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

Seabirds
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Greater Black-backed Gull
Guillemot
Shag
Gannet
Great Skua

Wildlife seen on Lundy
Soay sheep
Lundy pony
Swallow
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.

Grey Seal Annette Dutton 18
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.

Grey Seal Annette Dutton 17
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.

Grey Seal Annette Dutton 19
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.