Sightings Archives: August 2016

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)


SW 3 - 6 with heavy fog on outbound crossing

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals:
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 3

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.

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