MARINElife Survey Report: Condor Ferries ‘ Condor Rapide’ St Helier-St Malo 18-19 July 2015

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

Weather: A slow moving area of low pressure affected our journeys over the 2 days, with a blanket of low cloud and wet conditions. Wind: NE 3 or less, sea state 3 or less. Air temperature: 18C

Summary of sightings:

Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 1
Gannet Morus bassanus 17
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 9
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 2
Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus 1
Great Skua Stercorarius skua 1
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 10
Lesser black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 4
Great black-backed Gull Larus marinus 9

We would like to say a special thank you to Rachael Geddes, Condor Ferries reservations manager, for her help in providing our places for the survey to St Malo, as it was a particularly busy weekend due to the school holidays and Jersey's regular arrival and departure of STS students from Scandinavia.

Whilst waiting for boarding we were delighted to see about 40 Swift flying over the harbour, many of which were visiting nest holes in the harbour wall.

We were warmly greeted by Dorothee Thomas, Cabin Manager, who checked with Captain Peter Aldous straight away that it would be alright to join him on the bridge and set up for the survey before we set sail. Captain Aldous mentioned that they had seen a pod of dolphins on the outward journey that morning.

Manx Shearwater Peter Howlett 11a
Manx Shearwater (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

Our departure was slightly delayed due to the arrival of Condor Ferries' Commodore Clipper which berthed beside us.

We set off at 19:10 and Able Seaman Christopher offered to bring us refreshments, which was most welcome. Light rain at the start increased to a persistent heavy drizzle but thanks to Able Seaman Julien, who showed us how to use the windscreen wipers, we were able to proceed without hindrance from the deteriorating weather conditions.

Julien was keen to inform us a single dolphin had been seen earlier that day, in the approaches to St Malo harbour, which he presumed was either an elderly or sick individual. He also added that 2 Orcas had been seen recently in the St Brieuc area.

During the first half of the trip we had regularly sightings of Gannet with the occasional gull but the highlight was a single Manx Shearwater. The latter half included a Shag plus Lesser and Great Black-backed and Herring Gulls. Sadly, no cetaceans. We arrived in the port of St Malo at 20:20 and on this occasion the trip entailed a very enjoyable stopover at the Hotel Cartier in St Malo.

The return journey departed St Malo at 17:20 with the crew remained unchanged from the day before. Captain Aldous reported further cetacean sightings, both on the early morning departure and the arrival from Jersey that evening, including a pod of 8!

Great Skua Peter Howlett 05
Great Skua (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

We were soon installed on the bridge and ready to survey. Unfortunately it rained continuously during the trip back, with visibility reducing to less than one kilometre at times. The usual suspects were seen throughout the journey with the highlight most definitely being a Great Skua east of the Minquiers reef. Sadly, despite the recent sightings, no cetaceans were seen during the return trip.

We would like to thank all the staff aboard the Condor Rapide who made us feel most welcome and helped us throughout the survey.