Weymouth or Poole-Channel Islands

Recent Sightings

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘Condor Liberation’ Poole-Guernsey 19 July 2017

Posted 21 July 2017

MARINElife WLO: Christine Arnold

Weather: Cloudy and breezy southbound, sunny for the return.

Summary of sightings:

Seabirds:
Great Black backed Gull
Herring Gull
Cormorant
Shag
Sandwich Tern
Common Tern
Gannet

Terrestrial birds on Guernsey:
Oystercatcher
Mediterranean Gull
Kestrel
Feral Pigeon
Wood Pigeon
Swallow
Rock Pipit

I collected the leaflets and went out on the top deck to begin speaking with passengers. It was interesting to hear how far people travelled to come on the trip. Some had come from Shropshire and some were more local. Quite a few people were out on deck to appreciate the views over Brownsea Island and the surrounding Studland bay area.

Sandwich and Common Terns were busy fishing in the harbour and taking their catch back to Brownsea lagoon to feed their young. Passengers were interested in the buildings on Brownsea including John Lewis' Brownsea Castle. They were also interested in the birds on 'Stoney island' which included Cormorant drying their wings and Great Black-backed Gull. I spoke to one lady who was a geography teacher from the Midlands so was completely in her element seeing the various landforms of the area!

Pembroke Christine Arnold
There's time on Guenrsey to explore - here Pembroke beach (Christine Arnold)

We sailed past the chain ferry and, shortly after we had passed Portland Bill in the distance, we saw the first Gannet. Which we then saw sporadically flying low over the Channel in different areas. As we travelled across the Channel we passed various tankers, sitting low in the water laden with their cargos.

Approaching Ortac rock we were blessed with seeing hundreds of Gannet, both adult and last year's immature birds fishing and carrying food back to the rock. This was the busiest I have ever seen this rock, it was absolutely alive with birds.

As we entered St Peter Port Harbour more passengers joined me on deck where we were greeted by the noon day firing of the canon which caused great excitement. There were many Herring and Great Black-backed Gulls circling around in the harbour looking for food in the water churned up by our manoeuvres.

After docking we had enough time to take a bus trip to explore the island. During this we saw Swallows, Woodpigeon, Kestrel, Mediterranean Gull and Oystercatcher along with Clouded Yellow and Red Admiral butterflies.

Cleaning Liberation Christine Arnold
Cleaning the windows for the return trip (Christine Arnold)

After the trip we walked along the harbour edge and saw a Rock Pipit and on returning to the terminal we were fortunate enough to see a Hummingbird Hawk moth which was feeding from one of the decorative planters.

The sun broke through as we departed Guernsey and the crossing was calm and we saw a similar range of species to the outward journey. A Gannet kept us company for a short time flying alongside the boat at a similar speed giving some wonderful views. On returning into Studland bay Old Harry Rock was bathed in sunshine and people were enjoying the beach and sailing in the harbour -  and the terns were still circling around catching their fish.

Thanks to Condor Ferries and the crew of the Condor Liberation for the support and assistance.

MARINElife blog: Condor Ferries ‘Condor Liberation’ Poole-Jersey 6 July 2017

Posted 11 July 2017

Steve Boswell, Research Surveyor for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884)

Weather: Variable wind with calm seas throughout, very bright glare in the first part of the survey

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals
Common Dolphin Delphinus delphis 12

Seabirds
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 2
Balearic Shearwater Puffinus mauretanicus 1
Gannet Morus bassanus 87
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 9
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 25
Black- headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 27
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 58
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 19
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 14
Guillemot Uria aalge 6
Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis 10
Common Tern Sterna hirundo 27

Once on board I reported to reception and was escorted to the bridge to introduce myself to Captain Tim Coutts. We departed early and were soon passing Brownsea Island and Studland Bay.

Sighting of birds were steady as we crossed the Channel but were not seen in big numbers as would be expected at this time of year with most birds still close or at their breeding grounds.

Common Dolphin Graham Ekins 05
Common Dolphin (Archive photo: Graham Ekins)

As we headed towards Alderney I spotted splashing on the waters surface and then the appearance of 4 Dolphins. As we approached more Dolphins appeared and they began to leap out of the water. As we passed them they played in the wake. A total of 12 Common Dolphin, including 2 Juveniles, a lovely sight in the calm sea and on the starboard side with no glare.

A cruise ship was tendering passengers into Guernsey for the day so we had to alter our approach into the harbour slightly. After a short stop we headed for Jersey

On the return journey out from Jersey a group of 15 Shag with 2 Cormorant were seen flying showing the difference in size of these two species. A Balearic Shearwater was seen resting on the sea.

Balearic SW Peter Howlett 03
Balaeric Shearwater (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

One of the highlights of the trip was sailing passed Ortac with its impressive Gannet colony. A Gannet managed to fly beside the bridge with us for more than ten minutes, amazing as we were travelling at 33 knots.

No more Cetaceans were seen and I concluded the survey as we approached Poole Harbour. Thanking the Captain as he manoeuvred through the many yachts in the harbour entrance I left the bridge to await instructions for embarkation.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: Condor ‘Liberation’ Poole-Guernsey 4 July 2017

Posted 08 July 2017

MARINElife WLO: Stephie Millin

Weather: Outward - Cloudy but bright and dry with light winds. Good visibility.
Return - sunny and dry. Good visibility but some glare.

Summary of Sightings

Seabirds:
Manx Shearwater
Gannet
European Shag
Cormorant
Herring Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Black-headed Gull
Sandwich Tern
Common Tern

Terrestrial Birds
Canada Goose
Shelduck
Oystercatcher
Little Egret
Carrion Crow

With talk of recent cetacean sightings I was straight up to the viewing deck to get my tired early morning eyes accustomed to the bright light of the day. While waiting to leave Poole harbour a few birds helped me warm up my ID skills with their occasional fly-overs. Plenty of Herring and Black-headed Gulls made an appearance along with a couple of Common and Sandwich Tern and the usual Cormorant sat on the buoy. Conditions were very promising.

Being a bright and almost sunny morning there were plenty of passengers on the viewing deck for our passage through Poole Harbour. The islands of Poole Harbour gave us plenty to see with Oystercatcher, Canada Goose, Shelduck, Little Egret and many species of gulls. Visibility was excellent giving great views over to Old Harry Rocks and speculation was high among passengers for possible dolphin sightings.

Gannet Stephie Millin 01
GAnnet (Stephie Millin)

As our eyes tired and the glare picked up, the prospect of a sighting waned and conversation moved towards what passengers had sighted at other various locations across the UK. I enjoyed listening to the back and forward of sightings one-upmanship but unfortunately had nothing to impress this group of keen eyed spotters.

As our speed increased and the winds picked up it was time for a rest to prepare for sightings on the approach to Guernsey. As Gannet started flying by the windows in ever increasing frequency I headed back up to the viewing deck for the passage past Ortac, Alderney and the Casquets. Despite not being fortunate to spot any cetaceans the Gannet colony put on a wonderful display with several groups flying alongside the ferry for several minutes at a time. A great photo opportunity for the photographers on deck. Guernsey greeted us with beautiful sunshine (as always!) and I disembarked for a wander around the coast.

The return leg was bright and sunny with plenty of glare on the port side so I positioned myself on the other side to have the best chance of some good sightings. The Gannet colony around Ortac was again very impressive with even better light now to view them and photograph them. A couple of immature Gannet with their speckled makings also flew past the ferry. A little further along we were treated to 6 Manx Shearwater as a nice change from Gannet and various gulls.

Old Harry Rocks Stephie Millin 01
Old Harry Rocks (Stephie Millin)

Although no cetaceans were spotted, the wonderful weather coming back into Poole gave us some beautiful photos of Old Harry Rocks and great performances by adrenaline seekers on Jet Skis and two motor powered paragliders overhead.

Thanks to Condor Ferries and the crew of the Condor Liberation for making me welcome on board and for their support to MARINElife.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘Condor Liberation’ Poole-Guernsey 29 June 2017

Posted 03 July 2017

MARINElife WLOs: Rick Morris, Glynis Northwood-Long and Rachel Davies

Weather: South: cloudy, wind southerly 3-4, sea state 2-4 with 1m swell at times.
North: cloudy with sunny spells, wind NW 1-3, sea state 1-3 with slight swell.

Summary of sightings

Marine mammals:
Dolphin Sp. 4

Seabirds:
Gannet
Shag
Guillemot
Razorbill
Puffin
Fulmar
Great Black-backed Gull
Herring Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Manx Shearwater
Oystercatcher
Black-headed Gull
Common Tern
Sandwich Tern
Cormorant

After meeting in the ferry terminal, the three of us proceeded to board the 'Liberation' for what was to be a wildlife trip with a difference! We were joined by a film crew that wanted to film the role of the Wildlife Officer and how MARINElife conduct the monthly survey on this route.

Gannet Rick Morris 12
Gannet (Rick Morris)

After a hearty breakfast, we ventured up to the viewing deck to engage with the eager passengers present, explaining about the wildlife that may be seen throughout the crossing. Once out in the English Channel and with a now quiet deck, we made our way up to the bridge to conduct a survey. Sightings throughout the trip were quiet, with Gannet and auks being the most prevalent.

With Alderney in the distance, Rachel saw 'fins' off the starboard beam, these were of 4 dolphins, possibly Common Dolphin, but without 100% certainty we recorded them as dolphin species.

Noon day gun Rick Morris 01
The Noon day gun on Castle Cornet (Rick Morris)

Nearing Guernsey, we rejoined the passengers on the viewing deck again, answering the many questions folk had about what wildlife we had seen. We arrived at the firing of the mid-day cannon from Castle Cornet and once berthed, we decided to have a look around the marina before heading to the 'Crow's Nest' for a delicious lunch.

Rejoining the ship for the return home, we again made our way up top to join the passengers looking for wildlife. We left Guernsey this time via the 'Big Russel', a channel running between Herm and Sark.

RD and GNL surveying Rick Morris 01
Rachel Davies and Glynis Northwood-Long surveying (Rick Morris)

Leaving Guernsey behind us, Rachel and Glynis went up to the bridge to continue the survey whilst I stayed out on deck with the passengers. Passing Alderney gave great sights of the many Gannet on the breeding colonies of Ortac Rock and Les Etacs. We also watched intently in the surrounding water that was welling up in the tidal race, as here, Harbour Porpoise have been seen to feed. Alas none were seen, just a solitary Shag and a few Lesser Black-backed Gull.

Leaving the Channel Islands in the distance, I rejoined the girls on the bridge for a while before nearing Poole, where once again we joined everyone outside to take in the sights and wildlife of Poole Harbour before disembarking and making our way home.

Our thanks to Condor Ferries for supporting MARINElife's work and to the Captain and crew of the 'Liberation' and not forgetting the friendly and helpful shore staff.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘Condor Liberation’ Poole-Guernsey 20 June 2017

Posted 24 June 2017

MARINElife WLO Jenny Ball

Weather: Warm and sunny, wind E 2 inc. 4, vis good with haze later

Summary of sightings:

Seabirds:
Gannet
Cormorant
Shag
Fulmar
Herring Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Black-headed Gull
Common Tern
Sandwich Tern
Auk sp.

Terrestrial birds:
Canada Goose
Shelduck
Little Egret
Oystercatcher
Swift

It was a perfect day for a trip to Guernsey: already 25°C and rising as we left the dock just after 9:00, and the breeze on the viewing deck was very welcome. We had blazing sunshine with flat seas all the way across, though a haze built up on the horizon during the day.

The lagoon on Brownsea Island was busy with Sandwich Tern flying and on their breeding platforms, together with good numbers of Canada Goose and a variety of gulls and waders. The terns and Black-headed Gulls stayed with us around into Studland Bay but once we had passed Old Harry rock sightings were fewer and further between. We saw a few Lesser and Great Black-backed Gull, a solitary Fulmar, and of course the wonderful Gannet as we neared Ortac, with a pair following the ship from a distance, turning and swooping in unison.

Castle Cornet Jenny Ball 01
Castle Cornet (Jenny Ball)

A prompt arrival at St Peter Port meant that the day trippers on board could take full advantage of their time on Guernsey. We took our lunch down to a nearby bathing area, for a swim with a brilliant view of Havelet Bay and Castle Cornet.

The return trip was rather breezier but still very warm, so plenty of people were happy to shelter from the wind and enjoy the views during the crossing. I heard from a couple of Jersey residents that there have been a number of recent reports of dolphins in their waters but unfortunately they didn't seem to have strayed in our direction.  Passing Ortac was a popular moment as usual, with the tide swirling and boiling, and the Gannets flashing white in the sunlight above the rock. A group of four Gannet, three adult and one first summer, circled the ship giving us a good view of their very different plumages.

Jenny Ball and passengers
Jenny Ball chatting to passengers on the Liberation

The rest of the crossing was quiet with just a few gulls for company but Brownsea Lagoon was still full of activity, with maybe a dozen Little Egret highlighted by the evening sun. It had been an excellent day spent talking to lots of passengers about MARINElife and hearing their own wildlife stories. Thanks to Condor Ferries and the crew of the Condor Liberation for their support and assistance in making the trip so worthwhile both for MARINElife and for their own passengers.

MARINElife blog: Condor Ferries ‘Condor Liberation’ Poole-Jersey 3 June 2017

Posted 20 June 2017

Julie Hatcher & JoJo Southgate, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884)

Weather: Mainly sunny out, more cloud on the return leg, winds light, visibility good.

Summary of sightings:

Seabirds
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 2
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 4
Gannet Morus bassanus 152
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 8
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 3
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 72
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 2
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 3
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 18
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 1
Common Tern Sterna hirundo 21
Guillemot Uria aalge 1
Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus 2
Gull sp.   4
Tern sp.   8
Duck sp.   1

After boarding the Liberation we spoke with the cabin manager and cheekily requested if we were able to go onto the bridge slightly earlier than usual because over the last few days a solitary dolphin had been spotted on several occasions in Poole Harbour. Captain Giles Wade allowed us onto the bridge and told us that he had seen the dolphin a couple of days before by Old Harry Rocks.

Fulmar Peter Howlett 16
Fulmar (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

There were plenty of seabirds to record in the harbour but unfortunately, on this occasion, no dolphin. Heading towards Guernsey there were several cargo vessels of different sizes within sight on the calm seas. Bird sightings were sparse with a few Fulmar and Cormorants, a solitary Guillemot and an assortment of gulls and terns recorded.

Between Guernsey and Jersey and vice versa the journey was quiet with only a few sightings of birds.

Manx Shearwater Peter Howlett 13
Manx Shearwater (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

On our way back to Poole from Guernsey the weather remained dry and the waters were calm.  Towards Alderney and the Gannet colony on Ortac the sightings of Gannets, both adults and immatures, increased. There were approximately 60 Gannets circling the skies above the rock and around 20 resting on the water, plus all the birds nesting on the rock itself. Carrying on towards Poole we sighted two Manx Shearwaters, a Kittiwake and even two ducks, which unfortunately were too far away to identify.

We concluded our survey on coming into Poole Harbour, seeing several terns, gulls and two Oystercatchers to round off the trip. Once we completed our survey we thanked Captain Giles Wade and his staff for their hospitality.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘Condor Liberation’ Poole-Guernsey 31 May 2017

Posted 05 June 2017

MARINElife WLO: Chris Gleed-Owen

Weather: Mainly sunny but with sea fog on outward journey, with visibility down to 20m. Light winds, sea state 1-2.

Summary of sightings:

Seabirds
Fulmar
Gannet
Cormorant
Herring Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Black-headed Gull
Sandwich Tern
Guillemot

Following a cool overcast passage through Poole Harbour, the view of Old Harry and the Purbeck coastline drew the usual crowds to the viewing deck. The wildlife sightings were uneventful though, with only the occasional Gannet to keep us company.

There was quite a lot of interest from the passengers, and indeed from a team of Condor staff on a corporate trip to the Channel Islands. As always, I explained that seeing dolphins wasn't guaranteed, and they could easily be missed even if present.Liberation passengers Chris GleedOwen 01
Passengers enjoying the Dorset coast (Chris Gleed-Owen)

One lady described an extreme close-up of a large bird flying alongside her window below-deck for five minutes, and came to ask what type of bird it was (a Gannet). Another couple described how they'd seen a pod of dolphins following the ship for five minutes in February 2017. Similarly, Melissa from Condor had seen dolphins recently off Brittany, and most people had seen dolphins before, but by no means all.

We were enjoying blue skies and sunshine, until we hit a bank of sea fog after about an hour. This lasted for the next hour and a half, and there was little to see during most of the crossing. We even passed Alderney, the Casquets and the other smaller rocks without noticing them in the fog. The visibility only cleared reasonably well on the final ten-minute approach to Guernsey. No cetaceans seen, but a few Gannets and gulls about. Sea state was very pleasant for the whole crossing.

A pleasant sunny afternoon ashore was spent up the hill, in St Peter Port's Candie Park; a peaceful option if you want a change from the bustling town centre.

English Channel Chris GleedOwen 01
A beautiful day to cross the Channel (Chris Gleed-Owen)

The return leg began in sunshine with a favourable sea state. The usual range of seabirds accompanied the crossing, with an impressive display of Gannets around Ortac Rock. Unfortunately no cetaceans were seen though.

Many thanks to Condor Ferries for its hospitality once again.

If you like the sound of joining one of our trips down to Guernsey from Poole, then you can book online here. What's more, Condor Ferries will kindly donate £5 of the cost of your ticket to MARINElife!

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘Condor Liberation’ Poole-Guernsey 22 May 2017

Posted 25 May 2017

MARINElife WLO: Hazel Pittwood

Weather: Sunny with light winds, sea state 2-3, visibility very good with some glare

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals:
Dolphin sp. Distant splashes

Seabirds:
Fulmar
Gannet
European Shag
Cormorant
Herring Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Black-headed Gull
Sandwich Tern
Common Tern
Kittiwake
Razorbill

As the ship set sail from Poole the weather looked promising for our crossing over to Guernsey. Numerous passengers came up onto the outside deck to look out for birds as we passed the lagoon on Brownsea Island and were treated to views of numerous gull species, ducks, geese, Cormorants and Shags. The highlight though was the large number of terns we observed feeding as we passed by the beaches of Studland. This was the first time I have seen these graceful birds in the area this year; they nest on purpose built islands in the lagoon on Brownsea. I was lucky enough to watch great numbers of Common and Sandwich Terns here last year and it is wonderful to see that they have returned. Passengers enjoyed watching them lightly winging through the air, twitching their heads down towards the sea looking for glints of fish in the water. Their distinctive shrill calls filled the air and we watched as their bodies became minute white arrows, plunging with speed and precision into the sea.

The first Gannet sighting of the day came shortly after. I was looking forward to seeing many more later in the journey as the crossing passes the internationally important breeding colony of Ortac. By this point many passengers had returned indoors to settle in to their journey on the ship, but a good number stayed out on deck to enjoy the calm seas and sunshine. There was also a large group of transport enthusiasts on board who enjoyed spotting various ships, in addition to talking with me about the wildlife we could see.

Ortac Christine Arnold 2016-06
Ortac Gannet colony (Archive photo: Christine Arnold)

The only cetacean sighting of the day came in the form of very distant dolphin splashes approximately halfway into the journey. I desperately hoped for a closer encounter but it wasn't to be! The next highlight was the aforementioned Gannet colony of Ortac. This small uninhabited islet supports 2% of the world's Gannet population during their breeding season (February to September). These impressive creatures are the largest breeding seabird in Europe and can dive at over 60mph. I am always thrilled to see these birds with their beautiful yellow-tinged heads contrasting with their brilliant white plumage and black wing tips. Huge numbers could be seen, both circling in the skies above and on the islet. It was also a joy to see a Kittiwake; a species which has experienced severe decline in the north of Britain.

On approach to St Peter Port many juvenile and adult gulls could be seen, predominantly Herring and Great Black-backed Gull. I departed the ship and spent a very enjoyable couple of hours on shore on Guernsey. Walking along the docks I could see numerous large slender fish in the clear shallow waters between the boats.

Gannet Peter Howlett 29
Gannet (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

Back aboard the ship for the return journey, a new wave of passengers came up to the outer deck to bid farewell to a gloriously sunny day on Guernsey. I talked to numerous people about marine wildlife and advised those who were interested to stay on deck for the spectacle of Ortac once more. This time, passing the colony again, Gannets could be seen much closer to the ship with some even accompanying it for a short while. Shortly after I also saw the first Fulmar of the crossing. A chat with a passenger from Devon made me very jealous; he told me of his experience seeing the Humpback Whale off Slapton Sands a couple of months ago, a location just down the road from his home!

I had heard that dolphins had been sighted off Old Harry Rocks the previous weekend, so I vigilantly scoured the surrounding waters with my binoculars as we approached this stunning area of the Dorset coast. No luck on this day unfortunately, but good to know they have been seen in the area recently.

Returning towards the chain ferry crossing between Sandbanks and Studland, the terns could still be seen gliding and diving. It was a beautiful day and I had enjoyed spectacular views of the coast and sea, with lots of lovely passengers to talk with.

Many thanks as ever to Condor Ferries for being very welcoming.

If you like the sound of joining one of our trips down to Guernsey from Poole, then you can book online at here. What's more, Condor Ferries will kindly donate £5 of the cost of your ticket to MARINElife!

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘Condor Liberation’ Poole-Guernsey 8 May 2017

Posted 12 May 2017

WLO's Glynis Northwood-Long, Maggie Gamble and Jenny Ball

Weather: Sunny with northerly wind 3-4, sea state smooth to moderate with good visibility

Summary of sightings:

Seabirds:
Gannet
Cormorant
Shag
Herring Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Black-headed Gull
Common Tern
Sandwich Tern
Guillemot

Terrestrial birds:
Canada Goose
Oystercatcher
Swallow

I met with Maggie and Jenny at the ferry terminal as they were joining me for a refresher/training day. After a quick check-in, we were soon boarding the Liberation. We found our seats but, as it was a sunny morning, headed straight up onto the upper viewing deck to take advantage of the journey through Poole harbour.

As we set off through the harbour we began spotting different varieties of gull, terns along with Cormorants. As we sailed past Brownsea Island lagoon we could see Sandwich Tern diving at speed into the water and could hear the distinctive call of the Oystercatcher.

We left Poole Harbour and after passing the impressive sight of Old Harry Rocks, most of the passengers went back inside. We used this as a chance go inside ourselves and enjoy refreshments from the Casquets Bistro on board before heading back on deck.

Jenny Ball and Maggie Gamble Glynis Northwood-Long
Jenny Ball and Maggie Gamble chatting to passengers (Glynis Northwood-Long)

We were soon were chatting to passengers about the wildlife that we may encounter. One couple had been together for 60 years and another were on the MARINElife Wildlife day trip as a birthday present. Unfortunately, sightings were scarce apart from a few Shag, until we approached Ortac rock when the Gannet sightings increased dramatically. We were able to point out the Gannet colony to the passengers on deck with us.

On arrival in Guernsey, we walked round St Peter Port harbour, passed the marinas and strolled along the sand at Havelet Bay as the tide was out. We then continued round to La Valette bathing pools admiring the Sea Thrift and Mesembryanthemum. Then up the steps to the Clarence Battery, where we had a superb view across St Peter Port and Castle Cornet, along with the Castle Breakwater. Here we enjoyed a late picnic lunch watching the Herring Gull soaring above us and swoop underneath us, and listening to noisy Oystercatcher.

Havelet beach Glynis Northwood-Long
Havelet Bay (Glynis Northwood-Long)

Back on the Liberation on the return journey, we headed back up to the viewing deck and were joined by more interested passengers. Again we enjoyed seeing the Gannet nesting and circling Ortac rock, highlighted in the sunshine.

As we sailed back into Poole, the sun set behind the clouds and the light faded. The three of us were vigilant throughout the return journey, watching and forever hopeful of spotting a cetacean or two but sadly they remained elusive to us.

Thanks to Condor Ferries and the crew of the Condor Liberation for making us welcome on board and for their support to MARINElife and a big thank you to Maggie and Jenny for joining me.

MARINElife Survey Report: Condor Ferries ‘Condor Liberation’ Poole-Jersey 6 May 2017

Posted 10 May 2017

Jo Collins and Steve Boswell, Research Surveyors MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884)

Weather: wind NE force 4-5 decreasing 3 later. Significant swell for the first two hours, easing as we neared Guernsey. Heavy rain nearly all day with reduced visibility.

Summary of sightings

Marine Mammals
Bottlenose Dolphin Tursiops truncatus 3
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 2

Seabirds
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 15
Gannet Morus bassanus  77
Cormorant  Phalacrocorax carbo 13
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 2
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 3
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 24
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 10
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 80
Guillemot Uria aalge 12
Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis 22
Common Tern Sterna hirundo 2
Gull sp.  1

Terrestrial Birds
Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus 25
Shelduck Tadorna tadorna 5
Swallow Hirundo rustica 23
Little Egret Egretta garzetta 1
Carrion Crow Corvus corone 6
Jackdaw Corvus monedula 1

On embarkation we were escorted straight onto the bridge and were introduced to Captain Stephen Ainscow and his crew. He very kindly allowed us to start our survey from departure so we had the advantage of viewing Brownsea Island and Sandbanks before heading out passed Old Harry Rocks.

There was a brisk north-easterly wind blowing and heavy rain began to reduce visibility, it was amazing to see good numbers of Swallows battling against the elements to head north on their migration. The weather on this part of the trip put paid to any chances of seeing cetaceans.

Gannet Jo Collins 02
The only immature Gannet of the trip (Jo Collins)

As we travelled between Guernsey and Jersey we had good views of nine Manx Shearwaters which flew alongside the ship for a while.  We were surprised to see just one non-adult Gannet on this trip - a 3rd year bird, presumably most of the young birds were still further south. As we approached Jersey we saw a Gannet diving into the water and beside it we then saw the distinctive roll and fin of a Harbour Porpoise.

We left Jersey fifteen minutes early and soon after leaving the harbour we saw three Bottlenose Dolphins, a fairly brief encounter but a memorable sighting. The sea state reduced more on our return journey and it wasn't long before we had a good view of another Harbour Porpoise.

BND Peter Howlett 12
Bottlenose Dolphin near St Helier, Jersey (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

Travelling close to the Gannet colony on Ortac we were able to see good numbers sat on the ledges and many swirling around the summit, an impressive sight.  By the time we got closer to Poole at the end of the trip the weather had improved quite considerably.

Our thanks go to Captain Ainscow and his crew for helping to make this a very enjoyable trip.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘Condor Liberation’ Poole-Guernsey 2 May 2017

Posted 04 May 2017

MARINElife/Guernsey WLO Christine Arnold

Weather: Out - cloudy and breezy, reasonable visibility. Return - dry and sunny, visibility good.

Summary of sightings:

Seabirds:
Fulmar
Gannet
Cormorant
Shag
Herring Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Black-headed Gull
Common Tern
Sandwich Tern

Terrestrial birds:
Shelduck
Canada Goose
Oystercatcher
Marsh Harrier
Kestrel
Woodpigeon
Rock Pipit
Swallow

I joined fellow passengers on deck for the journey from Poole to Guernsey. Many people were interested by the MARINElife tee shirt and vest and came over to ask about what I was doing on deck. I also went around to others to hand out leaflets and explain to them which species they were likely to see during the crossing.

I met some interesting people, some were on a coach trip from Manchester and were delighted to be out in open waters and this was a quite unique experience for them as they live so far inland.

People were interested in the surrounding areas, typically Studland beach, Swanage bay and the surrounding areas. I was able to tell them how amazing Studland Bay is for biodiversity, especially its seahorses.

As we passed Brownsea Island we saw several Cormorant and European Shag along with Herring Gull.  Travelling past Studland beach we saw Sandwich Tern fishing and once out into the Channel and reaching good speeds we saw the first Gannet soaring above the waves in the majestic, calm way that they typically adopt.

Just north of Alderney we saw a Herring Gull carrying what looked like seaweed in its beak to line its nest with. We also had good views of a Fulmar as it flew over reasonable level with the vessel.

Soon we were approaching Les Ortac rock off the coast of Alderney where we were rewarded by a spectacular display of Gannet. The Gannets were fishing in the area near the rock and many hundreds were perched on it. Behind and closer to Alderney we could see Les Étacs rocks also covered by numerous Gannet.

Carribean Princess Christine Arnold 01

As we approached St Peter Port we had a great view of the cruise ship Caribbean Princess, one of the many which visit the island during the summer.

During our time on Guernsey we went on a bus trip right around the island and were lucky enough to see many Swallows flying over the houses and fields, We also saw Shelduck, 2 Kestrel, Oystercatcher, Canada Geese and a Marsh Harrier soaring reasonably low over a marshland area.

As Guernsey is so small the trip doesn't take too long and on returning to St Peter Port we had time to walk out along the breakwater to Castle Cornet, where we heard a Rock Pipit.

Just before we departed Condor's slow ferry, the Commodore Clipper, came in to berth which was an interesting sight for passengers.

During the return journey we saw several Woodpigeons flying north that appeared to have just taken flight from Guernsey. For much of the return trip sightings were similar to the outward leg and alas no cetaceans were seen. Approaching the entrance to Poole Harbour we saw several Common and Sandwich Terns flying low over the water and it was easy to hear their screechy calls.

Poole Harbour Christine Arnold 02

To complete the journey there was a beautiful sunset which several people commented on and took photos of, the atmosphere was very jovial as people told of their experiences of their holidays or day trips on Guernsey. A lovely day was had by all concerned.

Thanks to Condor Ferries and the crew of the Condor Liberation for the support and assistance.

MARINElife Survey Report: Condor Ferries ‘Liberation’ Poole–Jersey 22nd April 2017

Posted 26 April 2017

Rick Morris and Glynis Northwood-Long, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884)

Weather: Overcast with sunny periods, wind northerly 2, sea state 1-3

Summary of species recorded

Marine Mammals
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 3

Seabirds
Gannet Morus bassanus 358
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 22
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 45
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 3
Guillemot Uria aalge 14
Razorbill Alca torda 1
Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis 1
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 1
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 11
CormorantPhalacrocorax carbo 3
Larus gull Sp. 150
Auk Sp. 3

Terrestrial Birds
Swallow Hirundo rustica 9
Swift Apus apus 1
Carrion Crow Corvus corone 1
House Martin Delichon urbicum 1

Arriving at Condor Ferries check-in, we were greeted by the ever helpful and friendly shore staff who issued us with our boarding cards. We then made our way over to the departure gate for the bus transfer to our survey vessel 'Condor Liberation'.

Onboard, we had time for breakfast before heading up to the bridge to commence our survey just as we were exiting the 'red zone' near Old Harry Rocks. It was a quiet start with little in the way of bird sightings, although a number of single Swallow were observed heading inland.

Ortac Rick Morris 04
Ortac Gannetry (Rick Morris)

Nearing Alderney, Gannet numbers increased as we neared their nesting site on Ortac Rock and Les Etacs and our first Swift was spotted on its way to the UK presumably from Africa! It was also near Alderney that 3 Harbour Porpoise were sighted in the calm sea.

Reaching Guernsey, the cruise ship 'Azura' was anchored outside the Harbour with her tenders ferrying passengers ashore. We went up top for a break before continuing on to Jersey, again this leg and the whole of the return remained quiet throughout, although now on the return, Ortac Rock was on our side of the bridge, giving great views of the many hundreds of Gannet, some returning from foraging trips for nesting material.

Gannet Rick Morris 10
Gannet with nesting material (Rick Morris)

The sea state at times dropped to nearly flat calm and we were ever hopeful of spotting dorsal fins, but frustratingly in these near perfect conditions, none were seen, although it did provide us with the odd sighting of Guillemot on the surface.

Reaching the entrance into the Swash Channel in Poole Harbour, we concluded our survey and made our way to join the foot passengers waiting to get off.

We thank Captain Giles Wade, the bridge crew and cabin crew for all the help and a special thanks to Condor Ferries for supporting MARINElife's work.

MARINElife Survey Report: Condor Ferries ‘Condor Liberation’ Poole-Jersey 11 March 2017

Posted 19 March 2017

Hazel Pittwood and Sarah Hodgson, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884; Registered Company No. 5057367)

Weather: Outward - fog clearing to good visibility, wind S force 2, sea state 2
Return - overcast, good visibility, wind S force 2, sea state 1-2

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals
Common Dolphin Delphinus delphis 2

Seabirds
Guillemot Uria aalge 63
Gannet Morus bassanus 37
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 3
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 9
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 13
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 9
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 6
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 7
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 3
Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus 10
Gull sp. 78
Auk sp. 20

There was hardly a breath of wind when we arrived at Poole and we were hopeful of a smooth crossing on board Condor Liberation to Jersey. Once we had boarded we were introduced to Captain Steve Ainscow, who delivered the unfortunate news that due to the fog, we wouldn't be able to carry out our survey until later in the voyage but he was confident that the conditions would soon improve. We made our way onto the outside deck and the visibility was indeed very poor meaning that even nearby Brownsea Island and lagoon were hidden from view. After a short while, once we had left the Dorset coastline behind us, the fog began to clear and we were invited up onto the bridge to begin our survey effort.

Kittiwake Peter Howlett 13
Juvenile Kittiwake (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

Despite the earlier fog, the viewing conditions were great and with calm seas we soon started to record a variety of seabirds. We encountered several small groups of rafting Guillemot and soaring gulls. A distinctive-looking bird caught our attention and as it came closer we saw it was a juvenile Kittiwake. Nearing the Channel Islands we were excited to spot a couple of fins in the water close to the vessel and as we were both watching a well-timed breach enabled us to identify them as a pair of Common Dolphin, but sadly they quickly disappeared from view.

Due to the low tides our approach to Guernsey was between the islands of Sark and Herm where we came across more gulls, Shag and Cormorant.

Whilst enjoying our short breaks on the outer deck as the Liberation made stops at St. Peter Port and St. Helier, we spotted a couple of butterflies also making the most of the warm spring sunshine.

Gannet Sarah Hodgson 01
Gannet (Sarah Hodgson)

The favourable conditions continued on our way back and we departed Jersey accompanied by a small group of Oystercatcher. Sightings for the return journey were similar with the addition of three lone Fulmar.  Before making landfall again, the fading light marked the end of our survey for the day and we retired to our seats to tally up the sightings.

Once again our thanks go to Captain Steve Ainscow and the crew of Condor Liberation who welcomed us on board and made this a very enjoyable crossing.

MARINElife Survey Report: Condor Ferries ‘Condor Liberation’ Poole-Jersey 18 February 2017

Posted 25 February 2017

Alan Sumnall and Nicola Simpson, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884; Registered Company No. 5057367)

Weather: sea state 2-3, foggy at first, clearing to sunshine with slight haze, visibility good

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals
Common Dolphin Delphinus delphis 46

Seabirds
Gannet Morus bassanus 129
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 7
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 10
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 8
Great Skua Stercorarius skua 1
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 14
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 44
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 155
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 99
Razorbill Alca torda 9
Guillemot Uria aalge 30
Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus 1

Our survey began with initial frustration as it was very foggy in Poole to the extent that we were not allowed up onto the bridge initially. The crew of the Condor Liberation, especially Captain Steve Ainscow, were very helpful at this time and assured us that they would call us once conditions improved. We departed Poole ahead of schedule and after an hour we found Captain Steve walking promptly towards us with a big smile on his face; conditions had improved and we were invited up onto the bridge. The visibility steadily increased during the first half an hour of surveying until we were treated to fantastic viewing conditions.

Great Skua Peter Howlett 11
Great Skua (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

It turned out to be a beautiful day with a smooth crossing. We saw seabirds throughout the survey; Guillemot and Razorbill in small groups, Great Black-backed Gull, but predominantly Gannet. We also had excellent views of single Great Skua and a small flock of Fulmar. Although it was a smooth crossing, there was enough wind to cause small whitecaps on the water making spotting Harbour Porpoise challenging. The sun also created glare in the starboard-ahead position which further hampered our cetacean spotting. However, we were eventually treated to a small pod of Common Dolphin but they disappeared as the Liberation approached them.

Upon arriving in St Peter Port, Guernsey, there were good numbers of Lesser Black-backed, Herring and Black-headed Gulls, along with the odd Shag and Cormorant. Similar birds were to be seen upon arrival into St Helier, Jersey. The return journey was very similar, although light levels cut our survey short.

Common Dolphin Peter Howlett 30
Common Dolphin (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

With less than an hour of light left a flock of Gannet were spotted diving ahead. Checking through binoculars revealed dolphins underneath - a large pod of Common Dolphin! Unlike earlier, this time as the ferry approached the dolphins approached us and were bow-riding, jumping out of the water; they appeared to be having as much fun as we were! There were three distinctive groups moving in unison in one larger pod. A fantastic way to end the day with the dolphins displaying right next to us. Captain Steve came over afterwards and said he had never seen anything like that before and that it was worth our effort…it certainly was!

We returned to Poole, ahead of schedule as we had left. Once again our thanks go to the staff and crew of Condor Liberation for making our day enjoyable and productive.

MARINElife blog Condor Ferries ‘Condor Liberation’ Poole-Jersey 10 December 2016

Posted 17 December 2016

David Doxford and Christine Arnold, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884)

Weather: Wind N-NE force 3-4, visibility initially poor but improving near Alderney.

Summary of sightings:

Cetaceans
Common Dolphin Delphinus delphis 7

Seabirds
Gannet Morus bassanus 23
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 8
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 34
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 1
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 24
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 17
Grey Phalarope  Phalaropus fulicarius 2
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 10
Lesser Black-backed Gull  Larus fuscus 2
Kittiwake   Rissa tridactyla 2
Guillemot  Uria aalge 1
Razorbill  Alca torda 6
Auk sp.   1
Shearwater sp.   1

Terrestrial Birds
Shelduck Tadorna tadorna 2
Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus 9
Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa 100s

We boarded the Condor Liberation and were greeted by the friendly crew along with Captain Tim Coutts. We began surveying shortly after leaving because we were able to go and set up our survey gear pretty much as soon as the ship had set sail. In Poole harbour we saw Cormorant and Shag both flying and resting on the buoys. We were able to start surveying shortly after leaving Poole harbour.

The weather was initially quite misty but visibility improved as we headed south towards Alderney. Crossing the shipping lanes in the Channel we saw the usual variety cargo ships including some big tankers. Liberation is a 'fast ferry' and we realised just how fast while recording effort data during the survey - at some points we were travelling at over 37 knots.

Common Dolphin Peter Howlett 08
Common Dolphin (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

During the crossing we saw Herring and Great and Lesser Black-backed Gulls, a very late Manx Shearwater and Shag flying low to the water. We passed a very empty looking Gannet colony on Ortac rock, perhaps not surprising given the time of year although there were a good number of Gannets flying over the water in the vicinity.

On this trip our approach to St Peter Port took us straight down the Little Russel and we came off-effort just as the ship approached St Peter Port. When we came into St Peter Port we saw a large flock of Herring Gull flying round a fishing boat, waiting expectantly for any stray fish.

After a swift turnaround we were back on-effort shortly after departing St Peter Port to survey between Guernsey and Jersey. On approaching the Elizabeth Castle outside St Helier we came off-effort again. There were about 40 Oystercatcher and a similar number of Brent Geese resting on the rocks around the castle. Whilst the boat was docked in Jersey we made the most of the lovely food served from the Casquettes Bistro.

Corbiere lighthouse Christine Arnold 01a
La Corbiere Lighthouse, southwest Jersey (Christine Arnold)

After departing Jersey we restarted the survey as soon as we had cleared Elizabeth Castle. In the stretch of water between Jersey and Guernsey we were lucky enough to see seven Common Dolphin jumping out of the water - one right in front of us, 3 to the side and 3 behind. They were so close we could clearly see their markings ­- it was absolutely amazing and one of my best wildlife sightings ever. We also saw 2 Grey Phalarope flying past, another excellent sighting, a single Guillemot and Lesser Black-backed Gull. Feeling incredibly rewarded and excited we came off effort as the ship approached St Peter Port.

Whilst in St Peter Port Dave spotted the island's ambulance boat which could have been mine as it's named Flying Christine 3! On leaving Guernsey we returned to the bridge but did not go back on effort as dusk was quickly descending upon the English Channel. Instead we returned back to the deck and entered our data into the electronic database whilst enjoying the comfort of the Ocean Plus lounge.

Flying Christine 3 Christine Arnold 01a
The St John's Ambulance boat Flying Christine 3 in St Peter Port (Christine Arnold)

Eventually we viewed land from all the illuminations on the Bournemouth Sea front. We then docked and thanked the crew for their interesting company, friendly hospitality and service. This was one of the best surveys I have ever done from the sheer range of species seen.

Many thanks to Condor Ferries, the Captain and crew of the Condor Liberation for their assistance and support throughout this survey.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘Condor Liberation’ Poole-Guernsey 21 October 2016

Posted 22 October 2016

MARINElife/Guernsey WLO Alan Altoft

Summary of sightings:

Seabirds
Gannet
Cormorant
Great Black-backed Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Herring Gull
Black-headed Gull

Weather: sunny spells, dry with fair winds, visibility fair, sea state ranging from 3-5 throughout day.

This was the last of the MARINElife day trips for this year and it really felt like the end of the season. The Liberation had a slightly earlier sailing because of the tides and a land mist hung over Poole harbour. Atmospheric and beautiful it may have been but it wasn't great for wildlife watching. Even  Brownsea Island lagoon which is full of a variety of birds was veiled.

Cormorant Peter Howlett 03
Cormorant (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

Out into the channel and up on deck after a brief safety film I met with a few local bird enthusiasts, although no one had specifically booked a MARINElife ticket. The mist still hung over the coast and out over the water limiting our sightings to several passing Cormorants heading into the harbour.

It was late October and cold and often I was the only one on the deck. The view cleared enough to make being on lookout for any cetacean activity worthwhile but alas no there were no sightings on either leg of the trip.

Approaching the Channel Islands usually means that Gannets start appearing in ever larger numbers but this did not happen and as we sailed past Ortac the colony seemed deserted. This Gannet colony has been the high point of the trips throughout the summer and early autumn but it looked like they had left now for other waters.

Liberation sunset Alan Altoft 2016
Sunset over the Channel (Alan Altoft)

The sun was setting before we reached Poole on the return leg, bringing observations to a close. It has been an interesting year, let's hope 2017 is as good.

MARINElife blog: Condor Ferries ‘Condor Liberation’ Poole-Jersey 15 October 2016

Posted 21 October 2016

David Doxford and Christine Arnold, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884)

Weather: Slight Breeze, sea state 4-5, visibility mainly good with some cloud and rain.

Summary of sightings:

Seabirds
Gannet Morus bassanus 27
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 1
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 6
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 4
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 6
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 1
Grey Phalarope Phalaropus fulicarius 1

Terrestrial Birds
Shelduck Tadorna tadorna 4
Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus 9
Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa c200

We boarded the Condor Liberation and waited for her to sail past the chain ferry before beginning our survey. As we sailed past Brownsea Island, we were able to see Shelduck, Spoonbill, Black-tailed Godwit and Oystercatcher on the lagoon.


Christine Arnold surveying David Doxford
Surveying on the Liberation (David Doxford)

After passing the chain ferry we went up to the bridge and began our effort-based survey. The crew were welcoming and friendly as ever. After observing for a while we saw a Grey Phalarope flying quickly in the direction of Portland Bill which was rather exciting. We passed Ortac rock and Gannet colony and began to see more Gannet flying over the water along with several Manx Shearwater. It seemed that the Gannet colony was pretty empty today.

Today's approach to St Peter Port took us between Sark and Herm due to the tides. This enabled us to get good views of these islands. We went off effort and after collecting passengers went back on effort to survey between Guernsey and Jersey. Whilst docked in Jersey, we made the most of the lovely food served from the Casquettes Bistro.

After departing Jersey and travelling past the castle, we recorded Fulmar, Shag and Oystercatcher. We also passed the one of Condor's other ships the Commodore Clipper whilst a beautiful rainbow could be seen over the channel as we made our way back into Guernsey.

Sark rainbow Christine Arnold 2016
Rainbow over Sark (Christine Arnold)

After departing sunny Guernsey, we made our way down the channel between Guernsey and Herm and continued towards Ortac where we saw Great black-backed Gull and more Gannet.

We continued to survey until dark at about 6.30. It was great to see several big container ships all illuminated in the dark. The moon was out also which was picturesque.

We filled in the data recording sheets onto the databased whilst enjoying the comfort of the Ocean Plus lounge. Eventually we viewed land from all the illuminations on the Bournemouth Sea front. We then docked and thanked the crew for their interesting company, friendly hospitality and service.

Many thanks to Condor Ferries, the Captain and crew of the Condor Liberation for their assistance and support throughout this survey.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report ‘Condor Liberation’ Poole-Guernsey 12th October

Posted 18 October 2016

MARINElife/Guernsey WLO Glynis Northwood-Long

Weather:   Outward- Overcast with showers and Easterly wind 5-6, sea state moderate with good visibility.
Inbound - Sunny spells and showers with Easterly wind 5-6, sea state moderate with good visibility.

Summary of Species seen:

Cetaceans: No sightings

Seabirds:
Gannet
Cormorant
Shag
Herring Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Black-headed Gull
Fulmar

Other water birds:
Oystercatcher
Spoonbill
Avocet
Little Egret

This trip was my last one for this year as a Wildlife Officer on the Liberation and I was forever hopeful that the cetaceans would be kind to me and make an appearance.

After checking in at the ferry terminal, I boarded the Liberation and as it was early, I decided to have a tasty breakfast from Casquettes Bistro. However, as the Liberation departed ahead of schedule, following the announcement that a Wildlife Officer was on board, I quickly had to dash up to the viewing deck.

As we sailed through Poole Harbour, Cormorant and varieties of Gull could be seen on the buoys in the main channel. Several passengers approached me as they had heard the announcement and were interested in spotting local wildlife. I pointed out Brownsea Island and its lagoon to them where we were able to see different wading birds including Avocet, Spoonbill, Little Egret and Oystercatcher.  

After passing the spectacular sight of Old Harry Rocks, bird sightings decreased and as the passengers had gone inside, I took a break for coffee. Later, back on the viewing deck, we approached Alderney, but at this time of year most of the Gannet had departed the colony on Ortac.

Old Harry Rocks Rick Morris



 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Old Harry Rocks (Archive photo: Rick Morris)

On arriving at St Peters Port, it was such a lovely sunny day for mid-October. Guernsey was still in bloom with the colourful floral displays along the esplanade. I walked along to the Castle breakwater where I had a great view of the Liberation departing for Jersey.

Floral display Guernsey Glynis Northwood-Long

Liberation Glynis Northwood-Long

Flowers (Photo: GNL)                                         Condor Liberation (Photo: Glynis Northwood-Long)

I continued to the lighthouse at the end of the breakwater where I had my lunch, watched by a cheeky Black-headed Gull. I stayed there until it was time to return to the ferry terminal, watching the comings and goings in the harbour and being entertained by the antics of a juvenile shag diving for it's lunch.

BH Gull Glynis Northwood-LongJuv Shag Glynis Northwood-Long

Black-headed Gull (Photo: Glynis Northwood-Long)      Shag (Photo: Glynis Northwood-Long)

Back on the Liberation on the return journey, whilst it was still sunny, several people remained on the viewing deck and we chatted about MARINElife. Unfortunately, the swell and white caps on the sea made it difficult to spot any cetaceans and we didn't see any on this trip.

As we sailed back into Poole, we were treated to a lovely sunset over the harbour, silhouetting several deer along the edge of lagoon.

Thanks to Condor Ferries and the crew of the Condor Liberation for making me welcome on board and for their support to MARINElife.

MARINElife/Guernsey WLO Glynis Northwood-Long

 

 

MARINElife blog: Condor Ferries ‘Condor Liberation’ Poole-Jersey 24 September 2016

Posted 26 September 2016

Jon Butterfield and Kate Jones, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884)

Weather:
Out: wind southerly 5, visibility good, some glare There was some glare at times.
Return: wind southerly 3-4, visibility good, some glare but reducing.

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals
No marine mammals recorded

Seabirds
Gannet Morus bassanus 258
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 48
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 11
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 60
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 27
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 15
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 1
Common Tern Sterna hirundo 2
Tern sp. 7
Gull sp. 256

Terrestrial Birds
Shelduck Tadorna tadorna 12
Curlew Numenius arquata 17
Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus 5
Mallard Anas platyrhynchos 6
Passerine sp. 1

On arrival at the ferry terminal we were swiftly escorted aboard by the friendly Condor Ferries staff and, leaving Poole right on schedule, we headed to the bridge to start our survey. Crossing Poole Harbour we had a good view of Brownsea Island from our excellent survey position on the bridge and were treated to Shelduck, Oystercatcher and several Curlew as we made our way out in to the Channel.

Dorset coast Jon Butterfield
Old Harry rocks, Dorset (Jon Butterfield)

Passing a scenic coastline of white cliffs and stacks we began to sight seabird species; Cormorant, Lesser Black-backed and Herring Gull were visible, as well as a large aggregation of well over 100 gulls following a fishing vessel. The trip began quietly but as we approached Alderney we had an increasing number of Gannet sightings and it was exciting to pass close by the to the Gannet colony at Ortac rock.

The crew informed us that the day before they had been followed by a pod of Common Dolphin on the same route and were able to show us some video footage. We were on high alert for any cetaceans as we left Guernsey and headed towards St. Helier but the strong glare made observation quite challenging. Despite this we had a steady number of birds to keep us busy.

We stopped for an hour's turn around in Jersey, enjoying lunch on the ship with great views of the port. Then we were heading back out again and keen to spot some more marine life. It was oddly quiet on this leg of the journey, despite improved sea conditions but we soaked up the gorgeous Jersey coastline and recorded Cormorants, Herring and Lesser Back-backed Gull and Kittiwake.

Part way back to Guernsey we had some excitement as the crew spotted a dolphin breaching. We were based on the starboard side of the bridge and the sighting was to port so unfortunately we were not able to record it. We were sorry not to have sighted it but pleased to know there were dolphin nearby!

Ortac Jon Butterfield 01
Ortac Gannet colony (Jon Butterfield)

The remainder of the trip was characterised by large numbers of Gannet, with adults and juveniles showing well again as we returned by Ortac. Watching Gannets dive is always an impressive sight and we enjoyed seeing 100s swirl around the colony.

We concluded our survey on arrival back in to Poole Harbour and thanked Captain Aniscow and his staff for their hospitality before heading ashore.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘Condor Liberation’ Poole-Guernsey 22 September 2016

Posted 23 September 2016

MARINElife/Guernsey WLO Christine Arnold

Weather: Cloudy then sunny, light winds

Summary of sightings:

Seabirds
Gannet
Cormorant
Great Black-backed Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Herring Gull

Terrestrial birds
Brent Goose
Little Egret
Grey Heron
Spoonbill
Oystercatcher
Curlew
Buzzard
Feral pigeon

Excitedly I boarded Condor Liberation and collected the MARINElife leaflets and vest. We departed early as everyone was on board and ready to leave. After we had watched the safety video I joined fellow passengers on deck and began handing out leaflets and talking about MARINElife and the wildlife we were likely to see.

As we passed Stoney island in Poole harbour we saw a Grey Heron and Curlew resting on it and there were Cormorants perched on the various marker buoys. We had great views of Studland and Old Harry rocks. Chatting to the passengers it seemed that many were off on their holidays going to the Channel Islands.

Noonday gun Christine Arnold 02
Preparing the Noonday gun in Castle Cornet (Christine Arnold)

Crossing the Channel we passed several container ships and began to see Gannet as we approached the Ortac Gannet colony. I even saw a Gannet flying with something in its beak being pursued by another Gannet! The sun emerged and cast beautiful light over Alderney and Guernsey. As we arrived in Guernsey much earlier than normal I was able to take photos of the firing of the noon-day cannon from Castle Cornet.

It was a lovely day and I was able to take advantage of the nearby bathing pool where the shrimps nibbled my feet. Oystercatchers and Herring gulls were calling whilst landing out on the rocks and a Buzzard called overhead.

I reboarded Condor Liberation and handed out more leaflets. It was wonderful to hear the passengers talking about their wildlife encounters on their holidays. Fellow passengers were absolutely delighted to see the spectacle of Ortac rock. They were amazed by how many Gannets there were and even borrowed my binoculars to take a better look. As it was such a clear day we were able to view the Gannet colony on Les Étacs rocks off the southwest tip of Alderney too.

Poole Harbour Christine Arnold 01
Late afternoon sun over Dorset (Christine Arnold)

On approaching Studland and Swanage bay there was a beautiful sunset with rays clearly visible. Just before we travelled past the chain ferry I saw three Brent Geese at the end of Shell Bay beach.

On Brownsea Lagoon hundreds of Cormorants were perched and settling for the night along with at least 23 Spoonbills. Some of these were flapping about in the tamarisk bushes and some were standing in the water. Great Black-backedand Herring Gulls circled around Condor as she approached her mooring area. This was the perfect end to another successful trip.

Brownsea Lagoon Christine Arnold 01
Brownsea Lagoon (Christine Arnold)

Thanks to Condor Ferries and the crew of the Condor Liberation for their support and assistance.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘Condor Liberation’ Poole-Guernsey 14 September 2016

Posted 16 September 2016

Alan Altoft: Wildlife Officer for MARINElife

Weather:
Sunny patches, dry with fair winds. Fair visibility, sea state ranging from 3-5 throughout day

Summary of Sightings
Marine Mammals:
None seen

Seabirds:
Herring Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Black-headed Gull
Gannet
Fulmar
European Shag

 

Perfectly on schedule the Liberation smoothly slipped away from its moorings and began what always feels like a leisurely crossing of Poole harbour.

After we had all watched a safety briefing film the crew opened up the top deck.  No one had specifically joined the boat on a MARINElife ticket but a couple came up saying they had intended to and would next time.  Another couple of keen ornithologists also came along to introduce themselves. They all lived locally so I had a good chance to learn more about the wild life around the harbour and along the coast from Old Harry to Swanage.  It is always encouraging to see such enthusiasm.

The morning weather and light were good, though once out into the open water the waves were cresting.  Even with several people watching out for signs of marine mammals no sightings were made.  Unfortunately, this was true of the return journey as well.

The Liberation took a broader route around the islands approaching Guernsey at low tide, which gave a chance to see new headlands and scenery.

GBB Gull Peter Howlett 02

Great Black-backed Gull (Peter Howlett)

The time in Guernsey was spent pleasantly on the north bay watching the tide roll in and the activity of the local birds as the waters stirred up the sand and pool life.  It was unusual to be able to sit so close to three Little Egret going about their feeding.

The return journey was again blessed with good weather, although the waves were white-capped and the winds fairly strong.  There was quite a lot of interest in looking for wildlife from those of us on the top deck, and a local islander gave several accounts of the seal and Bottlenose Dolphin activity around the island.

Gannet Rick Morris 07

Gannet (Rick Morris)

The Gannet activity at Ortac was entrancing and one of the highlights of the trip was an adult Gannet slip-streaming behind the bridge, this for several minutes with this giant of a bird only feet from us.  We could see every slight flexing of feathers and wing line, every adjustment of the head angle and the keen eye of the bird.  All the bird's grace and power that lay behind the apparent ease of the flight and spectacular soaring were evident as it edged in to the prevailing wind.

Overall an enjoyable mix of wildlife, the elements and people sharing knowledge and discussing MARINElife research and marine conservation in general.

A good day and thanks to the friendly crew

If you like the sound of joining one of our trips down to Guernsey from Poole, then you can book online at http://www.condorferries.co.uk/day-trips/view-marinelife-day-trips. What's more, Condor Ferries will kindly donate £5 of the cost of your ticket to MARINElife!

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: Condor Ferries ‘Condor Liberation’ Poole-Guernsey 8 September 2016

Posted 13 September 2016

MARINElife/Guernsey WLO Glynis Northwood-Long

Weather:
Outward: Overcast with wind W-SW 4-6, sea state moderate with good visibility
Inbound: Sunny with wind W 4-5, sea state moderate to slight with good visibility

Summary of sightings:

Cetaceans: No sightings

Seabirds:
Gannet
Cormorant
Herring Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Black-headed Gull
Kittiwake
Fulmar
Sandwich Tern
Common Tern
Spoonbill
Oystercatcher
Avocet

Terrestrial birds seen at sea:
Heron
House Martin
Swallow
Carrion Crow
Feral Pigeon

This trip as a Wildlife Officer on the Liberation was definitely different from any other that I have been on, with a few unusual sightings of the 'winged' variety!

On arrival at the ferry terminal, I was greeted by the friendly staff at the Condor check-in desk. I quickly boarded the Liberation and at the Information Desk, I was told that there were people booked on the WLO trip already onboard. I went out onto the viewing deck and following the announcement that a Wildlife Officer was on board, Steve and Elaine introduced themselves to me.

Shield bug Glynis Northwood-Long 2016
Western Conifer Seed Bug (Glynis Northwood-Long)

As we sailed through Poole Harbour, I found out they were keen birders and was glad of their assistance in spotting the different bird species on the lagoon at Brownsea Island. Steve then spotted an unusual 'stowaway' insect crawling around on deck. It was a type of shield bug unknown to us, so we took several photos and I later identified it as a Western Conifer Seed Bug (native to North America, first introduced into the UK in 2007).

After passing Old Harry Rocks, we saw House Martin and Swallow heading back to land, as the windy conditions increased. Quite a few passengers were keen to find out what we were looking for and I was able to explain more about MARINElife. Unfortunately no cetaceans were seen on this journey and although sightings of seabirds became sparse, once we were approaching Alderney, they were rewarded with the spectacular sight of the Gannet colony on Ortac rock.

Breitling and Red Arrows Northwood-Long and Swinney
Breitling wingwalkers (Glynis Northwood-Long) and the Red Arrows (Steve Swinney)

We were treated to another spectacular sight as we entered St Peter Port harbour as the Brietling Wingwalkers flew overhead as part of the Guernsey Air Show. Steve, Elaine and I quickly disembarked and watched more of the aerial display from the Esplanade, including the Wildcats display team. We then hurried along to Castle pier, after hearing over the tannoy that the Red Arrows would soon be arriving. We watched the 'Reds' put on stunning display over the sea, with Castle Cornet in the foreground. After that, we continued along the pier to the lighthouse where we sat and had our lunch until it was time to return to the ferry terminal.

Back on the Liberation on the return journey, the sunny conditions meant that quite a few people remained on the viewing deck, eager to spot dolphins or seals. Unfortunately we didn't see any cetaceans but they became keen spotters of the many Gannet as we approached Ortac and also throughout the return journey.

Ortac Glynis Northwood-Long 2016
Ortac Gannet colony (Glynis Northwood-Long)

As we sailed back into Poole the setting sun over the Harbour brought an enjoyable trip to an end. I'd also like to say thanks to Steve and Elaine for their company and help during the day. If you would like to take advantage of Condor Ferries special WLO day trip offer, as they did, please click here for more information.

Thanks to Condor Ferries and the crew of the Condor Liberation for making me welcome onboard and for their support to MARINElife.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: Condor Ferries ‘Condor Liberation’ Poole-Guernsey 30 August 2016

Posted 05 September 2016

MARINElife/Guernsey WLO Alan Altoft

Weather: Out and return - sunny, light winds, visibility good, sea state calm

Summary of Sightings

Seabirds:
Herring Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Black-headed Gull
Gannet
Fulmar
Shag

This was my first trip as Wildlife Officer (WLO) which suddenly felt quite a responsibility but I was eager none the less. Having been on a WLO training day on this route earlier in the year I felt well orientated and had an expectation of how the day would go.

The morning weather and light were ideal. Poole harbour a blue mirror. The upper deck filled up with passengers and quite a few were interested and wanted to talk about what they might see during the crossing. The harbour itself and particularly Brownsea Island was very active with bird life.

Fulmar Peter Howlett 19
Fulmar (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

As we left the harbour the sea was calm and visibility extremely good so the chances of spotting any marine mammal activity if they were around was encouraging. The number of people on deck thinned out and I was conscious of fewer eyes watching the waters. As it turned on this day we saw no cetaceans.

Halfway across the Channel we entered a narrow band of seafog, fortunately it only lasted fifteen minutes and gave me a chance to get a cup of tea and a croissant.

The rest of the sailing into Guernsey was smooth and clear. The bird life was abundant and the scenery fascinating.

GBBG Peter Howlett 10
Great Black-backed Gull (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

The return journey was again blessed with good weather. The evening light made the Gannet colony on Ortac more beautiful and spectacular than ever. In amongst the adult were quite a few juvenile Gannet.

A lot of the passengers were doing the day trip so there were familiar faces on the return trip and more came up and had longer conversations about MARINELife, research and marine conservation in general.

A good day and thanks to the friendly crew.

If you like the sound of joining one of our trips down to Guernsey, from Poole then you can book online here. What's more, Condor Ferries will kindly donate £5 from the cost of your ticket to MARINElife!

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘Condor Liberation’ Poole-Guernsey 24 August 2016

Posted 25 August 2016

MARINElife/Guernsey WLO Christine Arnold

Weather: Light winds, cloudy to start but then sunny

Summary of sightings:

Seabirds:
Common Tern
Sandwich Tern
Great Black-backed Gull
Lesser black-backed Gull
Herring Gull
Gannet
Cormorant
Shag

Terrestrial birds:
Swallow
Little Egret
Feral Pigeon
Spoonbill
Oystercatcher
Black-tailed Godwit
Avocet

I boarded the ship on this very hot and muggy day. After collecting my MARINElife folder I went out on deck and began speaking to passengers and handing out leaflets. Many travellers were going on holiday and were interested in the surrounding area.

As Condor Liberation made her way out of the harbour we saw Sandwich and Common Terns along with Cormorant and Shag circling nearby Brownsea lagoon. On Brownsea lagoon we were able to see Spoonbill, Little Egret along with many Black-tailed Godwit and Avocet.

We had brilliant views of Old Harry and Studland bay and more people were out on deck enjoying these than I've ever seen before. One group included people who were on a coach tour visiting Guernsey for the day. Whilst so many people were on deck I took this opportunity to hand out leaflets and talk about the research MARINElife undertakes.

It was a great day for being at sea with light winds and the sea calm. However, the sea was quiet and it was some time before we saw our first Gannets. After an hour or so we passed one of my favourite spots on the trip - the Gannet colony on Ortac, at this time of year there were many dark coloured juvenile birds to be seen.

Sea Cloud 2 Christine Arnold
Sea Cloud II at Anchor off St Peter Port (Christine Arnold)

As we approached St Peter Port we passed Sea Cloud II at anchor, a large and very exclusive sailing cruise ship. There was also a large flock of Herring, Lesser Black-backed and Greater Black-backed Gulls congregating around fishing boats outside the harbour entrance.

For the first time ever I was fortunate enough to be able to witness the firing of the noon-day canon from Castle Cornet, which is quite an experience. The canon is fired by two soldiers dressed in red, the bang is extremely loud and the canon sends out a large plume of smoke.

Ortac Christine Arnold 2015 05
Ortac Gannet colony (Christine Arnold)

Once we docked in Guernsey I cycled to the beach and watched brightly coloured periwinkles in the rock pools. All too soon it was time to board the Liberation for the return trip where we had brilliant views of Jethou, Herm, Sark and Alderney islands. We went close to the Ortac Gannet colony where hundreds of these majestic birds had landed on it or were circling over the surrounding waters.

After this I took the opportunity to make the most of the catering facilities with a meal and returned to the deck for the remaining journey. There was a lovely sunset over Poole Harbour area and we had good views of Brownsea Lagoon where the terns were still searching for fish. We docked in Poole after a busy and interesting trip.

Thanks to Condor Ferries and the crew of the Condor Liberation for their support and assistance.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: Condor Ferries ‘Condor Liberation’ Poole-Guernsey 16 August 2016

Posted 18 August 2016

MARINElife/Guernsey WLO Julie Hatcher

Weather: Outward and return - a stiff easterly breeze with wall to wall sunshine and blue skies. The wind died as we approached Poole on the return journey and we enjoyed a beautiful sunset and calm seas.

Summary of sightings:

Seabirds:
Gannet
Herring Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Common Tern
Fulmar
Cormorant
Shag
Swallow

It was already warm with a brilliant blue sky as we left Poole and sailed through the harbour at a leisurely pace. The outside deck was packed with people enjoying the sunshine and watching the gulls, terns and Cormorants flying around the ferry as we passed Brownsea Island and sailed along the coast. I chatted with the passengers and answered their questions about what we might see on the crossing as we left the Purbeck coast and headed out into the Channel.

Gannet Peter Howlett 24
Adult and juvenile Gannet (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

A strong easterly wind was blowing making the sea surface a bit choppy although not at all rough for the crossing. Several adult and juvenile Gannet, with their dark plumage, were spotted, along with a Fulmar and a single Swallow heading south on migration. We passed the Gannet colony on Ortac just west of Alderney and, as we approached Guernsey, entered smoother waters. We kept our eyes peeled for Harbour Porpoise and Bottlenose Dolphin, which are regularly seen there, but unfortunately didn't see anything on this occasion.

Fulmar Peter Howlett 19
Fulmar (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

We disembarked in St Peter Port at lunch time with the hot sun beating down. A leisurely lunch and saunter around the shops and cobbled streets of the town soon filled the few hours of shore time and before long it was time to head back to the ferry for the return voyage. The glorious weather continued and again the outside decks of the ferry were packed with people enjoying the views as we left the Channel Islands behind. More Gannet soaring over the waves kept us company as we sailed north but otherwise there was little wildlife to be seen. Despite this everyone enjoyed the day, especially the glorious sunshine, blue skies and smooth crossing.

Thanks to Condor Ferries and the crew of the Condor Liberation for their support and assistance.

MARINElife Survey Report: Condor Ferries ‘Condor Liberation’ Poole-Guernsey August 2016

Posted 16 August 2016

This survey was cancelled for logistical reasons

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: Condor Ferries ‘Condor Liberation’ Poole-Guernsey 10 August 2016

Posted 09 August 2016

This WLO trip was cancelled for operational reasons.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: Condor Ferries ‘Condor Liberation’ Poole-Guernsey 1 August 2016

Posted 02 August 2016

This trip was cancelled for operational reasons.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: Condor Ferries ‘Condor Liberation’ Poole-Guernsey 27 July 2016

Posted 31 July 2016

Chris Gleed-Owen, Wildlife Officer for MARINElife

Weather:
Outward: Some squally showers, visibility mainly good, strong breeze, quite choppy
Return: sunny spells, visibility good, moderate breeze

Summary of Sightings

Seabirds
Herring Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Black-headed Gull
Manx Shearwater
Gannet
Fulmar
Sandwich Tern
Cormorant
Oystercatcher
Auk sp.

I was pleased to make my second solo daytrip as Wildlife Officer (WLO) for MARINElife in partnership with Condor Ferries. As usual, the role provides a point of contact for the public, answering questions, and raising awareness of cetaceans and seabirds during the crossing.

We departed Poole at 0915 in overcast conditions, with the usual range of gulls, Oystercatchers, terns and geese in the air and on Brownsea Island lagoon. It was nice to meet a father and son, both keen birders, who had come on the wildlife daytrip. We hadn't long left Poole Harbour when we saw our first Manx Shearwater, and an adult and juvenile Gannet.

Gannet Chris Gleed-Owen 01
Gannet (Chris Gleed-Owen)

There was a strong breeze throughout the crossing, with quite a choppy sea and a light swell, making observation with binoculars difficult. Just to make things more challenging there were also occasional squally showers, with visibility sometimes dropping below 500m but we saw quite a few Gannet and at least 10 more Manx Shearwater. A dozen or so passengers asked questions, and one lady from Aberystwyth was keen to know how to volunteer for MARINElife.

Passing the Casquets and Ortac Rock provided the usual Gannet spectacle. Further on, the increasing gulls heralded our approach to Guernsey, but still no cetaceans. However, speaking later to the father, it transpired his teenage son is pretty sure he saw a cetacean, most likely a Minke Whale, about half an hour before St Peter Port.

The three hours in St Peter Port passed quickly - on a gift-shopping foray for my family as usual - then it was back on board the Condor Liberation. We left 15 minutes early (and arrived in Poole 15 minutes earlier than scheduled). The return journey had a good breeze still but weather was intermittently sunny, the sea was distinctly flatter, and visibility was good.

There were more Gannet throughout the return leg and at least 10 Manx Shearwater in total. Some of the sightings were courtesy of the father and son team, while I was engaged in conversation with interested passengers. You can't be everywhere at once, and the extra eyes were useful.

Condor Liberation Chris Gleed-Owen 02
Late afternoon sun approaching Poole Harbour (Chris Gleed-Owen)

We saw a few Lesser Black-backed Gull out to sea and a distant Fulmar. The evening sun cast a beautiful light on Old Harry and the Purbeck coast. As we entered Poole Harbour we were greeted by the usual suspects, including a few garrulous Sandwich Tern emitting their scratchy call overhead.

Unfortunately, there were no cetaceans today, although I'm glad one passenger had a possible sighting. Still, it was a good day and I enjoyed watching the waves with bated breath for the entire journey (bar one cup of tea on the outbound).

Many thanks to Condor Ferries for their hospitality once again. If you'd like to come on one of the daytrips from Poole to Guernsey, you can book online here . What's more, Condor Ferries kindly donate £5 per ticket to MARINElife!

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘Condor Liberation’ Poole-Guernsey 18 July 2016

Posted 21 July 2016

MARINElife/Guernsey WLO: Sarah Hodgson

Weather: Sunny and clear with a gentle breeze, sea state 1-3.

Summary of sightings:

Cetaceans:
Bottlenose Dolphin 10

Seabirds:
Common Tern
Sandwich Tern
Herring Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Shag
Cormorant
Gannet
Guillemot
Fulmar
Manx Shearwater

Other birds:
Little Egret
Oystercatcher
Canada Goose

Poole was bathed in glorious sunshine when I arrived at the port to board Condor Liberation.  After a swift check in and boarding, and having applied some sunscreen, I made my way to the outside viewing deck ready for our imminent departure. There was a lot of activity on the water, with many small boats making the most of the beautiful weather. Brownsea Lagoon was a hive of activity too, with a wide variety of seabirds and waders. As we made our way out of the harbour, I took the opportunity to chat to passengers about the wildlife that might be encountered during the crossing and the work of MARINElife.

Ortac Sarah Hodgson 01
Ortac Gannet colony (Sarah Hodgson)

Viewing conditions were fantastic, with clear skies and calm seas. Several passengers were equipped with binoculars, so there were plenty of eyes on the water. Occasional Gannet were spotted as we headed across the Channel, as well as a couple of Guillemot rafting on the surface. The numbers of Gannet increased as we approached Alderney and the colony on Ortac Rock.

Due to the tides, our route to Guernsey was between the islands of Sark and Herm and more passengers gathered on deck to admire the views. On our final approach into St Peter Port suddenly a small group of Bottlenose Dolphin appeared just ahead of the ship. As we passed, the dolphins delighted the passengers with their acrobatics, leaping completely clear of the water at times. Sadly our journey had to continue and the dolphins disappeared behind us and into the distance, but had left the passengers with a memorable experience.

BND Peter Howlett 14
Bottlenose Dolphin (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

After a few hours exploring the coastline around St. Peter Port on foot and an obligatory ice cream, it was soon time to depart Guernsey for our return crossing to Poole. Whilst the viewing conditions remained excellent, the wind had picked up slightly. Nevertheless, it was smooth sailing and we managed to spot a couple of other seabird species that had eluded us on the outward crossing. A lone Fulmar and a Manx Shearwater were seen in quick succession, gliding effortlessly above the water.

Before long, the Dorset coastline came into view and as we passed Old Harry Rocks, which looked stunning in the early evening light, the boat slowed for the approach into Poole.

Thanks as always to Condor Ferries and the crew of the Condor Liberation for their support and assistance.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘Condor Liberation’ Poole-Guernsey 13 July 2016

Posted 17 July 2016

MARINElife/Guernsey WLO: Christine Arnold

Weather: Sunny with light sea breeze, sea state 2-3

Summary of sightings:

Seabirds
Sandwich Tern
Common Tern
annet
Black-headed Gull
Herring Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Manx Shearwater
Shag
Cormorant

Terrestrial birds:
Oystercatcher
Little Egret
Shelduck
Mallard
Feral Pigeon
Rock Pipit

It was a beautiful, sunny morning as I boarded Condor Liberation. I  went to the information point to collect the MARINElife equipment and then made my way out onto the deck where I was quickly approached by many enthusiastic passengers. One family were teachers and were keen for their children to look at the photos in the leaflet to prepare for what they might see during the crossing. Another couple had booked specifically for the MARINElife day trip. Others were going on their holidays.

Whilst handing out many leaflets I was able to point out various birds on Brownsea lagoon including Little Egret, Cormorant, Canada Goose, Oystercatcher and Sandwich Tern. Passengers were also very interested in the names of places whilst looking at the landscapes of the Poole harbour area. There were also many Sandwich Terns fishing around the Studland bay area along with Great Black-backed Gulls resting on buoys and Cormorants and Shags flying to and fro or sat on the sea.

Magellan Christine Arnold
The cruise ship Magellan off St Peter Port (Christine Arnold)

Just as we travelled past Swanage we saw the first Gannet and we were able to make out the Barfleur ahead of us as it made its way to Cherbourg. As usual with this trip we saw many cargo vessels in the Channel - at one point I could see six at once. Passengers are always very interested in these and often wonder what types of items are inside the containers.

During the crossing we saw many Gannets and on approaching Guernsey the Herring and Lesser Black-backed Gull numbers increased. Onn this trip we travelled down the Big Russell channel east of Herm and Jethou before swinging back around and into St Peter Port. In doing so we passed the cruise liner 'Magellan' which was unloading passengers into tenders for a day trip on Guernsey.

After spending a pleasant few hours looking around the island I reboarded for the return journey. Shortly after leaving the harbour we were fortunate enough to have a very good sighting of a group of seven Manx Shearwater as they passed close by the ship.

Manx Shearwater Peter Howlett 11
Manx Shearwater (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

We had brilliant views of Ortac rock with what looked like hundreds of Gannets circling the top which was bathed in glorious sunshine. The Channel crossing produced many more Gannet and Manx Shearwaters and as we approached Poole Harbour I was joined by increasing numbers of  passengers. Again, many terns were fishing and returning to Brownsea Island to feed their young.

As we docked the cruise liner 'Corinthian' was just leaving being pulled out by the tug boat. Many thanks to the Condor staff for their kindness and help whilst I was on board Condor Liberation.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘Condor Liberation’ Poole-Guernsey 7 July 2016

Posted 11 July 2016

MARINElife/Guernsey WLO: Rick Morris

Weather cloudy with sunny spells, wind southwesterly 1-3, sea state: 2-3

Summary of sightings:

Marine mammals:
Grey Seal 1

 

Seabirds:
Sandwich Tern
Common Tern
Gannet
Black-headed Gull
Mediterranean Gull
Herring Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Fulmar
Manx Shearwater
Guillemot
Puffin
Shag
Cormorant
Common Scoter

 

Terrestrial birds:
Oystercatcher
Little Egret
Grey Heron
Shelduck
Mallard
Carrion Crow
Feral Pigeon

Arriving in Poole at 05:30, I made my way to the check-in for some MARINElife leaflets and was met by the ever friendly staff at the counter. After just a few minutes I was through the boarding gate and taken to the 'Condor Liberation' via bus transfer. After equipping myself with camera and binoculars I made my up to the viewing deck ready for our 06:30 departure where I was greeted by a curious Herring Gull.

Les Casquets Rick Morris 01
Les Casquets Lighthouse (Rick Morris)

We left out berth under grey skies and as we passed Brownsea Island I pointed out to some passengers some of the birds in and around the Lagoon including a few Little Egret. Leaving the calmness of the Harbour and passing Old Harry Rocks the sea state picked up to a force 3, but I remained hopeful of some cetacean sightings, alas this wasn't to be, but I did spot some rafting Guillemot, a single Fulmar, Herring, Lesser and Great Black-back Gull and had regular sightings of Gannet on route. Then around the halfway point, flying in-line, 6 distant Common Scoter were seen heading south.

We passed Alderney in between the Casquets Lighthouse and Ortac Rock, which is still home to a large breeding colony of Gannet, this delighted some first time travellers on the route as they had never seen Gannet this close up.

Gannet Rick Morris 09
Gannet (Rick Morris)

Around a mile off Sark in a now flat sea, I spotted a lone Grey Seal which was watching us as we passed by shortly followed by a single Puffin. Just before arriving in Guernsey I spotted a distant Grey Heron flying toward the island. A mixed group of 50+ Herring and Lesser Black-back Gull were feeding around 1000m off the harbour and the hope was there may also be a Harbour Porpoise or two, but none were present.

I disembarked in glorious sunshine and decided to take a walk past the marina and along the coast towards the underground war museum. Here I climbed the steps up to Clarence Battery to take in some stunning views.

A walk back to port via the town soon found me back on top of the Liberation for the journey home. We enjoyed blue skies and flat seas to Alderney and here good views of Gannet, Guillemot, Shag and gulls were seen by all on the viewing deck.

Common Scoter Rick Morris 02
Common Scoter (Rick Morris)

The rest of the trip was fairly quiet with the sea picking up to 3-4 until reaching the shelter of Poole Harbour, although we did get a few sightings of Guillemot approaching the Jurassic Coast. Birds seen in the harbour and around Brownsea were fairly much the same as the outbound trip concluding this week's wildlife trip and so I made my way down, said my thanks and made my way home feeling satisfied that although no cetaceans were seen, a good variety of birds were, and I got to get plenty of passengers interested in MARINElife's work and of the diversity of wildlife to be found on the crossing.

Many thanks to Condor Ferries and all the staff for the help and supporting these trips.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘Condor Liberation‘ Poole-Guernsey 29 June 2016

Posted 30 June 2016

MARINElife/Guernsey WLO Tony Chenery

Summary of sightings:

Seabirds
Gannet
Black-headed Gull
Herring Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Common Tern
Sandwich Tern
Cormorant

As always thanks to Condor Ferries and the crew of the Condor Liberation for the support and assistance. This was my first trip alone as WLO on this route, although, having completed my MARINElife WLO training on this route it was familiar to me and I was very much looking forward to another visit to St Peter Port the capital of Guernsey.

Common Tern Peter Howlett 10
Common Tern (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

The weather forecast was not very good, with rather a lot of rain predicted, especially for the return leg. In the event, however, I managed to survey for three quarters of the journey each way, before rain set in. For the journey out to Guernsey there was a strong south-westerly breeze with intermittent showers and sea state was generally five. The return journey was less breezy and the sea state fell to three or four. Cloud cover on the way out was generally about 75%, while on the way back it tended to rise above 75% for the majority of the time to 90% or at times total cover.

Leaving Poole we saw good numbers of Common Tern around the ship, joined by several Sandwich Terns as we headed out to sea. On my first trip on this route we had nine Bottlenose Dolphins as we left Poole. I was attentive and expectant! But not this trip and as we progressed the weather remained too lively to have much chance of sighting cetaceans especially smaller ones.

Gannet Peter Howlett 04
Gannet (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

There were plenty of Gannets, however, moving very swiftly and effortlessly in the breeze. Occasional gulls and terns came into view, initially giving the impression of being something unusual when catching the stronger gusts of wind. Despite the wind It was quite warm and enjoyable being up on deck and I had some good conversations about MARINElife with the hardier souls that braved the wind with me.

All in all an exhilarating trip with some spectacular skies. All out for cetaceans the next trip!

 

MARINElife Survey Report: ‘Condor Liberation’ Poole-Jersey 26 June 2016

Posted 29 June 2016

Rick Morris and Christine Arnold, Research Surveyors for MARINElife

Weather: Cloudy, wind westerly 4 with sea state 3-4.

Summary of sightings

Marine mammals:
None seen

Seabirds:
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 1
Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis 1
Gannet Morus bassanus 78
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 2
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 43
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 19
Guillemot Uria aalge 14
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 50
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 12
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 18
Larus Gull Sp. 101

We were welcomed onto the bridge by the Condor staff, they were very friendly, accommodating as usual. As we entered the Studland bay area we began our survey. We recorded both effort data and wildlife sightings which included flotsam sightings.

After a while surveying we approached Les Ortac rock where the majestic Gannet nests in large numbers. This time of year meant that we were also able to identify some juvenile birds, these being much darker coloured than the adults. We also recorded Guillemot, Manx Shearwater and many Lesser Black-backed Gulls.

Manx Shearwater Rick Morris 06
Manx Shearwater (Rick Morris)

Even though we were still near Alderney we were able to make out two huge cruise ships on the horizon anchored off Guernsey. As we sailed down the Little Russel, the channel between Guernsey and Herm, the Liberation slowed down and we were able to count a feeding flock of nearly 100 gulls just outside St Peter Port. We also got a close view of the two cruise ships, the Britannia and Caribbean Princess and could see the passengers being transferred to St Peter Port in the ships' tenders as we passed. Both ships were huge and towered above the Liberation.

Cruise ships Christine Arnold 01
Britannia and Caribbean Princess anchored off St Peter Port (Christine Arnold)

We came off our survey effort for this stretch as the Liberation berthed in Guernsey ready for some passengers to disembark. Once we had docked in Guernsey we saw a very smart  Sunseeker-type motor yacht which even boasted a hot tub! Once passengers had disembarked and new ones had boarded we continued to Jersey and the survey restarted logging more gulls, Manx Shearwater and Guillemot on the short crossing to Jersey.

After a short stop in Jersey we began our journey back towards Guernsey. On leaving St Helier we saw a  large Great Black-backed Gull trying really hard to take flight with a large crab in its beak. It did not succeed, the crab looked far too heavy and large and was putting up quite a fight itself.

GBB Gull Rick Morris 01
Great Black-backed Gull struggling with crab (Rick Morris)

We continued the survey, pausing only whilst we docked in St Peter Port to collect more passengers. For the final leg of the journey we took the Big Russel, the channel around the back of the Herm and Jethou, offering a different view of the islands to the outward journey. On the return journey we were fortunate enough to be on the near side as we passed Les Ortac rock so had a very good view of the hundreds of Gannets on it including many circling the top. Every so often during the return journey a Gannet would soar low to the side of the ship or over the top of it enabling Rick to take some mid-air flight shots.

Many thanks to Condor Ferries, the Captain and crew of the Condor Liberation for their assistance and support throughout this survey.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘Condor Liberation’ Poole-Guernsey 23 June 2016

Posted 27 June 2016

MARINElife/Guernsey WLO: Glynis Northwood-Long

Weather: Winds northwesterly 2 to 4, sea  state slight to moderate, with drizzle, intermittent heavy showers and mist reducing visibility from moderate to poor.

Summary of sightings:

Seabirds:
Cormorant
Herring Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Black-headed Gull
Sandwich Tern
Common Tern
Gannet
Guillemot

Terrestrial birds:
Swallow
Oystercatcher
Greylag Goose
Canada Goose

It was an early, misty start to this week's Wildlife trip on the Liberation and with the forecast of fog and thundery showers, only the really keen spotters and sightseers were out on the viewing deck. The drizzly conditions seemed to also hamper bird activity with only Cormorant, Greylag and Canada Geese and gulls being seen in any number on Brownsea Island Lagoon. The bonus to the early start was that there was more ship activity with both the Barfleur and the Corinthian seen coming into port as well as fishing boats, ferries and Harbourmasters boats within the harbour.

Barfleur Glynis Northwood-Long 01
Barfleur entering Poole harbour (Glynis Northwood-Long)

After passing Old Harry Rocks, the weather deteriorated further and the other passengers left the viewing deck. I also retreated inside and enjoyed a large breakfast from the Casquets Bistro. Unfortunately, conditions did not improve throughout the voyage and even the Gannetry on Ortac near Alderney was shrouded in mist.

Disembarking at St Peter Port, I took a sightseeing tour of the island, the Guernsey Vaeux, on one of the local buses as the intermittent showers seemed to be set in for the day. After the tour, I took a leisurely stroll back through the town, admiring the floral displays which were obviously benefiting  from the wet conditions and had grown significantly since my last visit a few weeks before.

Once back on the Liberation for the return journey and out on the viewing deck, I chatted to a few people from the Channel Islands, around the UK, and from the US about our previous experiences of cetacean sightings. Sadly on this occasion, we didn't spot any dolphin or Harbour Porpoise, as had been seen on previous trips and more rain put a stop to further viewing out on deck.

Birds on buoy Glynis Northwood-Long 01
Birds on one of the channel buoys in Poole harbour (Glynis Northwood-Long)

Thanks to Condor Ferries and the crew of the Condor Liberation for making me welcome onboard and for supporting these wildlife trips.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘Condor Liberation’ Poole-Guernsey 15 June 2016

Posted 16 June 2016

This trip was cancelled for operational reasons.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: Condor Ferries ‘Condor Liberation’ Poole-Guernsey 9 June 2016

Posted 14 June 2016

MARINElife/Guernsey WLO: Chris Gleed-Owen

Weather:
Outward: overcast and foggy, visibility down to 200m, clearing later, sea state 3-4
Return: mainly sunny, sea state 3-5. Good visibility

Summary of Sightings

Marine Mammals:
Bottlenose Dolphin Tursiops truncatus 5

Seabirds:
Gannet
Cormorant
Oystercatcher
Great Skua Herring Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Black-headed Gull
Guillemot
Auk sp.
Shearwater sp.

Following a training and induction day by Rick Morris and Glynis Northwood-Long in April 2016, this was my first solo daytrip as Wildlife Officer (WLO) for MARINElife in partnership with Condor Ferries. The role provides a visible point of contact for interaction with the general public, answering questions and promoting an interest in marine wildlife, whilst observing cetaceans and seabirds.

We departed Poole at 07:50 and the route past Brownsea Island brought a variety of birds including Cormorant and various gulls. Unfortunately fog descended as we left Studland and Sandbanks behind and with visibility down to 1km we could barely see Old Harry Rocks.

Ortac Chris Gleed-Owen 01
The Gannet colony on Ortac - fortunately the fog had lifted! (Chris Gleed-Owen)

A lone Gannet passed close but visibility dropped even further, to a few hundred metres, and the ship had to sound its foghorn for a while. As the fog lifted a little, I saw what looked like a Great Skua flicking low over the water 200m to starboard. An unidentified shearwater and auk were the only other birds seen.

Visibility improved for the rest of the trip, allowing sightings of gulls and Gannets as we passed Alderney and Ortac rock. Despite a fairly flat sea state, no cetaceans were seen. Quite a few passengers asked me questions, including a couple of birders who regretted leaving their binoculars in the car - something to be rectified on the return leg! Most passengers were pleasantly surprised to hear that cetaceans or other interesting wildlife could be seen on this route.

St Peter Port Chris Gleed-Owen 01
St Peter Port breakwater and Castle Cornet (Chris Gleed-Owen)

After a pleasant three hours in St Peter Port, the return journey began in sunshine, with a busy top deck. Oystercatcher, gulls and Guillemot were seen, with increasing number of Gannets as we approached Ortac rock. This guano-covered rock is home to many nesting pairs and there are always hundreds of Gannets circling it.

The highlight came half-way back across the Channel, with five Bottlenose Dolphin briefly surfacing off the starboard side. Observant passengers with window seats would have had a great view! From the top deck, I had to wait for them to re-emerge astern, and resurface twice in our distant wake.

BND Peter Howlett 08
Bottlenose Dolphin (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

The wind was strong on the return journey, with whitecaps and a low swell, though the sea state improved later on. A few gulls and Gannet showed themselves as we approached the Purbeck coast and we had great views of Old Harry Rocks. The sun stayed out as we entered Poole Harbour and passed Brownsea Island, topping off a great day.

Many thanks to Condor Ferries for its hospitality during my first WLO trip! If you'd like to come on one of our daytrips from Poole to Guernsey, you can book online here. What's more, Condor Ferries kindly donate £5 per ticket to MARINElife!

 

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: Condor Ferries ‘Condor Liberation’ Poole-Guernsey 1 June 2016

Posted 06 June 2016

MARINElife Guernsey WLO: Christine Arnold

Weather: Outward - cloudy but dry and calm, visibility good.
Return - dry with slightly stronger wind, visibility good.

Summary of sightings:

Cetaceans: None

Seabirds
Herring Gull
Black-headed Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Gannet
Shag
Cormorant
Manx Shearwater

Terrestrial birds
Oystercatcher
Feral Pigeon
Grey Wagtail

I joined fellow passengers on deck for the journey from Poole to Guernsey. People were very interested in the wildlife they were likely to see during the crossing along with finding out more about the surrounding geography of the Poole and Weymouth area.

Condor Liberation Christine Arnold 2016-06
Passengers enjoying the view of Poole Harbour (Christine Arnold)

I spoke with many passengers informing them about the wildlife and about MARINElife whilst handing out leaflets. It was very interesting to speak with the passengers and find out some of their reasons for travelling. One family had arranged a MARINElife day trip for the father's 50th birthday present, some were going on holiday whilst some were travelling to the Channel Islands to meet up with relatives.

As we passed Brownsea Island we saw several Cormorant and Shag along with Great Black-backed and Herring Gull. After passing the chain ferry and travelling past Studland beach we saw several Sandwich Tern fishing. Later we saw the first Gannet soaring above the waves in the majestic, calm way that they always adopt.

As we were travelling through the English Channel we passed several large freighters carrying hundreds of containers, they really are quite a sight. We also added to the seabird tally sighting a number of Manx Shearwaters.

Ortac Christine Arnold 2016-06
Ortac with the webcam solar panels visible on the left (Christine Arnold)

Soon we were approaching Les Ortac rock off the coast of Alderney where we were rewarded by a spectacular display of Gannet with both adult and  immature birds swirling around the rock. The birds were fishing in the area near the rock and many hundreds were perched on it. Behind this were Les Etacs which were also covered with Gannets. During my last trip I photographed Les Ortac and on enlarging this image found I could see the solar panels which power the webcams the Alderney Wildlife Trust have placed on the rock. The webcams can be seen at the Teaching Through Nature website.

On approach to St Peter Port we passed the large cruise ship 'Crystal Symphony' anchored just off shore and could see a tender ready to take passengers ashore. When we entered St Peter Port there were many gulls circling around along with Feral Pigeons and Oystercatchers.

Crystal Symphony Christine Arnold 2016-06
Crystal Symphony anchored off St Peter Port (Christine Arnold)

The return journey was uneventful with few sightings until we were in Poole Harbour where we saw many Common and Sandwich Tern fishing and a Grey wagtail flew over the ship.

Thanks to Condor Ferries and the crew of the Condor Liberation for the support and assistance.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘Condor Liberation’ Poole-Guernsey 27 May 2016

Posted 30 May 2016

MARINElife/Guernsey WLO Glynis Northwood-Long

Weather: Out: Overcast, wind E-NE 3-4, sea state slight to smooth and good visibility
Return: Sunny to start, fog in Channel then clear skies, wind NE 2-4, sea state slight.

Summary of sightings:

Seabirds:
Fulmar
Gannet
Cormorant
Herring Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Kittiwake
Black-headed Gull
Sandwich Tern
Common Tern
Guillemot

Terrestrial birds:
Greylag Goose
Mallard
Oystercatcher
Swallow

It was an overcast start to the day with thundery showers forecast when I arrived at the ferry terminal. At the Condor Ferries check-in desk, the friendly staff dealt with the passengers efficiently and soon we were boarded onto Liberation. Shortly before departure I went up to the viewing deck and mingled with the other passengers. Following the announcement that a Wildlife Officer was on board, several passengers were interested to find out what we might see on our journey.

Sandwich Tern Rob Petley-Jones 03
Sandwich Tern (Archive photo: Rob Petley-Jones)

Sailing through Poole Harbour I was able to point out various birds on Brownsea Island Lagoon including Mallard, Cormorant, Greylag Goose, and Oystercatcher. There is a breeding colony of  Sandwich Tern on the lagoon and these were fascinating to watch as they swooped and dived for their breakfast. As we came out of the harbour I trained my binoculars in the direction of Boscombe, where Bottlenose Dolphin had been spotted on one of our training trips, but no such luck this time.

The weather improved after we had pased Old Harry Rocks which encouraged more passengers out onto the viewing deck. However, sightings of seabirds were sparse until we neared the Gannet colony on Ortac, off the west coast of Alderney, when the numbers of Gannet nesting and circling the rock made up for it.

Once in St Peter Port, I disembarked the Liberation and, having a few hours ashore, strolled around in the sunshine. The town was bright and colourful - the phone boxes are bright yellow, the post boxes are blue and the streets decorated with floral arrangements, bunting, and flags. I even indulged in a spot of retail therapy in a couple of the many boutique style shops in the town.

Back on the Liberation for the return journey, with clear blue skies, many people were out on the viewing deck making the most of the sunshine. Several families approached me, with the children asking when we would see the dolphins. With the calm sea, it was ideal conditions to spot a cetacean but I couldn't promise any.

Several local Guernsey people joined me as we neared Alderney, looking for Gannet and Puffin. The wind was in the 'wrong' direction so we were able to smell the Gannet colony on Ortac before we got to it! They told me to look out for Puffin as the nearby island of Burhou is home to several hundred birds, unfortunately none were to be seen.

Brownsea Lagoon Glynis NorthwoodLong
Brownsea Lagoon (Glynis Northwood-Long)

However, shortly after that sea fog closed in and visibility was reduced, putting a stop to any sightings and unfortunately the fog did not clear until nearing Poole Bay and we returned to the harbour in sunshine once again. Thanks to Condor Ferries and the crew of the Condor Liberation for making me welcome onboard and for supporting these wildlife trips.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘Condor Liberation’ Poole-Guernsey 18 May 2016

Posted 19 May 2016

MARINElife WLO's Rick Morris and Glynis Northwood-Long

Weather:
Southbound: Wind SSW 3-5, cloudy with showers
Northbound: SW 4-6, mainly cloudy with sunny spells

Summary of sightings:

Marine mammals
Harbour Porpoise 1 + c4 probable

Seabirds
Manx Shearwater
Fulmar
Gannet
Cormorant
Shag
Great Black-backed Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Herring Gull
Black-headed Gull
Mediterranean Gull
Kittiwake
Sandwich Tern
Common Tern
Guillemot
Razorbill
Puffin

Terrestrial birds
Greylag Goose
Canada Goose
Shelduck
Mallard
Little Egret
Oystercatcher
Carrion Crow
Jackdaw
Wader Sp.

This was the second combined Wildlife Officer and training trip kindly supported by Condor Ferries. Glynis and I met up with Hazel, Vicky and Lucy our trainees for the day at the check-in and promptly boarded the Condor Liberation.

We left Poole under a cloudy sky and a southwesterly wind and once up on the viewing deck, immediately started to see Herring and Lesser Black-backed Gull. As we headed out we passed Brownsea Island where Cormorant, Little Egret, gulls and waders could be seen. Common and Sandwich Tern were seen in flight and also a single Mediterranean Gull. Once past Old Harry Rocks the sea state picked up as we left the protection of Poole Harbour making cetacean sighting rather challenging. The onset of some squally showers sent all for cover and we decided the time was right for a late breakfast and hot drink.

Ortac Rick Morris 2016-01
Ortac with Les Etacs in the background (Rick Morris)

We returned to the viewing deck prior to reaching Alderney so as to see the Gannet colonies on Ortac and Les Etacs, an area where we have also encountered Minke Whale and Harbour Porpoise. Continuing onward to Guernsey was very quiet with just the occasional Gannet showing, but with the islands of Sark, Herm and Jethou in sight we soon started to see various gulls and a few auks.

The tide was low and so the ship's course to St Peter Port took us between Sark and Herm through the channel known as the Big Russel as the Little Russel between Herm and Guernsey is not navigable on the low tide. We had passed Herm when we observed 200 plus mixed gulls feeding at some distance and amongst all this activity c4 probable Harbour Porpoise were seen.

Once in St Peter Port we decided on a walk to La Valette to look at the swimming pools that were built into the rocks. For anyone interested there is also an underground military museum and aquarium nearby as well. We returned via the castle and stopped for a nice mug of tea before checking in for the return home. With boarding cards obtained we decided to have a look on the viewing area on the roof where we watched the Liberation arrive with Condor's conventional ferry the Commodore Clipper following behind.

Liberation passing Jethou Rick Morris 01
Condor Liberation in front of Jethou on her approach to St Peter Port (Rick Morris)

The return trip was a little busier for seabirds as we left Guernsey until reaching Ortac where a lone Puffin was seen in flight, a single Manx Shearwater was also seen shortly after. Then with an increasing sea state we headed down for a break before heading back up top prior to reaching the UK mainland. Here we encountered Guillemot, Razorbill, Fulmar, Kittiwake, Gannet, gulls and a few Shag. We turned into the approach to Poole Harbour after passing Old Harry Rocks and into more sheltered waters and here I noticed the sun glistening off something in the water, it turned out to be a marker pot, but then to the right of this another flash of light revealed the small triangular dorsal fin of a Harbour Porpoise, a nice end to the day.

Our thanks to all the cabin crew of the Liberation and Condor Ferries for the continued support.