Portsmouth-Cherbourg

Recent Sightings

MARINElife blog: Condor Ferries (Commodore Clipper) Portsmouth – Cherbourg (8th August 2016)

Posted 19 August 2016

Adrian Shephard, Tess Milton and Charlotte Paige-Ely; Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884)

Weather:

SW 3 - 6 with heavy fog on outbound crossing

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals:
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 3

Seabirds:
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 11
Gannet Morus bassanus 105
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 1
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 38
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 6
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 21
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 2
Unidentifed Gull Sp. 7
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 6
Manx Shearwarer Puffinus puffinus 15
Balearic Shearwater Puffinus mauretanicus 15
Unidentified Shearwater Sp. 16
Guillemot Uria aalge 1

Terrestrial Birds:
Pigeon Columba sp. 28
Ring Plover Charadrius hiaticula 1

 

Tess Milton and Charlotte Paige-ElyWe met at Portsmouth ferry terminal full of anticipation for the trip to Cherbourg. For Tess and Charlotte, this marked their first survey for MARINElife and after explaining the processes on-board, we were driven aboard Commodore Clipper.

We waited in the crew mess for the departure and discussed the crossing. I mentioned that it was a good time of year for observing Balearic Shearwater, a globally threatened seabird which comes to the English Channel at this time of year to moult and feed and proceeded to describe the differences with the more common Manx Shearwater.

Balearic and Manx Thomas Fisher 01After passing through the Solent, we headed up to the bridge where we were warmly welcomed by the officers and commenced the survey. It was a relatively slow start with a few gulls and the odd Gannet and before we knew it, we were into fog which plagued most of the out-bound crossing, set in. It stayed with us and only cleared around 45 minutes out from Cherbourg, meaning sightings were light with just a few Racing Pigeon and the odd Gannet to keep us occupied.

With the coast of France in sight, seabird numbers and variety began to increase and on seeing some shearwaters to port, I moved to take a better look and promptly asked Tess and Charlotte to come over. There was a small group of Balearic Shearwater actively feeding in association with a couple of Manx and a pair were flying together providing a great opportunity to point out the differences.

Gannet Adrian Shephard 15A further group of Balearics then followed and a handful of gulls as we headed into port. After a swift turn around, we were back on the bridge for the departure.

All the shearwaters had moved off but a fleeting sighting of 3 Harbour Porpoise off the starboard side were our only cetaceans of the trip. Birds remained fairly steady on the return with Gannet of mixed ages, Lesser and Great Black-backed Gull and Fulmar using the increasing wind to their advantage. A brief bridge fly-past from a Ring Plover was also appreciated by all of us. Spinnaker Tower

Gull numbers increased as we passed the Isle of Wight and with the sun beginning to set, we reflected on a great day at sea. Our thanks to the crew of Commodore Clipper and all at Condor Ferries for their support.

Photos:
Survey Team (Adrian Shephard)
Balearic and Manx Shearwaters (Thomas Fisher)
3rd Year Gannet (Adrian Shephard)
Spinnaker Tower (Adrian Shephard)

MARINElife blog: Condor Ferries (Commodore Clipper) Portsmouth – Cherbourg (3rd July 2016)

Posted 06 July 2016

Carol Farmer-Wright, David Doxford and Tegan Greenway, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884)

Weather:

The weather was variable.  The wind started as a southwesterly but veered to an easterly by the time we returned to Portsmouth. It varied from force 2 to 6.  Cloud cover varied from 70% to 100%.  Mid-channel had mist and light rain with visibility reducing to 2km.  Swell was mostly <1m and sea state varied from 2 to 4.

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals:
Bottlenose Dolphin Tursiops truncatus 1
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 1

Seabirds:
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 3
Gannet Morus bassanus 207
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 5
Guillemot Uria aalge 1
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 15
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 3
Mediterranean Gull Larus melanocephalus 3
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 12
Tern sp. 3
Larus sp. 49
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 3
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 1

Terrestrial Birds:
Pigeon Columba sp. 28
Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus 1

The team (Carol, Tegan & Dave) assembled at the International Ferry Terminal on a breezy Sunday morning; after a coffee upstairs we were shuttled out to the ship by minibus.  Captain Howard Roberts and his crew settled us in the starboard bridge wing and we were able to start our survey in the upper Solent.

The weather was highly variable on this trip - all four seasons in one day territory - but with a moderate sea and visibility varying from 2-15+km we were able to survey the whole way out and back.

Gannet Adrian Shephard 10On the outward run we mostly sighted Gannet; overall two thirds of our 314 bird were this spectacular species.  Captain Roberts commented on how much more numerous they are now compared to when he was sailing this route 20/25 years ago - good to hear!

We had fleeting glimpses of terns near both shores but they were small and distant so difficult to identify to species.  A single Manx Shearwater joined us for a few minutes; always a heartening sight; poetry in motion as they scoot low over the sea.

We passed HMS Tyne (Fisheries Protection Vessel) which was sitting in the 'central reservation' between the Eastbound and Westbound traffic separation lanes.

BND Adrian Shephard 06The highlight of the outward trip was a single Harbour Porpoise glimpsed briefly as it 'porpoised' down the port side.

Cherbourg proved to be both hectic and very un-French looking with low cloud and drizzle.  A French military helicopter was conducting winching exercises with a lifeboat in the harbour.  The port was also receiving the Tour de France so the place was a-buzzing.

Despite the traffic the Commodore Clipper was turned around in just over an hour and we were off northward.

Many of us suspect that cetaceans are aware when surveyors take meal breaks so it was no surprise that Carol was alone on watch when a single Bottlenose Dolphin put in a brief appearance just south of the Isle of Wight.

The weather was again poor in mid-Channel with visibility dropping to around 2km at one point.  By the evening the sun was shining brightly over 'Pompey' with pinkish clouds dotting a blue sky.

We concluded our survey off Gun Wharf Quay with a Great Crested Grebe sighting. Captain Roberts drove us back to the terminal himself; another big thank you to Condor Ferries for their hospitality!

Photos:
Gannet (Adrian Shephard)
Bottlenose Dolphin (Adrian Shephard)

MARINElife blog: Condor Ferries (Commodore Clipper) Portsmouth – Cherbourg (19th June 2016)

Posted 23 June 2016

David Doxford, Steve Boswell and Sharon Doake, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884)

Weather:

Weather was initially good with gentle seas, force 3 to 4 South Westerly and 10km+ visibility.  Cloud cover varied from 70% to 100%.  It was dry going south but the weather closed in on the return leg with continuous rain and visibility reducing to 1-2km.  Swell was <1m throughout.

Summary of sightings:

Seabirds:
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 5
Gannet Morus bassanus 144
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 4
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 6
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 2
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 7
Tern sp. 1
Larus sp. 3
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 2
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 4

Terrestrial Birds:
Pigeon Columba sp 19

Gannet Sharon Drake 01The team (Sharon, Steve & Dave) met at the International Ferry Terminal on a bright and sunny Sunday morning.  As the only foot passengers we had our own minibus out to the ship.  Captain Ian Luff and his crew settled us in the starboard bridge wing and we were able to start our survey in the upper Solent.

The Solent was calm and quiet with few birds and few ships.  This proved prophetic - it was a quiet trip overall with only 179 seabirds sighted - the vast majority of these (80%) were Gannet.

We did see Gannet actively feeding on a patch of disturbed water just south of the Isle of Wight and this activity was drawing in birds from miles around, but no cetaceans unfortunately!

The highlight of the trip was seeing four Manx Shearwaters indulging in some formation flying.  They are incredibly elegant birds, fine-tuned for the oceanic lifestyle.

Manx Shearwater Rick Morris 05In Cherbourg we watch, amused, as three enormous Great Black-Backed Gull chicks (looking like giant balls of fluff) harassed a loan adult by demanding food.  They breed on an unused jetty adjacent to the ferry terminal.

We had a very rapid turnaround and were soon back on the bridge with some Racing Pigeon using the Commodore Clipper as a rest stop on the return as they did outbound.

The visibility deteriorated on the return leg with rain and low cloud, although sea conditions were still slight, however the dolphins decided to stay away.

We concluded our survey on arrival back in Portsmouth and thanked the Captain and his staff for their hospitality before heading ashore.

Photos:
Gannet (Sharon Doake)
Manx Shearwater (Rick Morris)

MARINElife blog: Condor Ferries (Commodore Clipper) Portsmouth – Cherbourg (12th June 2016)

Posted 22 June 2016

Keith Morgan, Lucy Grable and Cerridwen Richards, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884)

Weather:

For the outward and return journeys the weather was cloudy with some fog which reduced visibility at times, but there was no precipitation. Calm sea throughout with South Westerly winds.

Summary of sightings:

Seabirds:
Gannet Morus bassanus 85
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 6
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 18
Black-headed Gull Larus ridibundus 4
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 10 
Lesser Black-backed GullLarus fuscus 4
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 18
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 3
Tern sp. 1
Gull sp. 3
Auk sp. 1

Gannet Cerridwen Richards 01

We were warmly welcomed aboard the ferry by Captain Howard Roberts at 8:00am for the 9:00am departure from Portsmouth. The Captain and his crew kindly showed us to the starboard bridge wing where we conducted our survey. We began our survey as we left Portsmouth harbour where we rapidly encountered our first Gannet, Herring Gull, Black-headed Gull, a Tern and a Fulmar.

Unfortunately, there were no cetacean sightings during the trip. However, we were all excited to observe a Gannet plunge diving, and two Manx Shearwaters shearing across the sea's surface. The crew shared our excitement when we spotted this, and grabbed their binoculars to join us.

At lunch time, we were invited to have lunch with Captain Roberts, and he told us some tales from his 40 years of working at sea. Throughout the journey, other members of the crew told us their sea stories whilst also taking an immense interest in the work done by MARINElife.

Manx Shearwater Cerridwen Richards 01As we approached France, there was an increase in the number of Gannet, and we observed 18 Shag, either resting or flying low to the sea. There was a rapid turnaround at Cherbourg, but we managed to admire the harbour and surrounding coast before we headed back towards Portsmouth.

The number of bird sightings increased on the return journey, particularly Gannet. A large flock of approximately 20 Gannet flew past the ferry. As we neared the Isle of Wight, more Herring Gull and Great Black-backed Gull were sighted. Our total bird count was 153 with 56% of these being Gannet, 12% being Herring Gull, and 12% being Shag.

We concluded the survey upon arrival in Portsmouth, and thanked the crew for their hospitality. The Captain kindly offered to drive us off the ferry to the Portsmouth International Port building, where we thanked him again and said our goodbyes.

A huge thank you to Captain Howard Roberts, his bridge crew, and all the staff at Condor Ferries for allowing us to join you on this route, and for taking a vast interest in our work with MARINElife.

Photos:
Gannet (Cerridwen Richards)
Manx Shearwater (Cerridwen Richards)

MARINElife blog: Condor Ferries (Commodore Clipper) Portsmouth – Cherbourg (29th May 2016)

Posted 03 June 2016

David Doxford, Jo Collins and Tony Chenery, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884)

Weather:
Weather was good with gentle seas, light variable wind (mainly from the North) and 10km+ visibility.  Cloud cover varied from 25% to 75% with lots of bright sunshine.  We had glare to the port side ahead on the southerly leg.  It was dry throughout although we could see some heavy showers over France as we approached the coast.

Summary of sightings:

Seabirds:
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 3
Gannet Morus bassanus 170
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 57
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Larus fuscus
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 21
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 4
Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis
Puffin Fratercula arctica 1
Guillemot Uria aalge 2
Larus sp 98
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 2

Terrestrial Birds:
Feral Pigeon Columba spp 5
Swallow Hirundo rustica 5

Herring Gull David Oxford 01This was a new route for all our survey team and Jo, Tony and I were impressed with the facilities at Portsmouth International Port.  The Condor Ferries staff were their usual helpful selves as they welcomed us aboard and showed us rapidly to the bridge.  Captain Ian Luff and his crew settled us in the starboard bridge wing and we were able to start our survey immediately on departure from Portsmouth.

As we headed out into the Solent we had the usual assemblage of gulls, especially juveniles, plus one Sandwich Tern.  Marine traffic was heavy with large numbers of leisure boats taking advantage of the Bank Holiday weekend.  Amongst the sea birds we also had some Swallow and Feral Pigeon who utilised the Commodore Clipper as a rest stop.

Despite almost perfect observing conditions we had no cetacean sightings on the whole trip.  It happens at times but still provides useful data for population assessments.

Port Militaire David Doxford 01Approaching France we began to see larger numbers of Gannet, mostly flying low to the calm sea.  A few circled and we saw one plunge diving.

As we had a very rapid turnaround in Cherbourg we could only manage a short break sunning ourselves on the outside seating and admiring the rather eccentric Basilique Sainte-Trinité.

Bird sightings increased on the return survey with Gannet continuing to predominate.  We even had a pair of Gannet circling just off Gunwharf Quays, dodging a flotilla of dinghies.

We concluded our survey on arrival back in Portsmouth and thanked the Captain and his staff for their hospitality before heading ashore. Our total bird count was 376 with 45% of these being Gannet.

A good route and one that we are all keen to do again soon!

Photos:
Herring Gull (David Doxford)
Port Militaire (David Doxfor)

MARINElife blog: Condor Ferries (Commodore Clipper) Portsmouth – Cherbourg (23rd August 2015)

Posted 03 September 2015

Emma Howe-Andrews, Hazel Pittwood, Jamie Coleman, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884)

Weather:
Outward - Sea State: 3-4. Wind Direction: W-WSW. Wind Force: 4-6, rain, clearing to scattered sunshine. Poor to good visibility with glare at times.
Return - Sea State: 3-4. Wind Direction: W-SW. Wind Force: 3-4, sunny, excellent visibility

Summary of sightings:

Seabirds:
Gannet Morus bassanus 180
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 4
Herring gull Larus argentatus 10
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 2
Lesser black-backed gull Larus fuscus 18
Great black-backed gull Larus marinus 3
Manx shearwater Puffinus puffinus 41
Sooty shearwater Puffinus griseus 1
Black tern Childonias niger 18
Skua sp. 1

After an efficient check-in at the impressive Portsmouth International Port Terminal, we were rapidly escorted aboard the Commodore Clipper and were greeted by the very friendly Condor Ferries staff, Andy and Alan on the information desk.

With a prompt departure from Portsmouth in rain, we headed to the bridge to be introduced to Captain Steven Leake and his team, who were very welcoming and accommodating. Captain Leake mentioned that dolphins had been sighted just the day before, so our hopes were high!

Manx Shearwater Steve McAusland 03Heading out into the English Channel in a sea state 3 and poor visibility, we were still able to observe a number of gannets, herring gulls, manx shearwaters and a single skua. After some time, the rain stopped; which improved visibility and even brought some scattered sunshine, and at times glare.

It remained quiet as we travelled across the channel for both cetacean and birds and during this time, 2nd Officer, Gerard Rickett showed us a record in the ship's log about a dead whale that had been reported by the Coastguard over the past couple of days. He also showed us on the chart how the ship would navigate into Cherbourg harbour and told us that a Pilot would shortly be joining us to assist with manoeuvres. It was fascinating!

With no cetaceans recorded, the ship arrived in Cherbourg and after a quick turnaround; we headed back into the channel for the return crossing to Portsmouth. It was now a beautiful afternoon, with excellent visibility and sunny conditions, and we remained hopeful when we began to observe a large number of birds. This included sightings of Black Tern, Fulmar and Sooty Shearwater skimming across the waves.

GBB Gull Adrian Shephard 04With no cetaceans recorded, the ship arrived in Cherbourg and after a quick turnaround we headed back into the Channel for the return crossing to Portsmouth. It was now a beautiful afternoon with excellent visibility and sunny conditions and we remained hopefl when we began to observe a large number of birds. This included sightings of black terns, fulmar and sooty shearwarers skimming across the waves.

Despite the wonderful weather, we soon saw the Isle of Wight in the distance and even after seeing a large number of gannets diving on the starboard side, cetaceans remained elusive. Before we knew it, we were making our final approach to Portsmouth with a beautiful sunset casting magnificent light on the water and approaching buildings. After our arrival, we said our goodbyes and a swift disembarkation followed.

A huge thank you to Captain Steve Leake, his bridge crew, Gerard Rickett, Andy and Alan and all of the staff at Condor Ferries for making us feel so welcome and for taking an immense interest in our work. Final thanks to Condor Ferries for their continued support.

Photos:
Manx shearwaters (Steve McAusland)
Great black-backed gull (Adrian Shephard)

MARINElife blog: Condor Ferries (Commodore Clipper) Portsmouth – Cherbourg (19th July 2015)

Posted 24 July 2015

Peter Jones, Julie Hatcher and Charles McGibney, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884)

Weather:
For both outward and return journyes the weather stayed bright with good visibility and light winds. Calm sea, wind force mainly 2.

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals:
Short-beaked common dolphin Delphinus delphis 9
Unidentified whale 1

Seabirds:

Gannet Morus bassanus 120
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 3
Manx shearwater Puffinus puffinus 1
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 4
Common scoter Melanitta nigra 2
Lesser black-backed bull Larus fuscus 3
Herring gull Larus argentatus 4
Greater black-backed gull Larus marinus 2
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 5
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 1

Terrestrial Birds:
None

Gannet Julie Hatcher 01The weather was fair as we were welcomed to the bridge by the Captain, starting our survey as we sailed past the Isle of Wight and headed into the Channel. With calm seas and good visibility we recorded a number of Gannet during the crossing, including some juveniles, and were delighted to see a pair of Common Scoter fly across our path. As we approached Cherbourg we encountered a whale close to the ship but it only partially surfaced and despite its proximity we were unable to identify the species with any certainty.

Photo: Gannet (Julie Hatcher)

After a short stop in Cherbourg, Common Dolphin Julie Hatcher 01and with the weather staying fine, we headed into the Channel for the return crossing. We were kept busy with more bird sightings and we also scoured the sea for the elusive whale, but with no luck. We recorded a wider variety of seabirds on this leg of the journey, including fulmars, lesser black-backed gulls, kittiwakes and a manx shearwater as well as a larger number of gannet. In mid-Channel we were thrilled to spot a small but spread out group of common dolphins swimming rapidly as they passed the ship heading south. 

Photo: Common dolphins (Julie Hatcher)

We concluded our survey as we approached Portsmouth and were pleased to have had a very enjoyable and successful day. We thanked the Commodore Clipper crew for their hospitality before heading ashore.

MARINElife blog: Condor Ferries (Commodore Clipper) Portsmouth – Cherbourg (14th June 2015)

Posted 18 June 2015

Adrian Shephard, Karrie Langdon and Keith Morgan, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884)

Weather:
SW - W 3-1 with some sea mist

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals:
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 4

Seabirds:
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 3
Gannet Morus bassanus 112
Herring Gull Larus argentatus13
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 3
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 6
Razorbill Alca torda 1
Comic Tern Sterna hirundo/paradisaea 1
Unidentified large gull sp. 3

Terrestrial Birds:
Racing Pigeon 40

We arrived at Portsmouth and were soon taken by bus onto Commodore Clipper for our sailing to Cherbourg. After a friendly welcome by the on-board services team, we settled in for a quick cup of coffee and croissant and waited for the call to head up to the bridge.

As we departed Portsmouth Harbour, many black headed gulls and common terns were feeding and we were hopeful that more would be seen out in the Solent once the survey actually started.

Gannet Adrian Shephard 01aIt wasn't long before we headed up to the bridge, the sea state was calm, but there was some sea-mist making visibility limited. The bridge team welcomed us and told us that there had been dolphins mid-Channel and off Cherbourg recently, so we were hopeful they may still be in the area.

We spotted a few herring gulls passing ahead of the ship and as we headed behind the Isle of Wight and out into the English Channel, we were lucky to spot a couple of harbour porpoises slowing surfacing ahead of the ship. Seabirds were few and far between the out-bound crossing, which isn't unusual at this time of year when the birds are still at their breeding colonies and feeding close by, which was evidenced as numbers increased as we headed towards the French coast.

Gannet were the most numerous seabird being seen in ones and twos as we approached Cherbourg, but also the occasional kittiwake. We left the bridge with the pilot approaching the Clipper and continued to watch from the deck as we sailed into a sunny Cherbourg were many European shag were seen.

European shag 2 Adrian ShephardWith a fast turn-around, we were soon back to sea and back on the bridge for the return crossing. The sea state had improved further and much of the mist had burnt off making the distant viewing better.

Again, a number of gannet could be seen as well as the odd fulmar and a single razorbill - many of the birds were just sitting on the water waiting for a little wind to help with their flying. A couple of great black-backed gulls on the water alerted us to another couple of harbour porpoises surfacing nearby and affording good views as we passed them.

Before long, the Isle of Wight was coming into view and bird numbers increased. As we headed into the Solent once again, we watched the Queen Mary II heading out of Southampton before ending our survey and thanking Captain Ian Luff and the bridge team.

Photos:
Gannet (Adrian Shephard)
European shag (Adrian Shephard)

MARINElife blog: Condor Ferries (Commodore Clipper) Portsmouth – Cherbourg (24th May 2015)

Posted 26 May 2015

Nick Adams, Hazel Pittwood and Wanda Bodnar, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884)

Weather:
Outward - initial patchy thick fog which cleared, wind westerly force 3
Return - mostly overcast, good visibility with glare at times, wind westerly force 4

Summary of sightings:

Seabirds:
Fulmar  Fulmarus glacialis 7
Gannet  Morus bassanus 55
Herring Gull  Larus argentatus 26
Lesser Black-backed Gull  Larus fuscus 2
Great Black-backed Gull  Larus marinus 5
Kittiwake  Rissa tridactyla 3
Unidentified large gull sp.  2
Unidentified auk sp.    1

Terrestrial Birds:
Swallow Hirundo rustica 2

We were rapidly escorted aboard by the friendly Condor Ferries staff and introduced ourselves to the friendly staff. Once clear of the Solent we headed to the bridge to meet the captain and start our survey.

Gannet Nick Adams 01a

As we left the Isle of Wight behind us, we started to pick up gannets heading east. There were also a few great black-backed gulls and a kittiwake or two. Perhaps the most interesting bird was a male swallow heading north to the UK. Some of the gannets decided to use the ship as the 'lead bird' in their formation.

Bird sightings remained fairly constant throughout the return survey with a number of gannets, gulls and fulmars being seen as well as another swallow heading north.

We concluded our survey as we reached the Isle of Wight and thanked the bridge staff for their hospitality before heading ashore.

Photo: Gannet (Nick Adams)