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Ilfracombe-Lundy survey report 21 August 2021

Kevin Waterfall and Matthew Waterfall, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884; Registered Company No. 5057367)


Outbound: weather was overcast but cleared to sunny intervals, wind SE 3 and there was a 3m swell by mid channel.

Return: smoother but overcast, with reduced visibility and several light to moderate rain showers.

What a privilege it was to be the first surveyors on this route since Covid; all thanks go to the Lundy Company, the shore crew and the marine crew of the Oldenburg for letting us get back to doing what we love.

After boarding the Oldenburg, we were welcomed by the ship’s Captain (Paul) and his crew who showed us where to find the necessary information to complete our survey. The ship sailed with nearly a full complement of passengers, departing Ilfracombe promptly at 10am. The rain held off and the sun broke through on the morning crossing giving us an ever clearer view of the island.

Approaching Lundy (Kevin Waterfall)

We briefly saw two small pods of Common Dolphin off the starboard bow which crossed in front of the ship. Apart from gulls close to the North Devon coast our most common sightings were Manx Shearwater, Gannet and Fulmar, with only a couple of auks. As we came into Landing Bay we were at the low point of the spring tides and there were 6 Grey seals hauled out on the rocks of Rat Island. The warden, Dean, said that the first seal pups had been born and that was why the beach between Rat Island and the Jetty was closed. Another pup was located on a beach further up the island.

Manx Shearwater (Library photo: Peter Howlett)

Going ashore on Lundy the youngest of our survey team did a bit of snorkelling in Landing Bay; the water of the Bristol Channel is still surprisingly cool, but it is crystal clear. On this trip the Puffins and other auks had departed for their winter life at sea, so after lunch we focussed on a coastal walk around the southern part of the island. There were still some Northern Wheatear in the grasslands and Milcombe valley had a variety of small birds including Whitethroat, Greenfinch and Whinchat. All around the coast there are Grey Seals spy-hopping in rocky coves and quite a lot of Shag sitting on the rocks. A few of the feral goats were grazing over the cliff edge near the Devil’s Limekiln.

It was good to see that life on the island is returning to normal and we could get lunch in the Marisco Tavern with just a light touch of Covid controls to keep us all safe. The island staff have managed the Covid situation brilliantly and staying guests have had wonderful experiences.

Common Dolphin (Library photo: Peter Howlett)

The return journey was almost flat calm so we had a better view of two small pods of dolphins, as well as a seal lazing in the water about mid-crossing. The ship sailed close to the coast on the return and we had good views of the cliffs, tunnels and beaches before entering the harbour.

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

Summary of species recorded

Marine Mammals

Common Dolphin Delphinus delphis 15

Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus 11


Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 4

Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 10

Gannet Morus bassanus 43

Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 9

Guillemot Uria aalge 2

Herring Gull Larus argenteus, 301

Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 6

Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 80

Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus 5

Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 7

Gull sp. 15

Terrestrial Birds

Kestrel Falco tinnunculus 1

Rock Pipit Anthus petrosus 2

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