MARINElife Report: Condor Ferries ‘Commodore Goodwill’ and ‘Condor Rapide’ Jersey-St Malo 18 April 2018

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

Weather: Mostly sunny with occasional cloudy spells, wind W light veering N later

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals
Bottlenose Dolphin Tursiops truncatus 16

Seabirds
Gannet Morus bassanus 17
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 10
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 8
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 12
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 5
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 4
Guillemot Uria aalge 1

Terrestrial birds
Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica 1

This was our first experience of the Condor freight ship Commodore Goodwill and we were looking forward to the slower journey for our survey to St Malo, with the hope of seeing much more from the spacious bridge and outer deck.

Upon our arrival at the terminal we were taken to the ship by Peter who handed us over to crew members Yuri and Leanna. They in turn introduced us to Captain Rad Zelazny. The Captain greeted us warmly and explained that the departure time had been moved to 10.00 and we were therefore most welcome to enjoy a cooked breakfast and time to relax in our cabin. Both of these suggestions were received with enthusiasm and totally refreshed we made our way to the bridge at 09.45.

It turned out to be a beautiful calm Saturday morning with excellent visibility all around,  including through the glass panel beneath our feet!  Despite this, the bird count was sparse to say the least with only a couple of Shag and Gannet to record, along with a migrating Swallow.

BND Peter Howlett 27
Bottlenose Dolphin (Library photo: Peter Howlett)

The disappointing bird count was soon forgotten when we saw our first pod of 5 Bottlenose Dolphin swimming across the bow. Much to our delight they remained in sight for 3 to 4 minutes. Just 20 minutes later a second, larger pod of 11 Bottlenose Dolphin joined us and hung around for a little longer than the previous group.

The Second Officer Paul, who had taken over from the Captain, mentioned they very rarely see cetaceans on this route so this was a real treat. The birds trickled through during the 5 hour journey with a few more Gannet and Shag, and several different types of gull.

We arrived in St Malo at 15.00 BST and as we were due to check in just 45 minutes later, for a 17.30 departure on the Condor Rapide we decided to remain in the terminal for some time off our feet and much needed refreshment.

We embarked just before 17.00 and cabin staff Virginie and Herve took us straight to the bridge to meet Captain Mark South, who offered us hot beverages which we accepted gratefully.

As we left the coast of Brittany there were less bird sightings than on previous surveys, presumably because most seabirds are now nesting. Amongst the usual Gannets, Shags, Cormorants and Gulls we had the good fortune to see a Guillemot at close quarters.

Guillemot Peter Howlett 19
Guillemot (Library photo: Peter Howlett)

Tired but satisfied we had achieved a thorough survey we stopped recording at 17.30 BST just after seeing an interesting dark shadow pass at the bow of the boat, which we narrowed down to being a member of the skua family.

We would like to thank all the Condor staff who looked after us throughout the day and also  those in the office who organised everything behind the scenes.