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

Seabirds
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Greater Black-backed Gull
Guillemot
Gannet
Cormorant
Shag
Kittiwake
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.

Grey Seal Annette Dutton 21
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.

Grey Seal Annette Dutton 22
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.