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

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

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


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:

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.