MARINElife Survey Report: Condor Ferries ‘ Condor Rapide’ Jersey-Guernsey-St Malo-Jersey survey 21 March 2015

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

Weather: Early morning mist soon clearing to good visibility with sunny spells. Occasional fog patches to the west. Wind NE 2 increasing 4 through day. Sea temperature 8C, air temperature 10C.

Summary of species recorded:

Seabirds
Gannet Morus bassanus 2
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 8
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 11
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 10
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 1
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 5
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 2
Razorbill Alca torda 7
Guillemot Uria aalge 2

Terrestrial birds
Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus 26

Our early morning departure coincided with another of this year's 'supertides'. High tide was at 07:00 and reached a spectacular 39.5 feet (12.1 metres) above datum. Departure time was scheduled for 08:30, this was delayed slightly due to the large number of local VIPs travelling across to Guernsey to board the brand new Condor Liberation in St Peter Port and travel back to St Helier later in the day.

Shag Peter Howlett 01
Shag (archive photo: Peter Howlett)

We were welcomed aboard by Cabin Manager Virginie, who took us to the bridge to meet Captain Mark South after we had left port. He informed us that he would be with for all three legs of the journey and also raised expectations by telling us there had been cetacean sightings on the previous two days.

The trip to St Peter Port only takes about an hour. The sea was smooth and visibility good. No cetaceans were seen but we did see several species of seabirds, including Kittiwake, Gannet and Razorbill.

On arrival in St Peter Port we had a clear view of the new Condor Liberation, awaiting her VIP guests. We departed on schedule and headed for St Malo and turned south into the morning sunshine, which made the viewing rather challenging. As the trip progressed it clouded over completely, allowing us full view of the ocean ahead of us. The two hour journey again held no cetaceans and the bird life was sparse. The majority of the sightings were gulls plus a couple of Guillemot.

It was approaching low water when we arrived in St Malo. A very low tide had encouraged the locals out in large numbers. The extended beaches were covered in bait diggers and families gathering shellfish buried in the exposed sand. As always we had a very pleasant stop in the quaint, walled-city of St Malo.

Razorbill Peter Howlett 02
Razorbill (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

The wind had picked up to a force 4-5 for the return journey and unfortunately, once again, there were no cetaceans but we did see a good number of Shag throughout the journey plus a nice group of Oystercatchers at the outset.

We were greeted by fireworks as we approached St Helier, this clearly wasn't for us but for the arrival of Condor Liberation and her esteemed guests! It seemed the whole Condor fleet had arrived in Jersey waters at the same time, with the Commodore Goodwill at anchor, the Commodore Clipper approaching from the direction of Noirmont and the Condor Vitesse about depart from her birth alongside the new Condor Liberation.

We would like to thank all the staff aboard the Condor Rapide, who helped us throughout the day.