MARINElife survey report: Condor Ferries 'Condor Rapide' Guernsey/Jersey-St Malo 25 October 2014

Rick Morris and Allison Caldeira, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884; Registered Company No. 5057367)

Weather: Visibility good, wind 3-4 predominantly from the southwest

Summary of sightings:

Common Scoter Melanitta nigra c80
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 1
Sooty Shearwater Puffinus griseus 1
Balearic Shearwater Puffinus mauretanicus 4
Gannet Morus bassanus 3
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 21
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 5
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 3
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 1
Guillemot Uria aalge 1

Terrestrial Birds:
Mallard Anas platyrhynchos 4
Passerine Sp. 6

For this month's survey the route was slightly different in that it would run Guernsey-St Malo-Jersey rather than the usual Jersey-St Malo-Jersey. So I first had to travel from Weymouth to Guernsey, where I enjoyed a few hours looking around the island before boarding the Condor Rapide for its sailing to St Malo. Once on board I met up with Allison, MARINElife's latest volunteer surveyor from Jersey and we were escorted straight to the bridge by the very helpful service manager. We were welcomed onto the bridge by Captain Simon Bagshot and shortly after leaving our berth, we commenced our survey.

Balearic Shearwater Tom Brereton 07
Balearic Shearwater (Archive photo: Tom Brereton)

The first half hour out was very quiet but then we had our first sighting - 4 endangered Balearic Shearwater, which obligingly flew straight though the 'box'. Then followed a solitary adult Gannet and a single Manx Shearwater tracking down the starboard side. The rest of the trip to St Malo was punctuated with Herring Gull and Shag sightings. We did not see any cetaceans throughout the survey, mostly due to a sea state of four!

Leaving St Malo behind us, we recommenced the survey to a very smart looking Great Black-backed Gull, more Shag and then c80 Common Scoter. A lone Guillemot flew past the bow followed by a juvenile Great Black-backed Gull. I was talking to Allison about shearwater species that we may encounter when I spotted a lone Sooty Shearwater sat on the surface ahead of us. As we neared, it took flight and very kindly banked off to the right showing its dark all over plumage with contrasting silvery underwing patterning. The last half hour or so of the survey produced a few Shag and a single Gannet. Again we did not see any cetaceans even though the sea state had dropped to 2-3.

Sooty Shearwater Peter Howlett 02
Sooty Shearwater (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

Arriving at St Helier, Jersey, we said our farewells to the bridge crew and left feeling that, although fairly quiet in species and numbers seen, it was still a very enjoyable and informative survey, especially as we had recorded 3 species of shearwater.

Many thanks to Captain Simon Bagshot and crew of the Condor 'Rapide' for welcoming us aboard to carry out this survey. I would also like to convey my thanks to all the Condor staff for always going that 'extra mile' to help and support MARINElife and our work.