Weymouth or Poole-Channel Islands

Recent Sightings

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.

MARINElife Survey Report: Condor Ferries ‘Condor Liberation’ Poole-Jersey 14 May 2016

Posted 18 May 2016

Julie Hatcher and Steve Boswell, research surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884; Registered Company No. 5057367)

Weather
Outward - variable cloud and sunshine but fine and bright with a fresh NNE wind.
Return - fine, bright and very clear with lighter winds and very calm sea conditions.

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 2

Seabirds
Common Scoter Melanitta nigra 1
Great Northern Diver Gavia immer 1
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 1
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 6
Gannet Morus bassanus 64
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 2
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 4
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 4
Herring Gull  Larus argentatus 30
Great Black-backed Larus marinus 5
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 2
Guillemot Uria aalge 12
Puffin Fratercula arctica 2
Gull sp. 303
Auk sp.  8

Terrestrial Birds
Sanderling Calidris alba 25
Swallow Hirundo rustica 2

There were a large number of foot passengers awaiting embarkation at Poole but we were soon through security controls and onto the Condor Liberation where we were taken straight to the bridge and introduced to Captain Steve Crowe and his crew.

We departed early and as we sailed passed the lagoon on Brownsea Island we spotted three Sika Deer beside the water's edge in the tall reeds.

As we started our survey a summer plumaged Great Northern Diver flew across the bow, a great start. Seabirds started to appear with sightings of Kittiwake, Fulmar, Guillemots and Common Scoter being of interest. Gannet numbers started to increase as we crossed the Channel, all adult birds.

Fulmar Peter Howlett 13
Fulmar (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

As we approached Alderney we encountered two cetaceans which came to the surface together close in front of the ship showing the small triangular fins of Harbour Porpoise; they briefly surfaced once more before diving as we sailed past them. There were spectacular views of the Gannet colony on Ortac in full sunshine with many birds sitting on eggs and one bird was seen to collect seaweed from the sea to replenish its nest.

As we approached Guernsey harbour a large mixed flock of gulls were seen, at least 300 mainly Herring Gull but also Lesser Black-backed and Great Black-backed loafing on the sea. The onward journey to Jersey was fairly quiet and after a break sitting out on deck as the passengers changed over we returned to the bridge for our return trip.

New birds seen on the return leg were Manx Shearwater, Puffin and some migrating Sanderling.  Gannets were seen in good numbers again and we saw a third year bird, our only non-adult bird.

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

Approaching Dorset we continued to scan for cetaceans but on this occasion did not add to our earlier sighting.

Our thanks go to the staff and crew of the Condor Liberation who made this a very enjoyable crossing.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘Condor Liberation’ Poole-Guernsey 12 May 2016

Posted 14 May 2016

MARINElife/Guernsey WLO: Rick Morris

Weather: Cloudy with showers. Light Northerly winds. Sea state 3

Summary of sightings:

Marine mammals
Harbour Porpoise 3

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

Terrestrial birds
Little Egret
Shelduck
Oystercatcher
Greylag Goose
Canada Goose
Lapwing
Bar-tailed Godwit
Sanderling
Carrion Crow
Feral Pigeon

I arrived at the terminal on a rather cloudy and misty morning and after checking in with the ever friendly and efficient desk staff, made my way to the departure gate and on to the 'Liberation'.

On board I equipped myself with binoculars and camera then headed up to the viewing deck in readiness for departure. As we made our way out of Poole Harbour there was plenty of seabird activity with Sandwich and Common Tern in good numbers. Passing the lagoon on Brownsea Island gave sightings of Lapwing, Cormorant, Canada and Greylag Goose, Shelduck, Mallard and Little Egret. Plenty of Black-headed Gull and Herring Gull were seen in flight and also a single Yellow-legged Gull. A dark bird caught my eye and to my delight this turned out to be a Black Tern, a species I haven't seen on this route before.

YL Gull ad Mike Bailey 01a
Yellow-legged Gull (Archive photo: Mike Bailey)

I had heard that Bottlenose Dolphin were seen off Boscombe earlier in the morning, so I eagerly looked out for them. The sea mist restricted visibility to around a kilometre and although I didn't locate the dolphins a single Harbour Porpoise gave an obliging appearance briefly before disappearing into the mist.

Once in the Channel bird activity went very quiet with a single Guillemot, a Fulmar and a few Gannet seen. Passing the Gannet colony on Ortac off Alderney, Lesser Black-backed Gull were feeding in the tidal race, I hoped there may be cetaceans present, but none were seen. Leaving Alderney behind in the mist we carried on toward Guernsey and with Herm and Jethou in sight I caught a glimpse of a small fin. Further observation gave way to a sighting of 2 Harbour Porpoise and frustratingly just too far to get a decent photo.

Once in St Peter Port I headed into town for some window shopping as the rain set in. wandering back I stopped off at the Crow's Nest restaurant for a warming cup of coffee looking out over the harbour.

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

The return trip was very quiet, mostly due to the mist giving way to fog, reducing visibility down to just a few hundred metres in places. Nearing the Jurassic coast, Guillemot, Fulmar, Gannet and Herring Gull were seen with a couple of Shag just off Old Harry Rocks. The terns were still busily feeding as we headed in to our berth and with a final look around I headed down to say thanks to the crew before disembarking.

My thanks to Condor Ferries for supporting these wildlife trips.

MARINElife Survey Report: Condor Ferries ‘Liberation’ Poole-Jersey 30 April 2016

Posted 10 May 2016

Abby Bruce & Lucy Grable, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884; Registered Company No. 5057367)

Weather: Bright sunshine throughout with a scattering of clouds, sea state 2-4

Summary of sightings:

Seabirds
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 8
Sooty Shearwater Puffinus griseus 1
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 1
Gannet Morus bassanus 69
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 13
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 31
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 41
Common Tern Sterna hirundo 2
Guillemot Uria aalge 1
Razorbill Alca torda 2
Gull sp.  170
Auk sp.  24

Terrestrial birds at sea
Woodpigeon Columba palumbus 15
Swift Apus apus 3
Jackdaw Corvus monedula 1
Crow sp.  1
Passerine sp.  7
Wader sp.  7

Finding Poole harbour and the parking facilities was easy and with an efficient check in we were on for a prompt start to our sailing. Once on board we were warmly welcomed on to the bridge and encouraged to set up on the starboard side.

It was a glorious sunny day in Poole and the scenery was stunning. We were instantly surrounded by birds and had our pens at the ready when we reached the Channel to start surveying. Particularly numerous were the majestic Gannet. Some other species of note were a group of waders we found tricky to ID in the bright sunshine, but they were most likely a group of Knot, and a few Swift, a sure sign spring has sprung at last.

Ortac Abigail Bruce 01
Ortac Gannet colony (Abby Bruce)

Across the Channel from the white chalky columns of Old Harry rocks off Handfast Point we met another white formation, but this time bird-stained rocks, the mound of Ortac, a Gannet breeding colony. A spectacle to see and fully explained the high numbers we were recording.

Manx Shearwater Peter Howlett 15
Manx Shearwater (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

The views of Guernsey and Jersey were equally as stunning and although the return leg of our journey was a little quieter for marine life a Sooty Shearwater, Fulmar and handful of Manx Shearwater kept our senses sharp. We longed for a brief glimpse of a cetacean but alas this time it was not meant to be. The crew inspired us though, with previous tales of whale, dolphin and the odd Basking Shark sightings. All were very interested in our work and keen to contribute to it. All making for a very enjoyable trip, many thanks to everyone involved.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘Condor Liberation’ Poole-Guernsey 3 May 2016

Posted 08 May 2016

MARINElife/Guernsey WLO: Glynis Northwood-Long

Weather: Mostly fine with light to moderate WNW winds, sea state 2 to 3 with low swell and good visibility.

Summary of Species seen:

Cetaceans: No sightings

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

Birds seen on Brownsea lagoon:
Swallow
Oystercatcher
Greylag Goose
Carrion Crow
Feral Pigeon

This was my second trip on the Liberation in seven days because the week before, Rick Morris and I were on board training four new volunteers for the role of the Wildlife Officer. It was  a lovely sunny day with a calm sea so I was hopeful of similar sightings to the previous week, when we had seen a pod of dolphins.

On arrival at the ferry terminal, I was greeted by the friendly staff at the Condor check-in desk as I enquired on the numbers booked on that day's Wildlife trip. Then, using the new e-boarding card, I quickly boarded the Liberation with ample time to enjoy a delicious breakfast from Casquets Bistro, before we sailed.

Ortac Nigel Northwood 2015 06
Ortac Gannet colony (Archive photo: Nigel Northwood)

Shortly before departure, I went out onto the viewing deck and following the announcement that a Wildlife Officer was on board, a few passengers approached me to find out more. As we sailed through Poole Harbour it was an ideal opportunity to point out the different  bird species such as Cormorant, Greylag Goose, Oystercatcher, Sandwich Tern and various species of gull on the lagoon at Brownsea Island.

After passing Old Harry Rocks, with the calm sea,  blue skies and warm sunshine, it was a lovely morning to be out on the viewing deck. However, sightings of seabirds were sparse and so I chatted to people about MARINElife aiming  to conserve marine life through research and education.

As we approached the west coast of Alderney, I pointed out the Gannet circling around and nesting on the islet of Ortac. With over 2,500 breading pairs on Ortac, they appear to occupy every available ledge, providing a really spectacular sight.

The Captain announced that due to the tide, we would be coming into Guernsey 'the long way round' in between Herm and Sark, which provided  different views to the usual route. As we came into St Peter Port, it became overcast but a gap in the clouds allowed the sunshine to highlight the Albatros - unfortunately not the seabird but a cruise ship, tendering it's passengers to the harbour.

Albatros Glynis Northwood-Long 01
The Albatros anchored outside St Peter Port (Glynis Northwood-Long)

I disembarked the Liberation and having a few hours ashore, I decided to catch the bus and take a tour of the island. I was amazed that this only cost £1 and for nearly two hours, I sat back and enjoyed the beautiful Guernsey scenery.

Back on the Liberation on the return journey, the sunny and calm conditions meant that I  was joined on the viewing deck by quite a few people, eager to spot a few cetaceans. Unfortunately we didn't see any, although there was rumour that someone on the other side of the ship had seen a fin. I was unable to confirm this and we had to settle for marvelling at the Gannet colony as we passed Ortac again.

Liberation St Peter Port Glynis Northwood-Long 01
Liberation entering St Peter Port (Glynis Northwood-Long)

As we sailed back into Poole, we spotted Sandwich Tern, Fulmar, Cormorant and various gulls, as well as watching small yachts racing in the harbour, bringing an enjoyable day trip to an end.

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

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MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘Condor Liberation’ Poole-Guernsey 28 April 2016

Posted 02 May 2016

MARINElife WLO's Rick Morris and Glynis Northwood-Long

Weather: Mostly sunny with light northwesterly winds on outbound, increasing to moderate inbound, sea state 3 to 5

Summary of sightings:

Marine mammals:
Bottlenose Dolphin 8
Unidentified dolphin species 1 (passenger sighting)

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

Terrestrial birds seen at sea:
Little Egret
Shelduck
Oystercatcher
Carrion Crow
Feral Pigeon
Swallow
Passerine Sp.

We arrived at condor's check-in and met up with four of our volunteers that wanted to learn about the role of the Wildlife Officer (WLO) for this first wildlife trip of 2016. This will be MARINElife's third season on the Channel Island route having a WLO aboard with the support of Condor Ferries.

Glynis and trainees Rick Morris 01
Glynis with the trainees on deck (Rick Morris)

Upon boarding and locating our seats, we promptly equipped ourselves with binoculars, cameras and a supply of information brochures and headed outside ready for departure. Due to the cold unseasonal weather, ice had formed on the top viewing deck so we had a short wait whilst the efficient crew made the area safe!

We were close to Brownsea Island when we made our way up top, just in time to view Little Egret, Cormorant, Canada and Greylag Goose, Tufted Duck, Shelduck, various gulls and small groups of waders in and around the lagoon. Sandwich and Common Tern were also seen, many feeding as we passed the island and headed out into the Channel.

We had left the 'red zone' and were at the far end of Poole Harbour when Tony (one of our volunteers) shouted "dolphins", all of us made our way to the port side and we were delighted to see 8 Bottlenose Dolphin c500m away.

BND Rick Morris 03
Bottlenose Dolphin (Rick Morris)

Leaving the dolphins behind us we had sporadic sightings of gulls and Gannet, the later in greater numbers the nearer we got to Alderney and the breeding colonies of Ortac and Les Etacs.

Around the halfway point a passenger excitedly got my attention to say a dolphin had just jumped out heading toward the ship, it had disappeared by the time I looked. After a bit of questioning to try and get more information on the animal seen, I deduced it was probably a Common Dolphin and possibly one of a small group that came in unnoticed whilst we were all observing seabirds on the other side!

On our arrival in St Peter Port, Glynis and I decided to walk to Castle Cornet whilst the others went off to explore the town. Meeting up back in the terminal Glynis explained to the group in more detail about the Wildlife Officer initiative before boarding for the return home. Leaving St Peter Port behind us we were soon observing a variety of seabirds, but the sea state had picked up a little making cetacean sightings quite challenging and as a result none were seen on the return to Poole. With the Jurassic coast in sight, Guillemot numbers increased with the odd Kittiwake and Fulmar making an appearance.

Heading back into Poole Harbour, similar bird species were seen to those on the way out. We made our way down to our seats for a quick recap before disembarking, saying our farewells and making our way home.

Passenger engagement Rick Morris 03
Chris and Alan talking to passengers (Rick Morris)

This was a very enjoyable and informative trip with a good number of passengers approaching us wanting to know more on the wildlife that can be found on the crossing.

Special thanks to Condor Ferries for supporting the wildlife trips and to the crew of the 'Condor Liberation' for the help and assistance.

MARINElife blog: Condor Ferries ‘Condor Liberation’ Poole-Jersey 27 February 2016

Posted 27 February 2016

This survey was cancelled for operational reasons.

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

Posted 31 January 2016

This survey was cancelled for operational reasons.

MARINElife blog: Condor Ferries ‘Condor Liberation’ Poole-Jersey 12 December 2015

Posted 16 December 2015

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

Weather: Generally good, wind SW force 4 and sea state moderate  Cloudy start with one spell of light rain then clearing, visibility generally good.

Summary of sightings
Seabirds
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 13
Balearic Shearwater Puffinus mauretanicus 1
Gannet Morus bassanus 5
Cormorant  Phalacrocorax carbo 6
Shag  Phalacrocorax aristotelis 2
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 11
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 9
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 8
Razorbill  Alca torda 15
Juvenile gulls Larus sp. 3

Terrestrial Birds
Shelduck  Tadorna tadorna 20
Spoonbill  Platalea leucorodia 20
Bar-tailed Godwit  Limosa lapponica 100+

We were swiftly escorted aboard by the friendly Condor Ferries staff and left slightly ahead of schedule. We were immediately invited to the bridge to start our survey.  Captain Giles Wade welcomed us to his ship and showed us where to set up.

Fulmar Peter Howlett 09
Fulmar (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

We were able to start our survey immediately the ship left its berth.  As we slid out of Poole harbour we had a great view of Spoonbill and a large flock of Bar-tailed Godwit in Brownsea Island lagoon.

As we headed on towards Jersey, we saw numerous Razorbill, Fulmar, Gannet and Kittiwakes.  Approaching Guernsey, a Balearic Shearwater did a skidding loop off the starboard bow (seemingly eyeing us up) before disappearing astern. A real highlight.

Balearic Shearwater Tom Brereton 06a
Balearic Shearwater (Archive photo: Tom Brereton)

Due to the season we could only survey on the outward leg so we spent the return trip entering data and typing up our notes.

On arrival back in Poole (ahead of schedule!) we thanked the Captain and his staff for their hospitality before heading ashore.

MARINElife Survey Report: Condor Ferries 'Condor Liberation' Poole-Jersey 9 November 2015

Posted 12 November 2015

Julia Benson and Steve Boswell, Research Surveyors for MARINElife

Weather
Cloudy with some sunshine and good visibility. South-westerly wind, force 4-6 and sea state 5-6 for the Poole to Guernsey leg and 3-5 between Guernsey and Jersey.

Summary of sightings:

Seabirds
Sooty Shearwater Puffinus griseus 1
Balearic Shearwater Puffinus mauretanicus 1
Gannet Morus bassanus 7
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 1
Great Skua Stercorarius skua 1
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 1
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 4
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 1
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 2
Guillemot Uria aalge 1
Gull sp. 3

Terrestrial birds
Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus 6
Little Egret Egretta garzetta 1
Turnstone Arenaria interpres 4
Unidentified passerine (in flight at sea) 1

It was a very windy morning when we arrived at the ferry terminal in Poole but it was dry and the sun was breaking through a fairly cloudy sky.

Once the ship had left the channel and was out in open water, we were escorted on to the bridge to begin surveying.

Bird sightings throughout the survey were sporadic and spotting was made difficult due to the sea state. However, despite the low numbers of seabirds those we did see made this a particularly enjoyable survey. During the Poole to Guernsey leg, as well as seeing Gannet, Guillemot, Shag, Kittiwake and other gull species, we also saw a Sooty Shearwater and a Great Skua. On the return journey from Jersey to Guernsey a Balearic Shearwater appeared just ahead of the ship, gracefully gliding low to the water. A real treat to see as this species is sadly endangered.

Balearic Shearwater Tom Brereton 06a
Balearic Shearwater (Archive photo: Tom Brereton)

Whilst waiting at the port in Jersey for the return leg to Guernsey we remained on the bridge casually observing the gulls flying around. We noticed a very small strip of grass in the harbour with clumps of what we believe was Pampas grass. Now this in itself seemed unusual being so close to the docked ships but so too was the animal we saw - two rabbits! That's certainly a first for me when conducting a marine mammal and seabird survey on a ship!

As for marine mammals, unfortunately, there was not a fin to be seen. The swell and sea state were not conducive for spotting cetaceans. By the time the ship was ready to leave Guernsey it was dark so we were unable to survey on the return journey back to Poole.

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

MARINElife Survey Report: Condor Ferries 'Condor Liberation' Poole-Jersey 17 October 2015

Posted 27 October 2015

Andrew Gilbert and Hazel Pittwood, Research Surveyors for MARINElife

Weather: Winds NE, sea state 3 for a majority of the survey, with full cloud cover for most of the day.

Summary of Sightings

Seabirds
Sooty Shearwater Puffinus griseus 2
Gannet Morus bassanus 56
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 48
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 8
Great Skua Stercorarius skua 2
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 1
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 3
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 9
Razorbill Alca torda 1
Guillemot Uria aalge 8

Terrestrial Birds
Brent Goose Branta bernicla 28
Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus 80+
Grey Heron Ardea cinerea 1
Little Egret Egretta garzetta 3
Unidentified Passerines (in flight at sea) 3

Other
Small Tortoiseshell Butterfly Aglais urticae 1

I met with Andrew at the reception area at the ferry terminal in Poole and after a prompt check in, we headed for the bus to take us on the short journey to the ship. After departure and once out of the red zone, we were escorted up to the bridge by the helpful Condor staff from the passenger assistance desk. We were warmly greeted by the Captain and quietly went about setting up for the survey.

It was an overcast day with full cloud cover, but sea state three and good visibility meant the conditions were favourable. Our first sighting of the day was a solitary Gannet at 7.45am and a steady and consistent stream of sightings followed throughout the day. There was a good variety of birds early on with six different species seen within the first hour, including a Razorbill and two Great Skuas.

Great Skua Peter Howlett 05
Great Skua (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

As we passed by the island of Alderney we saw Ortac rock. In the summer months this uninhabited isle is host to a large Gannet colony, but at this time of year most had migrated and just a dozen birds remained, circling high above the rock. We arrived in Guernsey shortly after where we docked for a short time before continuing the journey to Jersey.

Within half an hour of leaving Guernsey we had a sighting of eight Guillemots, rapidly beating their wings as they flew together in a line, just above the water. As the ship came in to dock at St. Helier in Jersey we made our way outside to get some fresh air up on the outer deck. From here we saw a large gathering of Oystercatchers on the shore, we counted at least 80. We also observed 28 Brent Geese on our survey; three of these winter visitors were in flight out at sea, whilst the others were on shore at St. Helier. Three diminutive passerines were spotted in flight out at sea, evidently migrating southwards, but could not be identified.

Sooty Shearwater Peter Howlett 03
Sooty Shearwater (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

On the return leg of our journey we were treated to a notable sighting of two Sooty Shearwater. Cormorants were the most numerous species with over 40 sighted at various points along the way as we headed for home, along with the comparatively smaller Shags. After we departed Guernsey our sightings consisted almost entirely of solitary Gannets. As we approached the Dorset coast we kept our fingers crossed for a sighting of the Bottlenose Dolphin that have been very active in the waters around the Isle of White recently, but sadly it wasn't to be! As our survey came to an end the cloud cover lessened and we were treated to a beautiful, autumnal evening sky.

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

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: Condor Ferries ‘Condor Liberation’ Poole-Guernsey 7 October 2015

Posted 12 October 2015

MARINElife/Guernsey WLO Julia Benson
Weather: Cloudy with some sunshine, strong winds. Sea state 4-7

Summary of Sightings
Seabirds:
Herring Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Black-headed Gull
Cormorant
Shag
Gannet
Swan

The day started out cloudy and rather breezy for the last wildlife officer trip of the season. As the Liberation left port and made her way along the channel there were a number of juvenile gulls as well as a few adult Great Black-backed Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull and Herring Gull. There were also concentrations of Cormorant and one or two Shag mostly resting up on the lateral buoys lining the safe channel of water but a few were also sat on the water. One Cormorant had just caught a rather large flat fish and I wondered if perhaps its eyes were bigger than its belly as it appeared to be struggling to swallow it, but eventually it managed to swallow the fish whole.

Shag Peter Howlett 02
Shag (Peter Howlett)

After passing the lagoon I noticed some Gannet circling the sky. I watched them eagerly with some of the passengers waiting for them to dive. Gannet are spectacular divers and quite a sight to see. I was also keeping an eye on the surface of the water in case there were any dolphins feeding there too but unfortunately no fins appeared.

As we headed out of the Channel and past Old Harry Rocks, the wind and swell picked up. Moving down to the more sheltered back deck due to the high winds, I kept scanning the water but if there was anything there, it would've been extremely difficult to see due to the swell and numerous white caps.

As we passed Ortac Rock, it looked very empty and it was hard to believe that just recently it was teeming with breeding Gannet. The only evidence was the whiteness of the upper part of the rock, stained with guano.

Gannet Julia Benson 01
Gannet (Julia Benson)

After a few hours ashore in Guernsey it was time for the return crossing which was calmer than the outbound trip but there were still a number of whitecaps and a bit of swell making the spotting of dolphins, porpoises and birds quite tricky. There were few bird sightings on the way back as with the outbound journey, only seeing the occasional Gannet gliding gracefully.

Thank you 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 1 October 2015

Posted 05 October 2015

MARINElife/Guernsey WLO Julie Hatcher

Weather: Fine and clear with a brisk F4/5 easterly wind for both outward and return journeys.

Summary of species seen:

Seabirds:
Manx Shearwater
Gannet
Cormorant
European Shag
Great Skua
Herring Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Oystercatcher

Terrestrial birds:
Swallow
House martin
Variety of unidentified small passerines

We left Poole and sailed through the Harbour as it was beginning to get light and were treated to a spectacular sunrise as we passed Old Harry Rocks. The harbour birds were already busy and we spotted quite a few Cormorants, Herring Gulls and Great Black-backed Gulls from the outer deck of the ferry.

As the sun rose into a clear blue sky and we left the Dorset coast behind, several adult Gannets were seen at a distance. However, the highlight of the voyage was the constant stream of small birds crossing the Channel in groups of 3 to 20 on their southerly migration. With a stiff easterly breeze, these birds were always to be seen on the starboard side in the lee of the wind, and kept up with the fast ferry for several minutes, taking advantage of the shelter, before eventually dropping back. Among a selection of small songbirds it was easy to recognise large numbers of swallows and martins in their black and white livery. Travelling slower than the ferry which had left port at first light, it was amazing to think that these tiny birds had left land in the dark to cross the sea.

Great Skua Peter Howlett 06
Great Skua (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

Despite the stiff breeze, the sun was warm and strong as we docked at St. Peter Port, Guernsey and we took advantage of the fine weather to explore the town for a few hours before re-boarding the ferry for our return trip. As always our route took us close to Ortac, the offshore rock at Alderney which is home to a large colony of Gannets. Although the colony is quieter now than during the breeding season, there were still large numbers of Gannet to be seen in the area.

The many white caps on the waves made cetacean-spotting difficult and unfortunately none were seen on this trip. However a brief glimpse of a Manx Shearwater soaring among the wave crests and the large, dark form of a Great Skua in mid-Channel were welcome sightings.

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