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

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


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:

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.

Gannet (Cerridwen Richards)
Manx Shearwater (Cerridwen Richards)