Jill and Bob Tompkins, Research Surveyors for MARINElife
Out: wind - very slight southwesterly breeze, visibility fair with occasional fog
Return: wind - very light westerly breeze, visibility good
Summary of sightings:
Bottlenose Dolphin Tursiops truncatus 5
Gannet Morus bassanus 29
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 11
Common Gull Larus canus 1
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 24
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 2
On a stunningly blue, warm morning Jill and I boarded Condor Rapide, called at the Pursers desk to present ourselves and were whisked up to the bridge to be warmly greeted by Peter Aldous, our skipper for our morning journey to St Malo. Ten minutes into our trip and barely set up and observing, we sighted a small pod of Bottlenose dolphins crossing our bow, heading southeast. The group passed so quickly that neither of us gave a thought to grabbing the camera as we recorded position, heading, speed etc. Five minutes later a bank of fog appeared and quickly enveloped us. Almost just as quickly it began to thin and we were able to recommence recording. Sadly no more dolphins, though there were a number of adult Herring Gulls with the occasional adult Gannet travelling around us right up to our arrival in St Malo.
Bottlenose Dolphin (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)
Fully restored after a leisurely lunch we boarded the Rapide and once again were taken straight up to the bridge having been met at the pursers desk by Mark South, our skipper for the return journey. On this journey it was immediately obvious that there were more seabirds flying about in a business-like manner. The closer we came to the Minquiers Reef the more feeding activity was recorded, culminating in plunging Gannets scattered across our bow. So quick it could have been missed and very close to the morning sightings a single Bottlenose Dolphin appeared right in front of the bow before back flipping and heading away to the west.
A lesson learnt: be ready with the camera as things happen quickly at 36 knots!
As we neared Jersey the feeding activity subsided and normal service was resumed till the end of the survey and our arrival home.
We feel that the variation in sightings comparing morning and afternoon sailings can partially be accounted for by changes in tidal flow and the movement of fish stocks within the tidal streams.
At the start it was immediately clear to us that the Condor personnel knew what our requirements, aims and objectives as MARINElife surveyors were and could not have been more helpful or professional. The whole survey was a rewarding experience.