombe Valley I saw 4 Grey Seals swimming along below then as I got further down, I saw that the seal pups were still fast asleep on the beach. The seal on the slipway was oblivious to the people milling about and I boarded the Oldenburg ready for the return journey.

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Grey Seals hauled out (Annette Dutton)

There were now over 30 Grey Seals hauled out on the rocks and the Captain steered the Oldenburg past them so that the passengers could get a better look. Further out I spotted a large brown seabird with white flashes on it's wings - excellent, a Great Skua!!!

As we neared the North Devon coast I was approached by one of the passengers who told me that they had seen 2 Harbour Porpoise and shortly afterwards as we passed Morte Point I saw one very briefly.