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WLO report Ilfracombe-Lundy 9 September

I met up with Captain Jason and the crew of the Oldenburg, and we set out into the Bristol Channel in glorious sunshine and flat calm. How better to spend the hottest & calmest day of the year than with a trip to Lundy? The website ‘Windguru’ had forecast swell of less than 0.1m, so I was very optimistic of some sightings on the glassy sea and in the low-contrast, grey light free of haze.


Heading out into the channel, I made my way around the open decks to introduce myself to the paying passengers and to point out the wildlife that either swam, flew or floated past. I met two passengers who had looked at Lundy from their houses in Devon for forty years but for whom this was a first visit, a climbing botanist who used his skills and equipment to access difficult plants, and another who gig-raced around the island from Bideford but who rarely visited. There were many repeat visitors for whom a regular visit was an essential part of life. Questions and discussions flowed: topics included the vast quantities of flotsam that liberally dotted the channel pretending to be cetaceans, the ethics of swimming with seals, the best place to see seals & Puffins, and whether dragons would predate dolphins (a smart question, as she was only six years old).

Harbour Porpoise (Library photo: Peter Howlett)

The wildlife trip list included three dolphin sp., and a smattering of Porpoises. With the minimal wind coming from the north-east, birds were mostly sitting on the water, enabling discussion of the finer points of Guillemot winter plumage, a single Manx on the outward trip was bettered on the return by ten more, a single Kittiwake, and three Herring Gulls.


In advance of sailing, I had arranged to be added to the Lundy Birders WhatsApp group, so as we docked at Lundy I could advise passengers with the latest news, namely a Rose-coloured Starling in the village, Wryneck in Millcombe and some common migrants. Setting off up the East Side in search of some shade, I soon found a wooded gully that was buzzing with Chiffchaff, with at least eight in three trees, which gave the required encouragement to push on to Millcombe: the Starling & Wryneck were asleep somewhere, but despite the heat, migrants were dropping out of the sky; a Spotted Flycatcher one minute was soon joined by four more plus a Pied, three Swifts materialised out of thin air, and Chiffchaffs were in the oddest of places around the village, always an indication of active migration.

Grey Seal pup (Library photo Grahame Madge)

But all too soon it was time to wend our way down to the boat, where the resident Grey Seals provided the day's highlights, with several cubs on Landing Beach lolling around in the shallow water looking cute.


The return to Ilfracombe saw sporadic sightings of Manx, a smattering of auks and Gannets and a further two Harbour Porpoise well offshore. A floating tree, branches, twigs and all, won the prize for the 'Most Spectacular Flotsam'.


The passengers all had a good time; two elderly ladies saw their first Manx Shearwater, MARINElife leaflets were dispensed, and Simon promises to involve himself more with us.

As ever, huge thanks to the crew of the ‘Oldenburg’ for their help and assistance, and Jason for an inspiring music play list on the bridge.

MARINElife/Lundy WLO Peter Hopkin


Summary of sightings:

Cetaceans

Harbour Porpoise 6

Dolphin sp. 3


Seabirds

Herring Gull 10

Kittiwake 1 juv

Guillemot 20

Shag 10 at Lundy

Gannet 15

Manx Shearwater 11

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