Sightings Archives: June 2015

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)

SW - W 3-1 with some sea mist

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals:
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 4

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.

Gannet (Adrian Shephard)
European shag (Adrian Shephard)