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From our WLO Ilfracombe-Lundy 8 October

Updated: Oct 12, 2022

Summary of sightings:

Marine mammals Harbour Porpoise 1

Common Dolphin 2 (possibly) Grey Seal 25 Seabirds Herring Gull Lesser Black-backed Gull Great Black-backed Gull Fulmar Guillemot Oystercatcher Shag Gannet At Ilfracombe harbour I met up with Rick and Grahame, the surveyors for the trip, and we joined the queue of passengers waiting to board at the far end of the quay. We also had a group of Lundy Field Society (LFS) volunteers on board who were going over to carry out tasks including work on the Heligoland trap. On the front deck was an animal trailer with the rams going over to serve the ewes of the domestic sheep flock.

Boarding the Oldenburg in Ilfracombe (Kevin Waterfall)

As we left Ilfracombe the sun was shining, and people were looking forward to a chance to visit the island on one of the last sailings of the season. The weather forecast of force 2-4 from Captain Paul indicated a smooth crossing, which it was both ways. As I started to move around the ship my role on board was announced, which encouraged people to come and talk with me about what they hoped to see and where to visit on the island. Everyone was engaged and wanting to talk about the possible whales, seals, dolphins and porpoises they might see. Several people had videos on their phones of Common Dolphin that they had seen when on boats around the UK coast and in the Mediterranean. Early on we had a wonderful close proximity fly past of an adult Gannet at main deck level and only a couple of metres from the starboard side.

Adult Gannet (Library photo: Peter Howlett)

Gannet and Guillemot were the most frequent bird sightings and even more so during the return journey. Harbour Porpoise was seen on the return and some people reported seeing Common Dolphin away to the north. As we were mooring to the jetty in Landing Bay we could see about 20 Grey Seal on the rocks near Rat Island, with a few spy-hopping in the water. The walk along the road to the village revealed 4 white seal pups on the beaches with parents looking over them from the shore. Sadly, there were also two dead seal pups, victims of recent storms that had lashed the island.

Grey Seal pup (Kevin Waterfall)

We had arrived amid a swirling cloud of Hirundines, with Swallow and House Martin flying everywhere. There were so many up on the top of the island that the Marisco had to keep its sash windows closed to stop them accidentally flying in. The juvenile Rosy Starling was still around the village. Migration was still very much in evidence with a lot of Blackcap, Siskin, and other finches in Milcombe as we went up and down between the village and the ship. Our surveyors, the assistant wardens and some other birders on the island were fortunate enough to see and photograph a male Baltimore Oriole, a North American species that had found its way to Lundy and was amongst bushes at the head of Milcombe (see the survey report for photos of this colourful bird).

Immature Rosy Starling (Rick Morris)

Our return journey was very smooth and due to an incoming tide, we docked in Ilfracombe after a swift 1 hour 40 minute crossing.

As ever huge thanks to the officers and crew of the ‘Oldenburg’ for their help and assistance.

MARINElife/Lundy WLO Kevin Waterfall

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