Weymouth or Poole-Channel Islands

Recent Sightings

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: Condor Ferries ‘Condor Liberation’ Poole-Jersey/Guernsey 5 September 2019

Posted 05 September 2019

MARINElife/Guernsey WLO Glynis Northwood-Long

Weather: Sunny with good visibility, sea state moderate, wind NW 5-6, 3-4 later.

Summary of sightings

Seabirds:
Cormorant
Gannet
Shag
Herring Gull
Black-headed Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Fulmar
Tern (sp.)

Terrestrial birds:
Oystercatcher
Little Egret
Carrion Crow
Feral pigeon

This wildlife trip was different to the others I had been on with MARINElife because this time the Liberation's route from Poole was direct to Jersey. As I was accompanied by my brother and his wife, we hoped that the longer journey would provide more opportunities of seeing cetaceans especially the Bottlenose Dolphin often seen around St Helier.

Once on the Liberation we made our way up to the viewing deck. I introduced myself to other passengers taking advantage of such a glorious morning out on deck. As we sailed through Poole Harbour, there weren't that many birds on Brownsea Island lagoon although a line of noisy Oystercatcher did fly past.

Poole harbour and Old Harry rock Glynis Northwood_Long 2019
Across Brownsea lagoon toward Old Harry rock (Glynis Northwood-Long)

As we left the harbour sailing out into Poole Bay, the sun highlighted Old Harry Rocks. This gave the passengers a great photo opportunity. Although it was a perfect day for sightings, apart from a flock of tern and a few Gannets, further seabirds were scarce.

Once the Liberation was tied up alongside in St Helier, I spotted a Herring Gull cheekily approaching passengers on deck and wondered if, coincidentally, it was the same juvenile gull that I had encountered in the same place when I did my last Poole-Jersey survey.

After the short leg from Jersey to Guernsey, passengers were up on the viewing deck and I continued to chat with my fellow passengers. Several were interested in finding out more about MARINElife and will hopefully be joining one of our ID courses next month. Ortac rock, just west of Alderney, was still home to several hundred Gannet, not as many as in the height of the breeding season but still a spectacular sight. Many were circling the rock and a few were flying effortlessly just above the viewing deck. After Ortac we also had a good view of the Casquets rock and lighthouse against the sunlit sea.

Casquests rock Glynis Northwood_Long 2019
Casquets rock and lighthouse (Glynis Northwood-Long)

For the remainder of the journey, further sightings were scarce and no cetaceans were seen. However, we were treated to a spectacular sunset before darkness fell and we approached the mainland.

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

MARINElife Survey Report: Condor Ferries ‘Condor Liberation’ Poole-Jersey 24 August 2019

Posted 25 August 2019

Steve Boswell Research Surveyor for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884; Registered Company No. 5057367)

Weather: Warm and sunny with light easterly winds and sea state 2-3, strong glare was a problem on the southern leg.

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals
Bottlenose Dolphin Tursiops truncatus 21
Common Dolphin Delphinus delphis 8
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 1

Seabirds
Balearic Shearwater Puffinus mauretanicus 442
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 1
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 1
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 2
Gannet Morus bassanus 625
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 7
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 85
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 1
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 15
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 5

Terrestrial Birds
Swallow Hirundo rustica 3

The 09.15 crossing was fully booked with many passengers in the departure lounge when I arrived an hour before departure. We managed to leave on time and as we passed Old Harrys Rocks at 09.40, I was able to access the bridge and begin surveying.

BND Peter Howlett 04
Bottlenose Dolphin (Library photo: Peter Howlett)

After one and a half hours into the survey and with only three birds noted during this time expectations were suddenly raised when a group of Common Dolphin appeared ahead and eight swam close by down the starboard side. Fifteen minutes later over 450 Gannet were amassed and feeding and with them 15 Bottlenose Dolphin which were getting involved in the feeding frenzy.  A few Balearic Shearwater were noted as we approached Guernsey.

Balearic Shearwater Tom Brereton 09
Manx and Balearic Shearwaters (Library photo: Tom Brereton)

Hot and sunny now with passengers alighting for a Guernsey day trip, I had my lunch in readiness for the short Jersey leg. As we headed out of the harbour the glare was troublesome. About half-way across I saw a close congregation of birds loafing in front of the ship. As we approached, they reluctantly took off and revealed themselves as 120 Balearic Shearwater, an impressive sight. This area has become an important site between July and October for post breeding birds after heading north from their breeding grounds in the Mediterranean. This was the start of a number of similar loafing groups totalling 442 for the survey. A few Manx Shearwater were also seen with them.

No Auks, Kittiwake and only 2 Fulmar were seen on what can only be described as a survey of all or nothing.

Thanks were given to Captain Steve Ainscow before I headed back home after what was a thoroughly enjoyable survey.

 

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: Condor Ferries ‘Condor Liberation’ Poole-Guernsey 22 August 2019

Posted 23 August 2019

MARINElife/Guernsey WLO Julie Hatcher

Weather: Fair and warm, with light winds and calm sea conditions throughout the day.

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals:
Common Dolphin Delphinus delphis 12+

Seabirds:
Gannet
Cormorant
Great Black-backed Gull
Herring Gull
Manx Shearwater
Little Egret
Fulmar
Great Skua

It was an early start and the rising sun was spectacular over Poole harbour as we set sail on a fine, calm morning. As the ferry glided smoothly past Brownsea Island, a flock of Cormorants were roosting in the lagoon and a couple of yellow-footed Little Egrets were patrolling the shoreline for an early morning snack. We sailed by Old Harry Rock and, as the Purbeck cliffs disappeared in the distance, the sea was flat calm, the winds light and the sun was shining.

Manx Shearwater Rob Petley Jones 01a
Manx Shearwaters (Library photo: Rob Petley-Jones)

Around the mid-Channel a few solitary Gannets were flying or resting on the water. Several fishing boats were out, one with a large flock of mixed Herring and Great Black-backed Gulls looking like a swarm of bees buzzing above. We were soon in sight of Alderney, the most northerly of the Channel Islands, and passed the Gannet colony where the white birds could be clearly seen flying above the rock and perched on it. Not long afterwards we passed a group of 50 or so Manx Shearwaters which had been resting on the water but took flight as the ship approached. Before long we were entering St Peter Port and disembarking with time to explore the town.

After a glorious warm and sunny morning in St Peter Port we boarded the ferry for the return crossing. The outer deck was packed with people and the sea glassy smooth as we headed north and past Alderney and the Gannet colony once more. This time there were many long lines of birds heading out to sea on foraging trips and the blue sea was dotted with white birds as others rested on the water. Quite a few of the passing Gannets had the darker plumage marking them out as juveniles. Just north of Alderney we startled another flock of 50+ Manx Shearwaters, possibly the same group that we had seen on the outward voyage.

Common Dolphin Mike Bailey 01a
Common Dolphin (Library photo: Mike Bailey)

With Alderney in the distance behind we approached a flock of Gannets rafting on the water. This can be an indication of dolphins in the area. Sure enough, a close scan in their vicinity revealed some splashes as 10 or more Common Dolphin were busy feeding at the surface, which delighted all the people out enjoying the sunshine on the upper deck.

As we continued on towards Dorset we spotted a couple of Fulmar and the dark shape of a Great Skua and then another couple of dolphins played briefly in the waves from the wake at the back of the ship. Before long we were slowing down as we approached the harbour entrance at Poole having had a delightful day out. As always, many thanks go to Condor Ferries and the crew of the Condor Liberation for their interest, support and assistance.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘Condor Liberation’ Poole-Guernsey 12 August 2019

Posted 13 August 2019

MARINElife/Guernsey WLO Amanda Jones

Weather:
Outward - dray and sunny, wind WNW 15mph, good visibility
Return - dry and sunny, wind WNW 10mph, good visibility

Summary of Sightings

Seabirds:
Fulmar
Herring Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Gannet
Cormorant
Sandwich Tern
Shag
Storm Petrel
Tern sp.
Wader sp.

Island Birds:
House Sparrow
Feral Pigeon

After check-in the staff kindly provided me with MARINElife leaflets and made me welcome as I headed off to board the Condor Liberation. The ferry was busy and I introduced myself to the crew at the Information desk and collected my high-vis vest.

On deck many passengers were viewing Poole Harbour and I talked to them about the wildlife, conservation, Brownsea Island and its lagoon and the beauty of our UK shores. People were keen to share their stories and I learned about their travels and how so many care about our environment. Many took particular interest in avoiding single use plastic, the anti-litter signs on the lower deck from Condor Ferries proving to be a hit. Some of the passengers I spoke to were concerned about climate change and were interested to learn about the work MARINElife does around the UK.

Celebrity Silhoutte Amanda Jones
Celebrity Silhoutte anchored off St Peter Port (Amanda Jones)

As we left a lone Great Black-backed Gull was perched on one of the buoys with Shags for company. The lagoon was bustling with waders, gulls, Cormorants and terns. Then a Sandwich Tern near to the boat made a spectacular dive to catch a fish.

Once out of the harbour the sea state was about 4 with some swell and we headed between westerly clear skies and a huge, thunderstorm to the east. As we continued funnel clouds could be seen in the storm cloud but our trip remained dry with sunny warmth.

As we arrived in Guernsey we passed the cruise liner Celebrity Silhouette anchored off St Peter Port. Once docked I took a walk round St Peter Port in the sunshine and then enjoyed a waffle near the harbour which a small bumblebee took a great deal of interest in. A few House Sparrows flew past and feral pigeons sunbathed in the memorial seating area. After chatting to a group of French tourists who were waiting for their guide on the blue bus, I headed back to the ferry.

In Poole, at sea and in Guernsey a few white butterflies could be seen and Herring Gulls were present in both harbours. The trip back saw many Manx Shearwaters, a close Fulmar stayed alongside us for some time and the Gannets at Ortac rock were busy circling and settling.

Poole harbour Amanda Jones 01
Poole harbour (Amanda Jones)

We were followed into Poole by the Britany ferry Barfleur having seen the Condor Clipper successfully manoeuvre into dock at Guernsey whilst we waited to board Liberation for our return trip. The slowly setting sun was beautiful on our way into Poole and there was a feeding frenzy in the water outside the lagoon with terns and gulls diving and circling over their dinner.

Thank you to the Captain and crew of the Liberation for being most welcoming and helpful.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘Condor Liberation’ Poole-Guernsey 24 July 2019

Posted 28 July 2019

MARINElife/Guernsey WLO Christine Arnold

Weather: Sunny and slight sea breeze, sea state 2

Summary of sightings:

Sandwich Tern
Common Tern
Black-headed Gull
Cormorant
Shag
Great Black-backed Gull
Herring Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Gannet
Shelduck
Little Egret
Spoonbill
Gadwall
Rock Pipit
Feral Pigeon
Wood Pigeon
House Sparrow

It was a wonderfully warm, sunny day as I boarded Condor Liberation. It was the first day of the school holidays so there were lots of children and families aboard as well as two large scout groups and five coach loads of holiday-makers. As it was so warm and still people were sunbathing on deck enjoying drinks with their friends all set out on picnic blankets - I had never seen so many people on deck - I struggled to get near the outer fence it was so popular out there!

The harbour was alive with pleasure boats and other people enjoying the water and people were already enjoying Shell bay beach. Brownsea lagoon was just waking up with Cormorant, Shelduck, Black-tailed Godwit and seven Spoonbill. The Common Terns were still feeding their young on sand eels with many of the youngsters now fledged.

Common Tern Peter Howlett 12
Common Tern (Library photo: Peter Howlett)

Just past Old Harry rock we started seeing the first Gannet and in the main shipping channel there was the usual array of commercial ships to be seen, including several large tankers. I was chatting away to passengers about the wildlife and giving out leaflets and just before Ortac rock a Gannet flew alongside the vessel. It was a fantastic and close sight and perfect for pointing out to passengers. I recognised one man who had been on the day trip before and had enjoyed it so much he was back for another day trip.

On arrival in Guernsey we passed Saga's newest cruise ship ­­- the Spirit Of Discovery - anchored offshore. I disembarked and walked around the harbour. There was lots of the old time music being played outside the restaurants which was rather idyllic, giving the atmosphere a real historic theme.

Spirit of Discovery Christine Arnold
Spirit of Discovery (Christine Arnold)

People were queueing up to embark the little tenders that were ferrying passengers to and from the cruise ship. People genuinely seemed happy to be enjoying the beautiful weather in Guernsey. Lots of people were swimming or sunbathing today.

I was delighted to see several Rock Pipits. One seemed to be calling a lot so I looked more closely and watched the parent bird fly down and feed it which was rather endearing. I found a place to sit in the shade then went up on to the terminal roof to get a better look out over Guernsey and the water whilst watching the Liberation come back in.

Once back on board I chatted with various day trippers about the wildlife and the time they had had in Guernsey. People had some funny and lovely stories to tell. On the journey back Ortac rock was absolutely alive with Gannets with the sun shining down on them showing off their stunning white feathers.

As we were slowing down to berth we could see the 4 yellow boats tied up that had brought passengers to Brownsea Island for the open air theatre evening performance of Shakespeare's Richard III.

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

MARINElife blog: Condor Ferries ‘Condor Liberation’ Poole-Jersey 13 July 2019

Posted 21 July 2019

Kevin Waterfall and Paul Bamford, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884)

Weather: Wind N-NE force 2-5 throughout the day occasionally 6.  Sea state 1-3 decreasing to mirror calm as we approached Poole. Cloud cover was light with a little haze on the horizon.

Summary of sightings:

Seabirds
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 2
Gannet Morus bassanus 1042
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 3
Cormorant  Phalacrocorax carbo 33
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 10
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 28
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 56
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 21
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 22
Sandwich Tern  Sterna sandvicensis 4
Mediterranean Gull Larus melanocephalus 5
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 1
Guillemot  Uria aalge 3
Gull sp. 266

Terrestrial birds
Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus 30
Shelduck Tadorna tadorna 2
Mute Swan Cygnus olor 8
Canada Goose Branta canadensis 4
Swift Apus apus 2
Wood Pigeon Columba palumbus 1

We met at 07:30 at the Poole foot passenger terminal where we joined fellow passengers in going aboard the Condor Liberation. Captain Steve Ainscow and his officers soon welcomed us to the bridge from where we were able to see a few remaining breeding birds on Brownsea Island lagoon as we passed.  A few Sandwich Terns were noted feeding in the harbour however bird activity was relatively quiet.

As we passed the chain ferry at the entrance to Poole Harbour we saw a pair of Mediterranean Gulls feeding along with the odd Herring Gull and more Sandwich Terns before heading off into light seas with excellent visibility.

Sandwich Tern Peter Howlett 07
Sandwich Tern (Library photo: Peter Howlett)

Once clear of land we encountered out first Gannets which for the next 2 hours occasionally drifted by the ferry.  After a very smooth crossing we started to record more Gannets as we were approaching Alderney with its spectacular Gannet colony, and sure enough the distinctive, white-topped rock of Ortac was still covered in birds with many swirling around the cliff tops.

We had a short stop in Guernsey, St. Peter Port looked lovely in the sunshine and being a weekend there were a lot of small yachts making the most of the fine weather. It was a short crossing to Jersey with a variety of gulls keeping us company as we made our way to St. Helier.

In Jersey we had time to scan the harbour area, where a few Swift were flying around the ship plus the odd Oystercatcher on the beach below Elizabeth Castle, before we sailed on time back towards Guernsey and Poole.  Around the coastline we saw a few Shag and a similar selection of gulls as on the way in, the weather was fine and the sea very calm.

Ortac Kevin Waterfall 01
Ortac Gannet colony (Kevin Waterfall)

After departing Guernsey with beautiful calm seas and a little glare straight ahead we were optimistic that we might encounter a recently sighted pod of Bottlenose Dolphins. However, after discussing this with the crew it seems, that unfortunately, they had not been seen over the last 3 weeks.  The rest of the crossing was relatively quiet with a blustery wind and smooth sea, we did spot a couple of Manx Shearwaters as we approached Poole and several Guillemots to welcome us back towards the Dorset coast.

As we approached Poole, we thanked Captain Ainscow and his crew for looking after us and upon arrival we were swiftly taken to the terminal.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘Condor Liberation’ Poole-Guernsey 2 July 2019

Posted 06 July 2019

MARINElife/Guernsey WLO Christine Arnold

Weather: Sunny with light winds

Summary of sightings:

Sandwich Tern
Common Tern
Black-headed Gull
Cormorant
Shag
Great Black-backed Gull
Herring Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Gannet
Shelduck
Little Egret
Spoonbill
Gadwall
Rock Pipit
Feral Pigeon
Woodpigeon
House Sparrow

It was a beautiful sunny day as I boarded Condor Liberation. There were loads of passengers on the viewing deck several of which were on their way to visit family in Guernsey. The ship left later than I am used to which meant the wildlife was well awake and getting on with their daily life.

We saw many Sandwich and Common Terns flying around the Brownsea lagoon and surrounding areas repeatedly flying back to their nests to feed young. Lots of the chicks are now hatched and are growing well. We also saw Cormorant, Herring Gull, Carrion Crow and Shelduck on the lagoon. The sailing vessel Gallant ws a lovely sight moored in Studland Bay.

SV Gallant Christine Arnold
Sailing vessel Gallant in Studland Bay (Christine Arnold)

I chatted with passengers about the wildlife and was asked many questions and engaged in some good conversations. One chap was even relocating to go and live on Jersey. The sun continued to shine as we sailed along and the English Channel was busy with lots of yachts and cargo vessels. The Ortac Gannet colony was a hive of activity with the majority of birds looking to be in adult plumage at present.

On arrival in Guernsey we docked in a different berth to usual so that put a different perspective in viewing sunny Guernsey. It was very warm and I disembarked and walked round to the bathing pools near the aquarium. The sea looked turquoise and everyone was very happy. Birds seen during my walk included several Herring Gull along with Feral Pigeon, Rock Pipit and Oystercatcher. I was surprised at how quickly the tide came in. I did a walk of about 700 metres along a beach and about 20 mins later the rockpools and beach were completely covered.

It was busy in the marina with many people enjoying going on the pleasure boats to Herm and Sark, as well as people going out in their own small boats. The plant boxes were absolutely full of beautiful different coloured flowers which set the image of an ideal picture postcard scene with the backdrop of turquoise water, it was simply magical.

One of Condor's other ferries, the Commodore Clipper, was in St Peter Port and I watched it load up with lorries and then watched as it manoeuvred out of the harbour which was quite a sight. After this I headed up to the roof terrace on the terminal where I watched the Feral Pigeons and heard the chorus of Herring Gull calling. I was also able to watch as the Condor Liberation returned from Jersey.

Purbeck sunset Christine Arnold 01
Pubeck sunset framed by a window on the Liberation (Christine Arnold)

On the return journey the visibility was fantastic, so clear that buildings on the French coast could be seen and the Casquettes rock lighthouse was also very clear. Passengers happily reminisced about their holidays and were keen to hear about the wildlife. I did see a splash in the water but was unable to determine what had made it. As we came into Poole Harbour Brownsea was still very busy and the terns continued to drop like bullets into the water. To round off the trip we were treated  to a fantastic pink and orange sunset.

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

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘Condor Liberation’ Poole-Guernsey 17 June 2019

Posted 18 June 2019

MARINElife/Guernsey WLO Amanda Jones

Weather: Outward - sunny and dry, wind SSW 15mph, good visibility.
Return - sunny and dry wind SW 7mph and a spectacular sunset.

Summary of sightings:

Seabirds:
Herring Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Gannet
Cormorant
Sandwich Tern
Storm Petrel

Island Birds:
House Sparrow
Woodpigeon
Feral Pigeon
Pied Wagtail
Swallow

Upon arrival at Poole Harbour I made my way to check-in and introduced myself as the Wildlife Officer. It was a very busy crossing and I chatted briefly to the queueing passengers (many on a day trip) before boarding. Then I met the crew at the information desk, put on my high-vis and they kindly read out the MARINElife Wildlife Officer announcement once we had set sail.

Many people were on the outer decks for the first hour and I introduced myself and MARINElife, talking about conservation and learning many interesting stories of their travels. A few Herring Gull, Sandwich Tern, Great Black-backed Gull and Cormorant were seen as we left the harbour. Sandbanks and many boats dominated the harbour edge whilst the lagoon on Brownsea Island was brimming with birdlife.

Plastic pollution was noticeable on the crossing with a few plastic bottles, a balloon and more plastic in the harbour when we arrived at Guernsey. It was reassuring how many people cared about this when speaking to them.

Ortac rock, which is home to the Gannet colony, was busy with most of the birds sitting on the water. We approached Guernsey from east of the islands of Herm and Jethou and close to Sark. The light, which was spectacular today with the sunshine, highlighted all of the coves and crags and a passionate gentleman talked about sailing and exploring around the Channel Islands. A Storm Petrel flitted past before we got closer to Guernsey.

Herring Gull Amanda Jones 01
Herring Gull in St Peter Port (Amanda Jones)

Once in St Peter Port there were many gulls, mainly Herring, scattered around the harbour. We all disembarked and I enjoyed a round trip of the island on the 92 bus. It was my first visit to Guernsey and the glorious day presented it at its best, inspiring me to come back on holiday one day. The forts, light, sandy beaches, craggy rocks, quaint cottages and interesting gardens with palms, chickens, ponies, livestock and fields full of crops were all visible on the journey.

A flock of Woodpigeon were noticeable over Cobo Bay and a few gulls flew or perched en-route. An odd Great Black-backed Gull sat in a crop field with Herring Gulls. One Swallow darted across catching insects and a couple of Pied Wagtail quickly dipped past once back in the harbour. House Sparrows had made their home in the harbour too and as I wandered along to the terminal I approached a gentleman and we engaged in conversation. He suddenly rushed inside a hut and brought out a box which contained a baby hedgehog which was being transported home to Sark as he shared his passion for wildlife.

As we set sail for Poole the crew kindly read out the Wildlife Officer announcement again and people spoke to me on the outer decks. They shared their wildlife experiences from all around the UK; from Anglesey in the northwest of Wales, Aberdeen in the north of Scotland and Norfolk in eastern England and we related on how rich the British coastline is with spectacular wildlife which we must conserve.

Channel sunset Amanda Jones 01
Channel sunset (Amanda Jones)

The Gannets at Ortac were settled on the rock with a few flying but one chose to fly right alongside us whilst the sun set on the opposite side of the boat. I didn't see any cetaceans but as I made my way back to the car I joined with the Condor Ferries Assistance due to my disability and one lady related how a pod of dolphins had been alongside us just before we reached Old Harry Rocks.

Thank you to the Captain and Crew for being most welcoming and helpful.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘Condor Liberation’ Poole-Guernsey 11 June 2019

Posted 12 June 2019

MARINElife/Guernsey WLO Christine Arnold

Weather: Overcast with spells of rain clearing to glorious sunshine, wind NE 3-4

Summary of sightings:

Cetaceans:
Harbour Porpoise

Seabirds:
Sandwich Tern
Common Tern
Black-headed Gull
Cormorant
Shag
Great Black-backed Gull
Herring Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Gannet
Shelduck
Little Egret
Spoonbill
Mallard
Gadwall
Rock Pipit
Feral Pigeon
Woodpigeon
House Sparrow

I boarded Condor Liberation, collected my leaflets and vest and made my way to the top deck. Several people approached me to ask about what I was doing for the duration of the journey. Many of the passengers had heard the recent reports of the lone dolphin which has repeatedly been sighted in the Poole bay area and harbour.

There was an incredibly atmospheric sky over and behind Brownsea Island yet in the other direction over Studland area was bright sunshine. This meant that the birds on the lagoon which are white in colour showed up quite spectacularly. I was able to show passengers the 4 Spoonbill on the Tamarisk island within the lagoon, Shelduck, Canada Goose and the brilliant numbers of Sandwich and Common Tern and Black-headed Gull all endeavouring to either sit on nests recently created or rear their young. The terns were also very actively hunting, diving into the water in search of food. We also saw Cormorant and Shag before we headed out into the Channel.

Approaching Alderney the spectacular sight that is the Gannet colony on Ortac rock came into view with probably roughly 50 circling around the top mostly looking to be in adult plumage now.

Harbour Porpoise Peter Howlett 20
Harbour Porpoise (Library photo: Peter Howlett)

I was overjoyed to see a Harbour Porpoise near Brehon Tower - a small fortress built on a rock in the Little Russel about 1.5 miles out from St Peter Port. It surfaced three times showing its dorsal fin and a bit of its back. It was slow and sturdy, quite a robust looking creature and showed the characteristic roll through the water, low to the surface unlike a more active and faster dolphin species. Fortunately a few of the passengers were able to see it too.

Whilst ashore this time I decided to walk around all the marinas and found various Feral Pigeons which looked iridescent in the light. There were also many Herring Gulls and several Rock Pipits and I was even able to feed a tame House Sparrow at close quarters.

The water was a beautiful turquoise and it was high tide, which together with the sunshine, made it rather dreamy. A face painted on one of the mooring buoys added to the atmosphere and made me laugh too.

St Peter Port mooring buoy Christine Arnold
Face painted on a mooring buoy in St Peter Port (Christine Arnold)

One of Condor's other ferries the Commodore Clipper came and went before the Condor Liberation appeared again and we boarded for the trip back to Poole.

The return journey boasted a beautiful cirrus sky with sunlight dazzling off the water. A variety of tankers and cargo ships were busy plying up and down the shipping lanes in the English Channel.

The terns and gulls over Brownsea lagoon and in Poole harbour were quite raucous and marked a noisy end to another successful and enjoyable trip.

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

MARINElife blog: Condor Ferries ‘Condor Liberation’ Poole-Jersey 9 June 2019

Posted 10 June 2019

Julie Hatcher and Steve Boswell, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884)

Weather: Bright and clear with sunny spells and light northwesterly winds.

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals
Bottlenose Dolphin Tursiops truncatus 7
Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus 1

Seabirds
Auk sp. 2
Balearic Shearwater Puffinus mauretanicus 14
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 2
Canada Goose Branta canadensis 1
CommonTern Sterna hirundo 12
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 6
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 5
Gannet Morus bassanus 89
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 16
Guillemot Uria aalge 12
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 190
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 19
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 11
Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus 1
Puffin Fratercula arctica 3
Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis 11
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 26
Shelduck Tadorna tadorna 2
Storm Petrel  Hydrobates pelagicus 2

It was a lovely clear morning when we boarded the ferry full of anticipation of the trip ahead. Captain Giles Wade welcomed us to the bridge and we prepared our recording forms and binoculars ready for departure as the sun streamed through the windows.

As we left Poole Harbour the Common and Sandwich Tern were busy searching and diving for fish by the harbour entrance and out into Poole Bay. The crossing was very smooth and the sea calm as we headed towards the Channel Islands and we spotted several Fulmar, Guillemot and a couple of Puffin resting on the water. With Alderney just visible ahead we were surprised when a Grey Seal popped its head up briefly before disappearing again. We recorded a few Gannet as we approached their breeding colony just off the Alderney coast, one individual travelling alongside the bridge window for several minutes before heading off to the colony.  A striking cloud formation was sitting directly above Guernsey in an otherwise clear sky and a loose group of around 100 gulls of various ages were resting on the water just outside the harbour at St Peter Port.

BND Julie Hatcher 01
Bottlenose Dolphins near Jersey (Julie Hatcher)

The voyage between the islands to Jersey was equally smooth as we looked out for Balearic Shearwater that we had heard were in the area. Sure enough we were lucky enough to see a dozen or so of these rare birds as well as a few Manx Shearwater. As we approached St. Helier on Jersey a couple of Bottlenose Dolphin breached clear of the water beside the ship, giving us very clear views. Others were ahead and we counted six in total as they played in the wake of the ship.

Once docked in Jersey we were entertained by a resident Oystercatcher that has the habit of watching its own reflection in the windows of the bridge, pacing alongside and posturing at what it believes is a rival bird.

As we headed away from Jersey for the return journey we kept an eye out for the dolphins and shearwaters we had seen previously but it was very quiet, with only a few gulls and Shag to be seen. Passing Alderney we had close views of the Gannet colony and could see crowds of birds sitting on their nests, with a few actively foraging nearby. The wind had dropped even further and towards mid-Channel the surface of the sea was glassy smooth. Spotting a couple of Storm Petrel was a highlight of the day, along with some more Manx Shearwater and a solitary Puffin on the water. To top the day off, as we approached Old Harry Rocks on the Dorset coast, a single Bottlenose Dolphin surfaced a couple of times just ahead of the bow before disappearing again.

Gannet Julie Hatcher 02
Gannet (Julie Hatcher)

As an added bit of excitement we were able to watch the pilot from Poole Harbour transferring between boats as he boarded the ship to guide it into port. This was a very enjoyable survey with calm, clear conditions and some interesting sightings. Thanks to Captain Giles Wade and his crew for their hospitality.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘Condor Liberation’ Poole-Guernsey 7 June 2019

Posted 08 June 2019

MARINElife/Guernsey WLO Terry Bridgwood

Weather: Cloudy, rain and windy.

Summary of sightings:

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

Terrestrial birds
Little Egret

I had an early start to get to Poole in time for departure and the journey down did not bode well with overcast skies and rain. Check in was swift and I was soon aboard the Condor Liberation, smiling crew welcoming us aboard. When we started moving I went to the information point, introduced myself to the cabin manager, took a few MARINElife leaflets, donned my WLO vest and headed out on deck.

Whatever the weather I'm always excited to see what wildlife is about and ever hopeful of seeing dolphins, especially as there had been recent sightings of some in and around Poole harbour. Passing Brownsea Island I saw Common and Sandwich Terns, Cormorants, Shags and assorted gulls.

Poole pilot Terry Bridgwood
Poole pilot boat (Terry Bridgwood)

As we passed Old Harry Rock a few people appeared on deck to take photographs. A passenger asked what I was doing and I explained about the work MARINElife does and how Condor Ferries supports the charity. He stayed on deck watching out from the other side of the deck, we agreed we would shout to each other if we saw anything of interest - unfortunately the need didn't arise. Unusually the pilot boat stayed with us out past Old Harry Rock and It turned out that they were rescuing a life raft. Hopefully here was no one on board and it had just been lost at sea.

Crossing the Channel I saw Guillemots and Manx Shearwaters, the latter living up to their name and shearing up and down between the waves. As we approached Ortac rock the number of Gannets increased, although the inclement weather meant there were not as many as usual and as we neared Guernsey a lone Fulmar passed us.

Condor Liberation Terry Bridgwood 01
Condor Liberation at St Peter Port (Terry Bridgwood)

Upon reaching Guernsey I disembarked and had a wander around St Peter Port before returning to have lunch in the port café. Back at the ferry terminal I checked in and waited in the departure lounge. I fell into conversation with a gentleman who told me that he was born on the island but was evacuated during the war and only returned to visit an aunt still living on the island. He recommended Les Roquettes Hotel for food - a bit of a walk out of town but I may check it out on my next visit.

Back on board the Liberation I headed up onto the viewing deck and was joined by the same gentleman as on the way over, we were both excited to see a Little Egret flying overhead just before we departed. Once we had passed Ortac rock I headed below deck to seek shelter from the rain and circulated around the cabin to chat to some of the passengers.

All too soon we were back at Poole and disembarked and went our separate ways.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘Condor Liberation’ Poole-Guernsey May 29 2019

Posted 01 June 2019

MARINElife/Guernsey WLO Christine Roberts

Weather: Overcast with spells of rain, wind SW 4 on outward journey, SW 4-5 on return, visibility  variable.

Summary of sightings:

Cetaceans:
Dolphin sp.

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

Having collected my boarding pass and passed security, we quickly made the short transfer to the waiting ship. Despite the grey weather conditions there were plenty of people enjoying the incredible vista of Poole Harbour offered by the viewing deck of the Condor Liberation. From this vantage point some passengers were lucky to see 2 groups of dolphins as we left the harbour as well as Shag, Herring Gull and Black-headed Gull in good numbers.

BH Gull Peter Howlett 04
Black-headed Gull (Library photo: Peter Howlett)

As we sailed past Brownsea lagoon we spotted Shelduck and Sandwich Tern and also a large Barrel jellyfish washed up on the shore. The outward journey was smooth and as we passed Alderney, there were some great views of the Gannet colony on Ortac. On arrival in Guernsey the increasing rain changed my plans for the time ashore and after a short walk along the nearby beaches, I headed for some retail therapy. Guernsey's fabulous shops offered a wonderful variety of shopping opportunities and my time ashore passed by far too quickly.

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

Back on ship and after some initial fog and mist as we departed the Channel Islands, the visibility improved, enabling views of more Gannets. As Old Harry Rocks came into view, we began to see Sandwich Tern diving and also Black-headed Gull and Herring Gull.  Sadly, we saw no sign of the lone Bottlenose Dolphin who has been frequently seen in the harbour over the past few weeks. Maybe next time!

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

MARINElife blog: Condor Ferries ‘Condor Liberation’ Poole-Jersey 12 May 2019

Posted 19 May 2019

Helen Swift, Tom Forster and Margaret Boswell Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884; Registered Company No. 5057367)

Weather: Dry, very good-excellent visibility (16-20+ km), sea state 1-3, occasional glare

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals
Bottlenose Dolphin Tursiops truncatus 1
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 1

Seabirds
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 41
Common Tern Sterna hirundo 3
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 11
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 15
Gannet Morus bassanus 318
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 22
Guillemot Uria aalge 21
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 126
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 1
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 5
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 4
Mediterranean Gull Larus melanocephalus 1
Puffin Fratercula arctica 2
Razorbill Alca torda 3
Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis 21
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 24
Unidentified Auk sp. 5
Unidentified Gull sp. 619
Unidentified Larus Gull sp.34
Unidentified Tern sp. 4

Terrestrial birds
Carrion Crow Corvus corone 1
Jackdaw Corvus monedula 1
Mallard Anas platyrhynchos 1
Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus 2
Shelduck Tadorna tadorna 2
Swallow Hirundo rustica 18
Swift Apus apus 3

Today's survey was a new experience for us all, since Margaret was a trainee and it was the first time Tom and I had been on this route. By coincidence, Tom and I had met Margaret and her husband Steve (also a MARINELife surveyor) last year on a whale-watching cruise in the Bay of Biscay, which felt like being on an unofficial survey for MARINElife!  So we had a nice time catching up with each other while waiting to board the Condor Liberation.

Once aboard, we were quickly shown to the bridge where we were warmly greeted by Captain Giles Wade and invited to set up ready for departure.  We were informed that there was a change to the schedule today - instead of travelling via Guernsey on the outbound journey, this would happen on the way back.

Conditions were very favourable for spotting wildlife. There was no swell, the sea state was merely 1 at departure and this got no higher than 3 at any point during the survey.  Visibility was fantastic throughout, there was no precipitation and only occasional glare.

As we departed Poole Harbour, there were plenty of birds to test Margaret's observation and recording skills, which she coped with admirably! As well as Cormorant, Shag and the usual mixture of gulls, there were a few surprises.  The first bird recorded was a Swallow, with a total of 18 recorded by the end of the survey.  We thought it was quite late to be recording Swallows on migration and wondered whether the recent bad weather had delayed their migration.  A couple of Swift were also recorded - less surprising since they typically arrive on our shores in early May, but still perhaps a little late.

Puffin Peter Howlett 13
Puffin (Library photo: Peter Howlett)

Another notable sighting was two Puffin not far out of Poole harbour, though sadly only seen by Tom, as Margaret and I were busy recording other birds. While we were surprised by this at the time, we subsequently discovered that a pair of Puffin had been seen by the MARINElife Wildlife Officer on this route a few days prior, in a similar area. We were also pleased to see a good number of Sandwich Tern, back for the summer, and a pair of Shelduck.

Glynis, the route coordinator, had told us to watch out for a lone Bottlenose Dolphin that had recently been spotted in Poole Harbour near Old Harry Rocks.  However, despite three pairs of eyes searching and very favourable conditions, nothing was seen in the vicinity.  There were a number of jet skiers in the area, making the most of the lovely conditions, so this wasn't entirely surprising.

As we moved away from the coast, the initial flurry of sightings slowed down somewhat, and Gannets, Fulmar and auks, particularly Guillemot, started to be recorded. A few of the Gannet appeared to be searching for food.

During a particular lull in sightings, we took it in turns to take a break. As I was taking my break, one of the crew showed me a wonderful video of some Bottlenose Dolphin (presumably Jersey's resident pod) bow-riding alongside the Liberation. Sadly, this wasn't a spectacle that we would witness today.

Shortly after we were all back on effort and as we passed inshore of Alderney, Tom briefly spotted a lone dolphin surfacing ahead of the ship which, judging by the size, he thought was probably a Bottlenose. Unfortunately, Margaret and I missed this again!

Another couple of hours were spent recording birds in dribs and drabs (punctuated by a nice lunch), then we arrived into St Helier at around 2 pm.

After an hour's turnaround, we headed back into the Channel where we encountered a similar mix of birds. We had another hour of survey time before pausing in Guernsey to drop off some passengers.

Harbour Porpoise Peter Howlett 15b
Harbour Porpoise (Library photo: Peter Howlett)

Just after 5 pm we set sail again for Poole.  As we passed Alderney we enjoyed the spectacle of the Gannets colony on Ortac with our course passing close to give us lovely views even if it made counting somewhat challenging! During this leg of the survey there were quite a few birds resting on the water, suggesting they had fed recently, plus occasional diving or prospecting Gannet.  This made us hopeful of cetaceans. However, there was only one brief sighting of a Harbour Porpoise, which Margaret spotted while Tom was on his break.  Guess what? I missed this again! I obviously didn't have my eyes in for this survey!

Our thanks to Captain Giles Wade and the crew of the Condor Liberation for making us welcome and looking after us throughout the survey.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘Condor Liberation’ Poole-Guernsey 1 May 2019

Posted 11 May 2019

MARINElife/Guernsey WLO Christine Arnold

Weather: Sunny spells and rain, wind 3 to 4, visibility good to moderate.

Summary of sightings:

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

Terrestrial birds:
Oystercatcher
Black-tailed Godwit
Song Thrush
Pied Wagtail
Rock Pipit
House Sparrow
Little Egret
Shelduck

The Barfleur departed a few minutes before us. I was joined on deck by many of the passengers who were on a 'National Holidays' coach holiday and were off to spend the day in Guernsey along with the other passengers. Several passengers were interested so I was able to hand out leaflets and talk about cetaceans and seabirds.

On passing Brownsea lagoon it was absolutely alive with Sandwich Terns and Black-headed Gulls setting up nesting sites and flying around looking for food. Also present were Little Egret, Shelduck and Black-tailed Godwit.

A while after passing Old Harry rocks I spotted two Puffins flying quickly in the direction of Dancing Ledge in Purbeck along with the first three Gannet still with a lot of their juvenile plumage. I later heard a Pied Wagtail fly over, calling. As we ventured into the main shipping channel we could see Barfleur was now well under way heading in the direction of France and we saw several big freight carriers. Ortac rock was buzzing with activity yet again and this area of water was particularly atmospheric with the jagged rocks surrounding the area of Alderney.

MSC Preziosa Clive Arnold
MSC Preziosa (Clive Arnold)

Anchored outside St Peter Port was the large cruise ship 'MSC Preziosa' and its passengers were continually being ferried back and forth between the ship and Guernsey. In St Peter Port it was interesting to see the old 'Bournemouth Belle' boat moored - now with the name of 'Sark Belle'.

On Guernsey it was raining but we went for a walk along the harbourside and south to the Valette swimming pools. On the way we saw some beautiful flowers, Herring Gull, Rock Pipit and a singing Song Thrush - the coast here would be a good place for rock pooling as there are lots to explore. For the first time ever I went in the aquarium, it had unique exhibits and was interesting with a good selection of creatures, many of which could be found in British waters.

Chelsea pensioners Clive Arnold
Chelsea Pensioners (Clive Arnold)

Whilst waiting for Condor to return about 15 Chelsea pensioners appeared looking very smart in their full uniform. They were happy to show us their medals and were friendly and chatty. It was interesting to learn about them.

After Ortac rock I made the most of the lovely food from Les Casquettes bistro on board. It was a beautiful evening coming back into Poole with Sandwich Terns diving into the water to find sand eels.

Thank you to the crew and captain for their kindness and help throughout the voyage.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘Condor Liberation’ Poole-Guernsey 26 April 2019

Posted 29 April 2019

MARINElife/Guernsey WLO Glynis Northwood-Long

Weather: Sunny spells and showers, wind SW 4 to 5 in the morning, increasing to 5 or 6 mid afternoon, visibility good to moderate

Summary of sightings:

Cetaceans:
None seen

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

Although it was a rather blustery morning, I joined fellow passengers on deck as we departed for the journey to Guernsey. On hearing the announcement that there was a Wildlife Officer on board, a few people came over to ask what I was looking for. So I happily chatted with them and explained which species they might see during the crossing. It was however, rather quiet on Brownsea Island lagoon with only a few different gull species, Oystercatcher and Cormorant to be seen as we departed the harbour.

Travelling past Old Harry Rocks and then out into the Channel, we saw our first Gannet, soaring above the waves, not yet in full adult plumage.  After that, sea bird sightings were scarce and I went inside to chat to passengers. I met a group from Royal Hospital Chelsea, who were going to the Channel Islands for a bowling match and they looked resplendent in their bright red coats, adorned with medals.

St Peter Port Peter Howlett 01
Harbour front in St Peter Port (Library photo: Peter Howlett)

Arriving at St Peter Port, I had a few hours to explore the area and indulge in a bit of retail therapy in the shops in the town.

Once back on board for the return journey, I met up again with the passengers I had been chatting to before and we swapped stories about the wildlife we had seen in the area on previous occasions.

Gannet Adrian Shephard 04
Diving Gannet (Library photo: Adrian Shephard)

Out on deck as we were approaching Alderney, the afternoon sunshine highlighted the Gannet colony on Ortac Rock and we could see Gannet soaring round and diving spectacularly into the sea. Although we were ever hopeful, on this trip we didn't spot any cetaceans although they had been seen the week before around Poole Bay.

Thanks to Condor Ferries, Captain Giles Wade and the crew of the Condor Liberation for their support and assistance.

MARINElife Survey Report: Condor Ferries ‘Liberation’ Poole-Jersey 13 April 2019

Posted 15 April 2019

Rick Morris, Terry Bridgwood and Donna Bridgwood, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884)

Weather: Wind 4-5 E-ENE, sea state: 3-5, cloudy with sunny periods

Summary of sightings

Seabirds
Fulmar  Fulmarus glacialis 4
Gannet Morus bassanus 113
Great Skua Stercorarius skua 1
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 181
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 23
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 2
Guillemot Uria aalge 34
Razorbill  Alca torda 3
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 8
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 3
Larus gull Sp. 5
Auk Sp. 1

Terrestrial birds seen at sea
Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus 2
Carrion Crow  Corvus corone 2

This was a three surveyor team today and we were also joined by Glynis Northwood-Long who came along to gather some photos for future training etc. We arrived at the terminal in good time and after a friendly and quick check-in, were onto the bus and aboard the ship.

Once on board, some time was spent up top looking out to Brownsea Island where there were a few different species of birds in low numbers and a few Sandwich Tern were seen flying. We enjoyed breakfast before heading up to the bridge where we were welcomed by Captain Giles Wade. After setting up on the starboard bridge wing, we commenced our survey just as we were exiting the 'red zone' near Old Harry Rocks. We logged our first effort entry at 09:55 and it was not long after at 10:06 that we recorded our first bird sighting, 2 Whimbrel heading off shore. Throughout the survey, seabird species and numbers remained low, not helped by the cold easterly winds!

Terry-Donna Bridgwood surveying
Terry and Donna Bridgwood surveying (Rick Morris)

Nearing Alderney, Ortac Rock could be seen at distance off the port side, now being circled by the many breeding Gannet that return to colonise this each year. As we approached Guernsey, many gulls were seen on the surface with some flying and actively feeding.

After a short turn-around in saint Peter Port we continued onward to Jersey and just outside of the port we took on the pilot to take us in. Once in St Helier, Jersey we enjoyed the fresh air up on deck before heading down for lunch. It was then back to the bridge ready for the return. We were hoping to catch sight of the resident Bottlenose Dolphin that often make an appearance just outside the port of St Helier, but alas, none was seen.

After another quick turn-around at Guernsey we were soon on our way back to Poole. The remainder of the crossing was much like that of the outbound section, fairly quiet with very little in the way of sightings, although we did have a better view of Ortac Rock and the Gannets as we passed by with it on our starboard side. We also had a close sighting of a Great Skua that came down the starboard side of us.

Ortac Rick Morris 2019-04
Ortac (Rick Morris)

As we entered into the red zone at the entrance to Poole Harbour, we concluded our survey and thanked Captain Giles Wade, the bridge crew and cabin crew for all their help and a special thanks to Condor Ferries for supporting MARINElife's work. Although it was a relatively quiet survey in quantity terms, we still managed 10 species of seabirds as well as 2 species of terrestrial birds.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report ‘Condor Liberation’ Poole-Guernsey 12 April 2019

Posted 14 April 2019

MARINElife WLO Christine Roberts

Weather: Sunny with occasional cloud, wind easterly force 4, gusting 5 on the return

Summary of sightings:

Seabirds:
Gannet
Great Black-backed Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Cormorant
Brent Geese
Swallow
Shag
Sandwich Tern
Oystercatcher
Black-headed Gull
Herring Gull

Boarding pass swiftly collected and a quick bus transit to the ship and we were soon on our way to the Channel Islands. We enjoyed a beautiful sunny start to the day. Although the easterly wind was quite chilly it was good to see lots of people up on the top viewing deck enjoying the stunning views of Poole Harbour as we departed. Passing Brownsea lagoon we saw increasing bird numbers and enjoyed seeing some diving terns plus Shag, Cormorant, Herring Gull and Black-headed Gull all on the wing.

Sandwich Tern Peter Howlett 05
Sandwich Tern (Library photo: Peter Howlett)

Picking up speed as we left the harbour, we enjoyed the glorious vista of the Jurassic coast. Sadly, we weren't lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the pod of 40 dolphins seen the previous week. However, before long we were seeing increasing numbers of Gannets. As we came closer to Ortac Rock we could see Gannets sitting on the water, flying close to the ship and a mass swirling around the top of the rock - wonderful sight.  As we approached Guernsey, a local fishing boat was proving very popular with the local Herring Gull population.

Disembarking in Guernsey, I took advantage of the free time to walk along the small beaches close by, then walked up to Clarence Battery which offers great views of the islands. A Kestrel was hovering close by and the sound of birdsong was wonderful. Following a quick coffee in a café overlooking the harbour, it was soon time to board the ship.

Kestrel Peter Howlett 01
Kestrel (Library photo: Peter Howlett)

The wind was keener for our return journey which limited the wildlife spotting opportunities, but it was lovely talking to fellow passengers about their wildlife experiences and seeing their passion for nature. A beautiful sunset accompanied our return to Poole harbour and I was soon on my way home.

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

MARINElife Survey Report: Condor Ferries ‘Liberation’ Poole-Jersey survey 16 February 2019

Posted 24 February 2019

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

Weather: Cloudy, light winds with sea state 2. Fog to start the outward journey and on the return leg some fog just around Guernsey, otherwise clear.

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals
Bottlenose Dolphin Tursiops truncatus 5
Common Dolphin Delphinus delphis 6

Seabirds
Brent Goose Branta bernicla 8
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 10
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 2
Gannet Morus bassanus 46
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 5
Great Skua Stercorarius skua 1
Guillemot Uria aalge 18
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 17
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 26
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 3
Razorbill Alca torda 2
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 4
Larus sp. 1
Auk sp.  6

We arrived early at the terminal and were soon on the transfer bus and boarding the Condor Liberation, where we received a very warm welcome onboard from the helpful staff. After a quick cup of coffee, we were shown up to the bridge. The ship had departed ahead of schedule and was slipping past Brownsea Island where we could see a group of Avocets feeding. Our survey effort began after we passed the Sandbanks ferry.

Common Dolphin Rick Morris 05
Common Dolphin (Library photo: Rick Morris)

Throughout the day we saw several Guillemot, some in winter plumage, others already in breeding plumage. On the approach to Alderney a pod of five Common Dolphin passed just in front of the ship, followed shortly afterwards by a pair which included a juvenile. The flurry of activity continued with another group of dolphins quickly approaching the vessel which this time turned out to be Bottlenose Dolphin. As we passed we turned to see this group breaching in the waves behind the ship. These few minutes proved to be the highlight of the day. The rest of the crossing was peppered mainly with Gannet, Kittiwake, auks and gulls.

Great Skua Peter Howlett 23
Great Skua (Library photo: Peter Howlett)

Late in the afternoon, following our departure from St Peter Port on the last leg of this journey several small groups of Brent Geese flew past. Nearing the shipping lanes, a single Great Skua was spotted in the distance. Soon afterwards, with the light fading fast, we closed the survey, thanked Captain John Dowds and his crew for looking after us then headed down to the main salon.  With an early arrival we were disembarking soon after 7.00pm.

Many thanks to Condor Ferries and the crew of the Condor Liberation for the support and assistance given.

MARINElife Survey Report: Condor Ferries ‘Condor Liberation’ Poole-Jersey 4 November 2018

Posted 18 November 2018

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

Weather: Outward - wind SE 5-6, overcast with light rain to begin with, good visibility.
Return - wind SE 4-5, overcast with good visibility

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals
Bottlenose Dolphin Tursiops truncatus 13

Seabirds
Brent Goose Branta bernicla 10
Gannet Morus bassanus 19
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 12
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 10
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 8
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 7
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 3
Mediterranean Gull Larus melanocephalus 3
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 2
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 3
Guillemot Uria aalge 3
Razorbill Alca torda 7
Auk sp. Alcidae 3

Terrestrial Birds
Starling Sturnus vulgaris 47

It was a cloudy and breezy start to the day however we received a warm welcome onboard Condor Liberation from the helpful staff. We were quickly shown up to the bridge where we familiarised ourselves with the equipment and instruments necessary for our survey.

Our survey effort began as we passed Studland Bay with Cormorant, a variety of gulls and a lone Gannet being recorded early on. Despite the light rain we spotted a few Razorbill and Guillemot as well as a couple of unidentified auk which were resting on the water as we approached only to dive below the surface before we drew near enough to identify them.

BND Peter Howlett 19
Bottlenose Dolphin (Library photo: Peter Howlett)

Nearing Alderney the usual bustle of Ortac was quieter than during the summer months with the Gannet having already left to forage at sea after raising their young, although a few Gannet were still nearby.

Our first cetacean sighting came just as we approached Jersey with a small group of Bottlenose Dolphin heading straight towards the vessel but quickly disappearing from view.  With a short turnaround in Jersey we wondered if we might be lucky to see dolphins on the return leg.  Our luck was in and we spotted more Bottlenose Dolphin near La Corbiere Lighthouse, this time they were a bit more active giving us good views as they approached the vessel leaping clear of the water and we were able to make out a juvenile within the group.

La Corbiere lighthouse Sarah Hodgson 2018
La Corbiere lighthouse (Sarah Hodgson)

After leaving St Peter Port on the final leg of the day's crossing we encountered several Brent goose on the wing presumably over-wintering nearby following their epic migration from northern climes.  With daylight fading we retired to the passenger lounge to relax and reflect on the day's sightings.

Once again, our thanks go to Captain Giles Wade and the crew of Condor Liberation who made this a very enjoyable crossing.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘Condor Liberation’ Poole-Guernsey 03 October 2018

Posted 15 October 2018

Glynis Northwood-Long; Wildlife Officer for MARINElife
Weather: Sunny with good visibility, sea smooth to slight, wind NW 1-3


Marine Mammals:
None seen

Seabirds:
Cormorant
Herring gull
Black headed gull
Gannet
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Shearwater (sp.)

Terrestrial Birds:
Oystercatcher
Avocet
Spoonbill
Carrion crow
Feral pigeon

Although the weather was forecast to be cloudy all day, it was a nice surprise to arrive at the ferry terminal with the sun shining and a clear blue sky for the final MARINElife wildlife day trip for this year. I met up with Gill, Martin, Peter, Richard, Alan, Howard and Dave, all members of the Poole unit of the Maritime Volunteer service (MVS) who had booked on this special day trip and soon we were boarding the Liberation.

Condor Liberation Glynis Northwood Long

Condor Liberation (Glynis Northwood-Long)

I made my way up to the viewing deck and as we sailed through Poole Harbour, I introduced myself to other passengers taking advantage of such a glorious morning. We chatted about the variety of birds on Brownsea Island lagoon, where Avocet, Spoonbill and Black tailed Godwit can be found at this time of year.  I was also on the lookout for deer that I had seen earlier on the nature reserve's webcam.

We left Poole Harbour, passing Old Harry Rocks and I met with Karen and her young son Jim as I had been in contact with them by email. We chatted about the marine wildlife because on my last trip, I had seen pods of both Bottlenose and Common Dolphin. Although it was a perfect day for sighting, even the sea birds were scarce until we approached Alderney.

Getting closer to Ortac Rock, we could see the Gannet colony with many birds flying around the rock. Several of the Gannet treated the passengers to an aerobatic display as they soared very close to the ship.

We arrived in Guernsey just in time to hear the midday cannon. Whilst the group from MVS decided to catch the bus for a tour of the island or treat themselves to a meal, I opted to stay in the sunshine. I walked along South Esplanade and to the lighthouse at the end of Castle Pier. As I was eating my picnic lunch, I saw a big splash in the water and I thought I caught a glimpse of what might have been a fin. Although I kept watching for several minutes, it didn't reappear.

MVS Volunteers Glynis Northwood Long

MVS Volunteers (Glynis Northwood-Long)

Back on the Liberation, many passengers were up on the viewing deck because it was more like summer than early October as the sun shone for most of the day, with higher temperatures than expected for this time of year. I met up with the MVS group on the viewing deck and took a photo of them for their newsletter. I continued to chat with my fellow passengers, who were hopeful of seeing dolphins. One passenger, James, was on the day trip celebrating his birthday, so I treated him to a slice of delicious fruit cake from the Casquets Bistro (I can highly recommend it!).

Once more, approaching Ortac Rock, the Gannet put on another aerial display, with one flying effortlessly just above the viewing deck. One passenger recorded its speed as 34 mph by using an app on his mobile phone! However, for the remainder of the journey, further sea bird sightings were scarce and no cetaceans were seen.

Even the crew had told me that the 'resident' pod of Dolphin had not been seen since the recent storms.  Later, as we approached the mainland, those passengers out on deck were treated to a spectacular sight of the sun setting behind Anvil Point.

Sunset Glynis Northwood Long

Sunset (Glynis Northwood-Long)

Thanks to Condor Ferries and the crew of the Condor Liberation for making us welcome on board and for their support to MARINElife. I look forward to our next Wildlife trips with Condor Ferries next year!

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘Condor Liberation’ Poole-Guernsey 01 October 2018

Posted 05 October 2018

Christine Arnold, MARINElife Wildlife Officer (WLO)
Weather: Cloud and sun, sea state 2-3

Summary of Sightings
Marine Mammals:

Bottlenose Dolphin (possible)

Seabirds: 
Cormorant
Shag
Gannet
Herring Gull
Black-headed Gull

Terrestrial Birds
Pied Wagtail
Feral Pigeon
House Sparrow
Oystercatcher
Avocet
Little Egret
Grey Heron
Carrion Crow

It was a lovely autumnal day as I boarded Liberation. I was joined on deck by many passengers and we watched Barfleur leave for Cherbourg.

As we passed Brownsea we were able to view many Avocet on the lagoon along with Oystercatcher and Cormorant and some Little Egret.

The tide was very low, this meant that we were able to view stony island. There were about 10 Carrion Crow and some Herring Gull.  I chatted to passengers, many of whom were on a coach holiday travelling to Jersey for 5 days.  They were keen to obtain more information about the crossing and the anticipated wildlife and surrounding Purbeck area. There was a European Shag sitting on the buoy drying its wings.

The ship gained speed after we had passed Studland bay area. After a while when we were right in the Channel I thought I heard a Pied Wagtail calling overhead although didn't see it.

Gannet JoJo Southgate 01

Gannet (JoJo Southgate)

Later on, the first Gannet started to fly past. I was able to hand out leaflets and tell passengers including some young families about the wildlife in the English Channel.

Just before the Gannet colony at les Etacs many people re-joined us on deck for the marvellous spectacle.

Several aeroplanes flew overheard and some people commented on the brilliant view of vapour trails that were all in the sky at once. The moon was also seen from the ship above us, obviously not illuminated but still visible.

After disembarking on Guernsey I decided to explore Candie gardens. This was extremely beautiful and I was told that flowers are planted so that it remains in flower all year round. There were two pretty little, French style ponds with goldfish in and it was all very well kept.

I even found a large statue of Victor Hugo and there was art in the gardens. The views over the Channel from here were quite spectacular.  The garden was on a slight incline so as the gardens went down the slope you could see some of the other islands in the distance. I would thoroughly recommend it.

Victor Hugo_Christine Arnold

Victor Hugo Statue (Christine Arnold)

I watched the boats moving around in the harbour, especially Travel trident and then watched Huelin Dispatch unload its cargo.

I bought a stuffed Guernsey cow toy as a souvenir. I re-boarded Condor Liberation and spoke with some very happy passengers about their holidays including the man who lives near the New Forest who was very excited to tell me that during his holiday in Jersey he had purchased an old vintage Austin and was having to make arrangements to have it transported back in a big container on a ship.  We had excellent view of Herm, Sark, Jettou, Berhuoi islands.

I thought I saw a very distant Bottlenose Dolphin jump out of the water and a splash but no one else saw it so I couldn't be sure.

We saw Ortac rock Gannet colony and they were flying round the top again and perched on it. After a while passengers came out to take photos of the glorious sunset which sent the sky gold, yellow, brown, pink and purple - it was incredible.

Soon after darkness descended, we saw Durlston light house working and all the other pretty twinkly lights over Purbeck.

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

MARINElife WLO; Christine Arnold

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘Condor Liberation’ Poole-Guernsey 05 September 2018

Posted 16 September 2018

Donna Bridgwood; MARINElife Wildlife Officer (WLO)
Weather: North to Northeast 4, Occasionally 5, backing Northly by evening
Good visibility and Sea state Slight to moderate

Summary of Sightings
Seabirds 
Shag
Juvenile Gulls
Herring Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Great Black Backed Gull
Adult and juvenile Gannets
Manx Shearwater
Comic Tern

Terrestrial Birds
Swallow
Oystercatcher

Myself and Terry (also a WLO) travelled to Poole the evening before and stayed with Glynis Northwood-Long, who was also coming along as a WLO on our trip to Guernsey.

We arrived at the port and boarded the Liberation.

We went and introduced ourselves to the cabin manager and handed over the passenger announcement, collected leaflets and tabards. Once we had found our seats we had plenty of time to grab some breakfast and a cuppa. We made our way up to the viewing deck as the ship turned to make its way out of the Harbour.

As the passenger announcement was made, we were approached by a lovely lady who had booked on the MARINElife trip, and introductions were made.

Coming out of the harbour the sun was shining and it was a very warm and pleasant day, we passed Brownsea Island, and saw Shag and juvenile Gull species, as we passed Studland beach, there were 4 Oystercatcher just taking off from the beach. There were also several Swallow flying above us.

Ortac Donna Bridgwood

Ortac Rock (Donna Bridgwood)

The rest of the Journey was very quiet seeing the odd Herring Gull, Lesser and Greater Black-backed Gull and a few more Swallow, as we neared Ortac Rock, we then started to spot a large number of adult and juvenile Gannet. We pointed these out to other passengers who were on the viewing deck with us.

Just as we were entering St Peters Port I spotted a Tern flying above us.

When Terry and I travel to Guernsey together, we always try and explore a little of the island, this time Terry had booked us into a lovely Hotel/Restaurant called Bella Luce for lunch and a tour of the Gin Distillery, which made for a lovely afternoon before we made our way back to the Port for our homeward Journey.

Once on board the Liberation, our MARINElife passenger met up with us again, and told us about her afternoon on the Island. The Journey back to Poole was quiet, again seeing plenty of Gannet at Ortac Rock, with the exception of a lone Manx Shearwater, gliding just above the water. As we neared Poole, we had a beautiful sunset greet us, a perfect end to a lovely day.

Once we had docked in Poole we said our goodbyes to our MARINElife passenger, who thanked us all for a lovely and informative day.

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

Sunset Donna Bridgwood

Sunset (Donna Bridgwood)

Donna Bridgwood; MARINElife Wildlife Officer

MARINElife Training Survey Report: Condor Ferries Liberation Poole-Jersey 21 August 2018

Posted 27 August 2018

Stephen Boswell, Judith Tatem, Kimberly Roll-Baldwin

Weather: Partially cloudy with fog patches in mid-Channel and full sun on the Channel Islands, wind southwest, sea state 2

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 3

Seabirds
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 9
Balearic Shearwater Puffinus mauretanicus 23
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 3
Gannet Morus bassanus 169
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 8
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 4
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 15
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 3
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 139
Mediterranean Gull Larus melanocephalus 1
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 47
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 2
Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis 5

We met at the Condor Ferries terminal and had a few minutes to look through the recording paperwork. Boarding was called and we were soon through the gate and on the short bus trip to the Liberation, our survey vessel. The ship departed ahead of schedule and Brownsea Island soon slipped past. Once we were clear of the harbour and out of the red zone we were escorted to the bridge where we were welcomed by Captain Stephen Crow.

Judith Tatem and Kim Roll-Baldwin surveying Steve Boswell
Judith and Kim surveying (Steve Boswell)

Training began with an introduction to the ship's instruments and our first records of the voyage. The clouds started to clear and the sea state was almost perfect for cetacean watching.  From the bridge we could see the MARINElife Wildlife Officer, Christine Arnold, hard at work on the upper deck. About an hour out of port a bank of fog appeared and for a short while the visibility deteriorated. Fortune, however, was with us as we cleared the fog before reaching the Alderney race and our first sighting of a Balearic Shearwater. Shortly after this we sighted a mixed group of 19 shearwaters including thirteen Balearic.  It was good to see them with Manx Shearwater to be able to study the differences between the two.

As we sailed along the Jersey coast the Captain spotted a pod of six dolphins which unfortunately for us were seen on the port side. The Island of Jersey was bathed in sunshine, so we were delighted to be able to sit outside the crew mess whilst eating our lunch. On both legs of the journey between Guernsey and Jersey there was a bloom of Moon Jellyfish slipping past the ship.

Harbour Porpoise Martin Kitching 01
Harbour Porpoise (Library photo: Martin Kitching)

As we approached Ortac it was shimmering white in the sunshine and there were lots of Gannets streaming back to their nests with food for their young. Shortly after this three Harbour Porpoise passed by down the starboard side with four Herring Gull in attendance. We then sailed back through the fog bank only to pop out for a gloriously sunny evening's return through Poole Harbour.

Thanks to Condor Ferries and the crew of the Condor Liberation for their welcome and assistance during the crossing.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘Condor Liberation’ Poole-Guernsey 21 August 2018

Posted 22 August 2018

MARINElife/Guernsey WLO Christine Arnold

Weather: Cloudy with sunny spells, sea state 2 outward and return 2/3

Summary of sightings:

Marine mammals
Bottlenose Dolphin 6

Seabirds
Gannet
Cormorant
Shag
Black-headed Gull
Herring Gull
Great black-backed Gull

Terrestrial birds
Greylag Goose
Spoonbill
Little Egret
Oystercatcher
Feral Pigeon
House Sparrow
Carrion Crow

I boarded Condor Liberation and went on deck where the passengers who were on the MARINElife day trip made themselves known to me. We watched the Barfleur slowly edge away from its berth before we were able to depart. Many of the passengers were on holiday travelling to the Channel islands or St Malo and were interested to have a leaflet and hear about the local area. This sailing was also being used to train MARINElife surveyors and team leader Steve made himself known to me and introduced me to the two trainees accompanying him.

As we passed Brownsea Lagoon we were able to see 3 Spoonbill on the tamarisk island. The passengers were interested to know the history of when Bonham Christie owned the island years ago. There were Cormorant perched on Stoney Island and the various marker buoys. There was a lovely low light on Studland beach and the surrounding areas this morning.

Ortac Gannet colony was particularly splendid and sparked great interest from passengers who always ask about the small islets surrounding the Channel Islands. The Gannets were circling the top and fishing nearby giving great photo opportunities.

As we made the turn into Guernsey harbour a young boy shouted that he had seen the dolphins, quickly many passengers came to look. There were three in the distance and two came nearer with one swimming right alongside the vessel . Passengers could clearly see its grey back with the water lapping around the majestic animal.

Little Egret Peter Howlett 03
Little Egret on Guernsey (Library photo: Peter Howlett)

I was joined by several of the passengers from the Liberation for the bus journey round the island. The flower baskets were spectacular with many bees pollinating them. We saw a flock of Greylag Geese feeding in a field alongside a herd of Guernsey cows. There were Little Egret and Carrion Crow on the beaches and the tide was low exposing the terrific rock formations.

After the bus trip I gained some local information from one of the shop owners and bought a souvenir in the shop. I saw House Sparrow and Rock Pipit on the walk to the terminal and heard and saw the Feral Pigeons on the terminal roof.

BND Christine Arnold 02
Bottlenose Dolphin outside St Peter Port (Christine Arnold)

After reboarding Condor we saw dolphins in the distance. As we left the harbour we saw a pod of six Bottlenose Dolphin playing around a pleasure boat, 5 were in a long line in front and one was right by its side.  Many passengers including young children were overjoyed at the experience. Outside the harbour wall was a large flock of 100 or so Herring Gull.

After passing Ortac rock I made the most of the lovely food and treated myself to a honeycomb ice cream. The passengers told me how wildlife rich Alderney is too. Some of the passengers told me they had seen many jellyfish in the Jersey/St Malo area although they were unsure of the species.

There was a low, late summer sunset behind Brownsea island where an Oystercatcher flew past and there were loads of Cormorant resting within the lagoon. Small sailing boats were yet again enjoying the calm harbour waters and a drone also flew over us, presumably filming our approach into Poole harbour.

Thanks to the staff for their help and support during this crossing.

MARINElife Survey Report: Condor Ferries ‘Liberation’ Poole-Jersey 18 August 2018

Posted 19 August 2018

Maggie Gamble and Amanda Jones, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884; Registered Company No. 5057367)

Weather: Outward - mostly overcast, wind WSW force 4-5, good visibility.

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals
None seen

Seabirds
Gannet Morus bassanus 125

Balearic Shearwater Puffinus mauretanicus 41
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 7
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 10
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 2
Little Egret Egretta garzetta

Mediterranean Gull Larus melanocephalus 4
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 224
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 2
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 19
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 9

Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis 5
Common Tern Sterna hirundo 9
'Commic' Tern Sterna hirundo/Sterna paradisaea 1
Larus sp. Larus sp. 7
Gull sp. Laridae 65
Tern sp. 8

We accessed the bridge as we passed Old Harry Rocks to commence our survey. Conditions were quite good but rather overcast.  We had enough marine birds to keep us occupied and passing Alderney the number of Gannets increased due to the breeding colony on Ortac.

Approaching Guernsey the bridge crew told us about the great views they'd had recently of the Bottlenose Dolphin feeding on the shoals of fish around the entrance to the harbour. Apparently they particularly seemed to enjoy the powerful water jets that the Liberation uses to manoeuvre into tight spaces. Unfortunately, on our survey the fish had gone and so had the dolphins! The brief turnaround in Guernsey gave chance to head down for a very welcome lunch before heading on our way to Jersey.

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

The leg to Jersey was enlivened by sightings of 'Manx Shearwaters' which we soon realised were slightly too large, slower in flight and somewhat pot-bellied in appearance and were in fact Europe's most vulnerable seabird - Balearic Shearwaters. After breeding most of the population moves up into the waters off southwest Britain to feed in mid to late summer.

Castle Cornet Maggie Gamble 01
Castle Cornet (Maggie Gamble)

Approaching Guernsey Harbour on the return leg we bought the sunshine with us and we were hopeful that the slacker state of the tide might bring the fish and the dolphins in. No such luck and even the chance of a jacuzzi wasn't enough to tempt them in. From the bridge we had good views of Castle Cornet, the 800 year old castle standing at the mouth of the harbour. Leaving Guernsey after another quick turn-around we shortly passed the Condor ferry Commodore Clipper heading in the opposite direction. This time as we approached Alderney the Gannet colony on Ortac was illuminated with sunlight and the white frosting of Gannets and guano was brightly visible. It was a good run back to Poole but no cetaceans were sighted on this survey.

Thanks once again to Condor Ferries and the crew of the Condor Liberation for their welcome and assistance during the crossing.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘Condor Liberation’ Poole-Guernsey 16 August 2018

Posted 17 August 2018

MARINElife/Guernsey WLO Julie Hatcher

Weather: Outbound - wet with a blustery southwesterly wind and poor visibility. Inbound - overcast to start but clearing bright with patchy cloud as we headed north with lighter westerly winds.

Summary of sightings:

Cetaceans
Bottlenose Dolphin  Tursiops truncatus 6

Seabirds
Manx Shearwater
Fulmar
Gannet
Cormorant
Shag
Oystercatcher
Great Black-backed Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Black-headed Gull
Herring Gull
Kittiwake
Common Tern

The outer deck was deserted except for a few keen wildlife spotters gathered in the shelter of the upper deck on a wet morning as we left Poole harbour. Most passengers sensibly remained inside with good views through the ship's windows. Some Common Terns, Cormorants and Great Black-backed Gulls were in evidence as we passed Brownsea Island and sailed out into Poole Bay. Wet and misty conditions made wildlife watching challenging but we started to see a few Gannets and a couple of Manx Shearwaters as we reached mid-Channel and travelled on past Alderney to Guernsey. Approaching St. Peter Port we recorded several Shag and a variety of gulls, including Lesser Black-backed, Herring and Black-headed.

BND Peter Howlett 18
Bottlenose Dolphin (Library photo: Peter Howlett)

The weather had brightened up for our return trip to Poole and the upper deck was packed as we departed St. Peter Port. As we departed a group of Bottlenose Dolphin were immediately spotted around a large cruise ship anchored just outside the port. The clouds dispersed and the warm sun emerged on the journey north and with clear visibility we were able to watch a good number of Gannet and Manx Shearwater. As we approached the middle of the Channel we spotted several groups of around 30 birds sitting on the water, including Gannet, Fulmar and terns. We also observed several Kittiwake on the crossing.

Fulmar Julie Hatcher 01
Fulmar (Library photo: Julie Hatcher)

Arriving in Dorset under blue skies, the upper deck became busy with people admiring the stunning coastline of Old Harry Rocks and Studland Bay. The lagoon on Brownsea Island was packed with roosting Cormorants, Little Egrets and Oystercatchers while Common Terns dived for fish in Poole Harbour.

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

MARINElife Wildlife officer report Condor Ferries ‘Condor Liberation’ Poole-Guernsey 24 July 2018

Posted 26 July 2018

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Christine Arnold

Weather: Sunny in Guernsey and throughout whole trip, wind ENE force 2, sea state 1 outward and 2 return.

Summary of sightings:

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

Terrestrial birds:
Grey Heron
Wood Pigeon
Blackbird
Feral Pigeon
House Sparrow

It was a sunny morning in Poole and when I boarded to collect my MARINElife vest at the information point I was told that every seat was full for the outbound journey. This included 5 coaches . This time the holiday makers were from Lancashire and were very excited for their journey and people were asking lots of questions about the wildlife. I had many interesting conversations with people both on day trips and going on holiday, one family had come all the way from New Zealand. The Condor staff were also keen to report their wildlife sightings. I believe that lots of people were specifically on the Guernsey day trip this time.

Gannet Peter Howlett 33
Gannet (Library photo: Peter Howlett)

We left promptly and it was lovely to see so many people out on deck. It was really warm and the sun shone throughout the crossing giving great views. As usual the Gannets performed well, sometimes gliding alongside the Liberation. The white of their wings gave a fantastic contrast to the blue sky behind. People were very interested to hear about these awe inspiring beauties.

On approaching Guernsey there were 2 cruise ships anchored outside the harbour entrance, Aegean Odyssey and Europa 2. In the surrounding area were many Great Black-backed Gull which were taking advantage of the nearby fishing vessels.

Aegean Oyssey Christine Arnold
Aegean Odyssey (Christine Arnold)

I couldn't believe the intensity of the heat as we disembarked in St Peter Port and there were loads of insects taking the pollen and nectar from the myriad of beautiful coloured flowers that had been planted all along the harbour walls.

Whilst on Guernsey I caught the bus around the island where the views of the landscapes were quite phenomenal. I had an excellent view of a Buzzard soaring over the bus and it was lovely to see the Swifts catching insects over the fields where the wild flowers had grown tall with the fine weather. The fine weather had also brought out the people and the beaches were packed with people cooling down in the sea. One ubiquitous sight as we travelled around the island was all the Herring Gull perched on the roofs and chimney pots of the houses.

On the return journey we were bathed in glorious sunshine throughout and had amazing views of the Gannet colony at Ortac. Also this time we could see Gannets had also congregated on the smaller rocks nearby.

Many small boats were out making the most of the beautiful weather and the jet skiers were playing in Liberation's wash. The multitude of small yachts with their multicoloured sails made Poole harbour look particularly colourful in the sunshine.

Poole Harbour yachts Christine Arnold
Yachts in Poole harbour (Christine Arnold)

Thanks to Condor Ferries and the crew of the Condor Liberation for their welcome and assistance during the crossing.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘Condor Liberation’ Poole-Guernsey 19 July 2018

Posted 20 July 2018

MARINElife/Guernsey WLO Julie Hatcher

Weather: Fair with light winds and calm sea conditions throughout the day.

Summary of sightings:

Cetaceans:
Bottlenose Dolphin Tursiops truncatus 5
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 2

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

The outer deck was busy with people enjoying the morning sunshine as we sailed through Poole harbour aboard the Condor Liberation. Common and Sandwich Terns were busy flying in and out of the harbour and diving for fish as we passed Brownsea Island and the harbour entrance. The sea was flat calm, the winds light and the sun was shining and as we left Old Harry Rocks behind we started to spot a few solitary Gannets.

BND Peter Howlett 18
Bottlenose Dolphin (Library photo: Peter Howlett)

Sea conditions were smooth for the crossing and a good number of people stayed on the outer deck enjoying the fine weather. Lots of people were interested to learn the variety of animals we might see from the ship and we watched a steady stream of Gannets and a few Manx Shearwater fly past as we crossed the Channel. As we neared the Channel Islands we saw several fishing boats, one with a flock of around 50 Great Black-backed and Herring Gulls following it.

After a lovely afternoon in St Peter Port we boarded the ferry for the return crossing. Again the outer deck was packed with people and as we picked up speed and passed the island of Herm we were delighted to spot five Bottlenose Dolphins just off the starboard side.

Ortac Rick Morris 04
Ortac Gannet colony (Library photo: Rick Morris)

We were treated to a spectacular sight as we passed the Gannet colony near Alderney with large numbers of birds both in the air and on the water. Several birds, including some juveniles with their darker plumage, flew close alongside the ship giving us good views. The sea grew calmer and glassy as we headed north and as the Dorset coast came into view we spotted a couple of Harbour Porpoise as they surfaced several times behind us.

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

MARINElife Training Survey Report: Condor Ferries ‘Liberation’ Poole-Jersey 18 July 2018

Posted 18 July 2018

Glynis Northwood-Long; MARINElife Wildlife Officer joined by WLO's Darren Hughes, Christine Roberts and Donna Bridgwood
Weather: Outward - sunny intervals with good visibility and wind SW 3 or 4.  Return - mainly sunny with slightly less wind W 1-3 and good visibility.

Marine Mammals:
Common Dolphin Delphinus delphis 18-20 including at least 3 calves
Bottlenose Dolphin Tursiops truncatus 6

Seabirds:
Manx Shearwater
Guillemot
Gannet
Mediterranean Gull
Common Tern
Sandwich Tern
Black Headed Gull
Cormorant
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Herring Gull
European Shag

I met with Darren, Christine and Donna at the ferry terminal as they were joining me for a refresher/training day.

After a quick check-in, we were soon boarding the Liberation and headed up to the upper viewing deck to take advantage of the journey through Poole harbour.

As we sailed passed Brownsea Island lagoon we were able to point out a variety of seabirds and terrestrial birds. We left Poole Harbour, passing Old Harry Rocks and chatted to passengers about the wildlife that we may encounter.

Old Harry Rocks_Glynis NL

Old Harry Rocks (Glynis Northwood-Long)

Just north of Alderney, a shout of 'Dolphins!' went out and we pointed out a pod of Common Dolphin in the wake. From their varying sizes, we were able to identify 3 calves amongst the pod. As they disappeared from view, there was a buzz of excitement from the passengers on deck and nearer to Guernsey, their enthusiasm was rewarded once again when another smaller pod was spotted, this time they were Bottlenose Dolphin!

We arrived in Guernsey on time and in glorious sunshine. In fact, the weather was so good that in our time ashore we decided to explore the sea pools of La Valette, just a short walk away from the port. Christine enjoyed a swim just offshore, whilst we paddled in the sea pools themselves. What a treat! The water was warm and so clear with an abundance of marine life to see, even a lone blue jellyfish in one of the pools. Lunch followed in a cafe overlooking the pools and the harbour, then shopping and a relaxed stroll to the ship to begin the return leg of our journey.

La Valette Pools_Glynis NL

La Valette Pools (Glynis Northwood-Long)

Back on the Liberation, the Captain informed us that a pod of dolphin had been sighted as they approached from Jersey and because tidal conditions allowed, we would be departing from Guernsey back along the channel called Big Russell (Grand Roussell) in the hope of seeing them again. So, we headed back up to the viewing deck and were joined by more interested passengers. Unfortunately, the pod of dolphin proved elusive on this leg of the journey, but we did get some more spectacular views of the Gannet colony highlighted by the sun.

WLOs on Deck Glynis Northwood Long

Wildlife Officers (Glynis Northwood-Long)

The four of us remained hopeful of spotting more cetaceans on our return journey but as we sailed back passed Old Harry Rocks towards Poole, the sun set behind the clouds and the light faded.

Thanks to Condor Ferries and the crew of the Condor Liberation for making us welcome on board and for their support to MARINElife and also thanks to Darren, Christine and Donna for joining me.

MARINElife Training Survey Report: Condor Ferries ‘Liberation’ Poole-Jersey 9 July 2018

Posted 11 July 2018

Rachel Davies, Tim Bradley and Kate Bradley, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884)

Weather: Clear sky with few clouds, wind SE 3/4, sea state 2.

Summary of sightings

Marine Mammals
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 1

Seabirds
Gannet Morus bassanus 126
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 4
CormorantPhalacrocorax carbo 11
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 5
Mediterranean Gull Larus melanocephalus 2
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 92
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 38
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 17
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 16
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 5
'Commic' Tern Sterna hirundo/Sterna paradisaea 2
Common Tern Sterna hirundo 1
Guillemot Uria aalge 36
Razorbill  Alca torda 1
Larus sp. Larus sp. 7
Gull sp. Laridae 65
Tern sp. 8

Terrestrial Birds
Crow Corvus corone 1
Feral pigeon  Columba livia 1

The three of us met at the terminal for this training survey, kindly supported by Condor Ferries, and proceeded to the boarding gate to take the short bus trip on to our survey vessel, the Liberation.  Once on board we introduced ourselves to the service manager and I explained the procedure for gaining access to the bridge. We also met up with the MARINElife Wildlife Officers for the day, Terry and Donna Bridgewood, on their way up to the decks. While waiting for the vessel to depart and later within the red zone, we took the opportunity for a cup of coffee and to run through our plan for the day in a full team briefing. This included health and safety, bridge protocols and also our roles and protocols for the survey.

Bradleys surveying Rachel Davies
Tim & Kate Bradly on the bridge surveying (Rachel Davies)

Once up on the bridge we ran through the bridge protocols once again along with the instruments used for recording, to ensure all were clear and confident before commencing the survey. While clear skies, with very few clouds made for a lovely sunny day, it did mean a certain amount of glare on the water, making conditions a little trickier, but with no swell and sea state averaging 2, we were feeling confident that if there were cetaceans to be seen on route, we'd see them. Seabirds were fairly low in volume with a large number of those recorded resting on the surface, likely contributed to by the little wind for a helping uplift. However, the variety of species did not disappoint with 17 different species recorded, including Black-headed and Mediterranean Gull, terns and a pretty light phase Fulmar. Sadly, but worth note, of the 12 items of flotsam recorded on this survey, 8 were discarded balloons.

BH Gull Peter Howlett 04
Black-headed Gull (Library photo: Peter Howlett)

Despite feeling hopeful, we unfortunately did not encounter the resident Bottlenose Dolphin population, of which a pod of around 30 had been observed by the crew and passengers the day before just off the coast of Guernsey.  But we were treated to excellent views of the Gannet colonies on Ortac Rock and Les Etacs.

We stayed on board for a spot of lunch in Jersey and re-commenced the survey immediately as we left Saint Helier harbour. It wasn't too long before we were rewarded with a lovely sighting of a Harbour Porpoise feeding, before disappearing under the water as the vessel approached.

After the brief stop on Guernsey, we again re-commenced the survey as we left port. While no further cetaceans were seen on this survey, we continued to record a diversity of seabirds, the most frequent being Gannets, particularly in the area surrounding Ortac Rock.

Poole Harbour Rachel Davies
Poole harbour (Rachel Davies)

We enjoyed sightings of terns, as well as Kittiwake and Black-headed Gull as we passed Old Harry Rocks. Approaching the start of the red zone, we concluded our survey, giving thanks to the crew, and enjoyed a beautiful evening view as we travelled through Poole harbour to port.

We thank Condor Ferries for supporting the ongoing training and we extend our thanks to the Captain and crew for making us welcome.

MARINElife Survey Report: Condor Ferries ‘Condor Liberation’ Poole-Jersey 7 July 2018

Posted 10 July 2018

Steve Boswell and Darren Hughes, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884; Registered Company No. 5057367)

Weather: Wind N-NE 1-3 throughout the survey.

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 11

Seabirds
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 14
Balearic Shearwater Puffinus mauretanicus 21
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 3
Gannet Morus bassanus 227
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 14
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 10
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 215
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 20
Mediterranean Gull Larus melanocephalus 3
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 20
Common Tern Sterna hirundo 1
Puffin Fratercula arctica 1
Guillemot Uria aalge 19
Razorbill Alca torda 1
Auk sp. Alcidae 1

After boarding the Condor Liberation we introduced ourselves to the staff at the information desk who swiftly escorted us onto the bridge. We could enjoy the sail past Brownsea Island before starting our survey as we exited Poole Harbour.

A couple of Manx Shearwater was a good early sighting along with the usual Gannet and gulls. Our first Harbour Porpoise was seen after two hours. As we approached Guernsey we were asked to leave the bridge due to the many craft in the area plus tenders toing and froing from a large cruise ship anchored in the bay. Bottlenose Dolphin had been seen by the crew earlier in the week but this morning with all the traffic none were sighted.

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

Beautiful calm conditions continued as we departed for Jersey. Then in a ten minute period we had wonderful views of a total of 21 Balearic Shearwater, quite a few resting on the sea.

After a quick turnaround we were on our return, no more Balearic Shearwater but 12 more Manx Shearwater and a Puffin. The Gannetry of Ortac was an incredible sight in the sunshine with the colony on Les Etacs in the background being equally stunning. Then a loud roar from the crew mess told us England had scored against Sweden!

Ortac Christine Arnold 2015 05
Ortac Gannet colony with Les Etacs in the background (Library photo: Christine Arnold)

The calm seas enabled us to record 10 more Harbour Porpoise in four groups before we approached Poole Harbour.

As the pilot boarded we thanked Captain Dowds and made our way from the bridge to await our arrival on time in Poole.

MARINElife Condor Ferries ‘Condor Liberation’ Poole-Guernsey 5 July 2018

Posted 09 July 2018

Wildlife Officer Christine Arnold

Weather: Sunny in Guernsey, wind ENE force 3, sea state 2-3, thick sea fog outward, distant sea mist on return.

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals:
Bottlenose Dolphin 6

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

Terrestrial birds:
Shelduck
Grey Heron
Grey Wagtail
Wood Pigeon
Blackbird
Feral Pigeon

It was a sunny morning in Poole and this time there were a huge number of foot passengers, over 450 people making the most of their Guernsey trip, including passengers from a grand total of 9 coaches. This meant I had many different people to speak with, some came from as far away as Yorkshire and had never been to the Channel Islands. Many of the coach holiday guests were staying in Bournemouth and had specifically chosen to come to Guernsey to remember family holidays or loved ones, some were going just to explore the beautiful island. The sea mist in the distance gave a rather magical appearance to Old Harry rocks and Portland Bill.

It was lovely to tell people about the area and its wildlife and there was even a lady on board who volunteered on a local nature reserve just like me.

BND Christine Arnold 01
Bottlenose Dolphin (Christine Arnold)

The Gannets flew really close to the boat which was rather spectacular. As we approached Guernsey we were able to see many Herring Gull fishing just outside the Harbour entrance. I looked where I usually look for dolphins and sure enough there they were. These were the best views I have ever had, three were further out and we were able to see their fins clearly and just after this another three played in the wash about ten metres from the back of the Liberation. This gave spectacular views as they were so close. They were clearly Bottlenose Dolphin. I was so pleased that the visitors who live inland were able to enjoy this grand spectacle.

I walked to the bus station and was joined by many of the coach holiday guests. We caught the 92 bus round the island and made the most of the brilliant views over and around the island. Even the cows were out eating the grass in the sunshine. The tide was low which embraced an atmospheric view of the many rockpools and landforms.

Just after we had left Guernsey, we were again able to see about three Bottlenose Dolphin playing in the water although they were further out this time. I was able to spot them because the sun was reflecting off their black, wet backs, glistening in contrast to the flat blue water.

On the return journey a Gannet flew so close alongside the ship, just level with it in the sunshine that we were able to see it moving its feet about before it hastily changed direction and flew over to the other side of the ship towards the Gannet colony.

It was great to hear about the happy times that the holiday makers had had during their time on the Channel Islands. A while after passing Ortac rock I decided to go and have a lovely meal from the Casquettes bistro.

Poole Pilot Christine Arnold 01
Poole pilot boat (Christine Arnold)

On approaching Old Harry rocks someone commented at how eroded parts of it are now looking and it definitely did look smaller. Approaching the harbour we slowed to allow the pilot to board and had great views of the Sandwich Tern busily fishing  to find food for their young and we were bathed in a lovely sunset over the Purbecks. There was a Grey Heron perched on the sea wall and many Shelduck and Cormorants and some Oystercatcher on Brownsea lagoon.  As Condor Liberation turned round in order to berth we saw probably nearing 100 Herring Gull.

Thanks to Condor Ferries and the crew of the Condor Liberation for their welcome and assistance during the crossing.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report ‘Condor Liberation’ Poole-Guernsey 26 June 2018

Posted 30 June 2018

MARINElife/Guernsey WLO Sarah Hodgson

Weather: Sunny, wind ENE force 3, sea state 2-4, good visibility

Summary of sightings:

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

It was a glorious, sunny morning in Poole as I arrived at the port for my WLO trip to Guernsey on Condor Liberation. The crossing was going to be busy with lots of passengers heading to the Channel Islands for short breaks or day trips, however the check in procedure was quick and easy. After introducing myself to Tony, the passenger service manager on board, I had time for a coffee and to apply the factor 50 before heading onto the outside viewing deck.

Brownsea Lagoon Sarah Hodgson 01
Brownsea Lagoon (Sarah Hodgson)

On leaving the harbour, both Common and Sandwich Terns were busy trying to find the next meal for their hungry chicks and other passengers enjoyed watching them plunge headfirst into the water. A few Gannet and Guillemot were spotted as the vessel picked up speed and headed into the Channel. A bright object, glinting in the sunlight caught my eye and as we drew closer I realised that it was a foil balloon floating on the surface.  Sadly I spotted a further 8 of these balloons during the day, it is depressing to see them when they can be so hazardous to marine wildlife.

The bird numbers petered out mid-Channel but I was able to add a Kittiwake and a Fulmar to the day's sightings. As we passed Alderney, the Gannet colony on Ortac was a hive of activity.

On Guernsey, I was eager to make the most of the sunshine so headed to Clarence Battery, just a short walk from the town centre with its wonderful views across to Herm and Sark, for a picnic lunch.  From there I continued along the coast path through Bluebell Woods to Fermain Bay.  I was back at the ferry terminal with plenty of time to spare for a well-earned ice-cold drink.

Fermain Bay Sarah Hodgson 01
Fermain Bay, Guernsey (Sarah Hodgson)

I met up with fellow day trip passengers to hear about their time on the island, before the watch resumed and all eyes were on the water in the hope of glimpsing dolphins. However, the wind had picked up and there was a lot of white water making viewing conditions a little trickier, but this soon calmed and returned to a sea state 2.

On the return leg, there were further sightings of gulls, Guillemot and Gannet; these large, powerful seabirds showing their incredible flight skills, some even appearing to keep up with the high-speed ferry for a short while.  As we arrived back into Poole, the terns were still busy fishing making the most of the long daylight hours at this time of year.

Thanks to Condor Ferries and the crew of the Condor Liberation for their warm welcome and assistance throughout the day.

MARINElife Condor Ferries ‘Condor Liberation’ Poole-Guernsey 11 June 2018

Posted 15 June 2018

Wildlife Officer Christine Arnold

Weather: Outbound - Overcast, light winds, sea state 2. Return - Sunny, sea state 2, visibility moderate with sea mist

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals:
Bottlenose Dolphin approx. 6

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

Birds on Guernsey and terrestrial birds
Shelduck
Oystercatcher
Feral Pigeon
Little Egret
Carrion Crow
House Sparrow
Robin

As we left Poole harbour for Guernsey I was joined on deck by a family on the MARINElife day trip as well as other day trippers and holiday makers bound for the Channel Islands. On passing Brownsea Island we saw several Sandwich and Common Terns, Cormorant and Great Black-backed and Herring Gulls. The Sandwich Terns were feeding, flying up then diving at high speeds into the calm waters below. The sea mist gave a calm atmosphere as it surrounded and engulfed the nearby Portland Bill and Isle of Wight.

Out in the Channel we were greeted by a small number of Gannet, with some looking like first summer birds alongside the adults gliding low.

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

Just outside the harbour entrance at St Peter Port I spotted a splash belonging to a surfacing Bottlenose Dolphin and was delighted to be able to inform others. We were then able to make out splashes from about 6 playing. It was great to see so many people with their cameras becoming so excited about this much anticipated spectacle.

I later found out from the lady in the gift shop that this particular group are known as the 'Guernsey pets' because they are so commonly seen throughout the summer months.

On the island I caught the bus and were stunned by the white golden sands and turquoise waters boasting many rockpools being enjoyed by Little Egret, Oystercatcher, Carrion Crows and gulls.

Fort Grey Christine Arnold 01
Fort Grey (Christine Arnold)

Whilst waiting for Liberation's return I watched the dolphins playing in the water and swimming alongside the small pleasure craft in the bay. There were also some pairs of Feral pigeon resting and performing mating rituals on the roof of the ferry terminal making their lovely cooing noise.

During our return Ortac rock was bathed in sunshine and the white colour from the birds resting on top and flying nearby was spectacular. After this I made the most of Condor's cafe and chatted with the friendly and informative staff who by now recognise me when I board the ship.

Several Gannet flew behind the ship for a while near the wake and as we re-entered Studland bay numbers of Cormorant and Shag were perched on top of buoys.

The Sandwich and Common Terns were still fishing near the vessel and 2 Grey Heron flew across the top of the boat silhouetted against the sky behind.

Many thanks to Condor Ferries and the crew of the Condor Liberation for the support and assistance given.

MARINElife blog: Condor Ferries ‘Condor Liberation’ Poole-Jersey 9 June 2018

Posted 13 June 2018

Julie Hatcher &  Kevin Waterfall Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884)

Weather: Wind light E-ENE throughout the day but dropping towards early evening, sea state 2-3 decreasing to mirror calm as we approached Poole, variable cloud cover

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals
None recorded

Seabirds
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 1
Gannet Morus bassanus 18
Cormorant  Phalacrocorax carbo 34
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 9
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 7
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 108
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 13
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 40
Sandwich Tern  Sterna sandvicensis 10
Guillemot  Uria aalge 5
Razorbill  Alca torda 1
Gull Sp. Larus 2

Terrestrial birds
Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus 19
Shelduck Tadorna tadorna 36
Carrion Crow Corvus corone 1

We met at 08:15 at the Poole foot passenger terminal where we joined fellow passengers in going aboard the Condor Liberation. Captain John Dowds and his officers soon welcomed us to the bridge from where we were able to see the birds of Brownsea Island Lagoon as we passed. The large number of birds there were mostly just that bit too far away to ID other than the obvious ones.

As we approached the chain ferry and the entrance to Poole Harbour we saw quite a lot of Sandwich Tern and a few Cormorants before dropping off the pilot and heading off into light seas with good visibility.

Sandwich Tern Peter Howlett 06
Sandwich Tern (Library photo: Peter Howlett)

Once clear of land we saw few birds with most likely close to their breeding colonies, this kept us on our toes not to miss any. After a very smooth crossing we started to record Gannet and knew we were approaching Alderney with its spectacular Gannet colony, and sure enough the distinctive, white-topped rock of Ortac loomed out of the haze.

We had a short stop in Guernsey with St. Peter Port looking spectacular in the sunshine and being a weekend there were a lot of small yachts making the most of the fine weather. It was a short crossing to Jersey and members of the crew reported that they had seen pods of about 10 dolphins in the last few days, as had the MARINElife survey team on the Portsmouth-Jersey survey 3 days ago but they didn't show themselves this time.

In Jersey we had time to scan the harbour area, where a few Swift were flying around the ship plus some 100 Oystercatcher on the beach below Elizabeth Castle, before we sailed on time back towards Guernsey and Poole. Around the islands we saw a few Shag and lots of gulls, especially a large group having a feeding frenzy just outside St. Peter Port harbour.

Guillemot Rick Morris 01a
Guillemot (Library photo: Rick Morris)

After the islands the visibility closed in and we had fog for part of the return journey but when it cleared we had mirror smooth sea as we approached Poole and several Guillemot and a Razorbill to welcome us back towards the Dorset coast.

As we approached Poole we thanked Captain Dowds and his crew for looking after us and upon arrival we were swiftly taken to the terminal.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘Condor Liberation’ Poole-Guernsey 7 June 2018

Posted 10 June 2018

MARINElife/Guernsey WLO Annalisa Renee

Weather: Outbound - Overcast, light NE wind, sea state 2, good visibility
Return - Overcast with occ. rain, moderate NE wind, sea state 3, good visibility

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals:
Harbour Porpoise 3

Seabirds:
Goosander
Fulmar
Gannet
Cormorant
Shag
Black-headed Gull
Common Gull
Herring Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Yellow legged Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Guillemot

As we left Poole Harbour for Guernsey many Shag and Cormorant were spotted within the harbour and a male Goosander was seen at the wetland nature reserve on Brownsea Island. Out past the harbour a young Gannet flew alongside the boat for a while giving passengers a fairly close look at a 3 yr old bird.

Goosander Peter Howlett 01
Goosander (Library photo: Peter Howlett)

Out in the Channel we came across a few Guillemot resting on the water and also several groups of between a dozen and 20 Black-headed Gull were seen flying or in rafts. A large raft of about 50 mixed gulls came into view well out to sea, it included Great Black-backed, Lesser Black-backed, Herring, Common and Yellow-legged Gull!

Gannet Peter Howlett 32
3rd year Gannet (Library photo: Peter Howlett)

On leaving Guernsey 3 Harbour porpoise were sighted surfacing just outside the harbour - our only cetacean sighting on this trip. A solitary Swift was seen flying south on the return journey and a Fulmar glided past in the ferry's wake on its fine straight wings. On passing Ortac, the rocks white with guano from the Gannet breeding colony, many hundreds of Gannet were visible. Throughout the crossing many more Gannets, of all ages, were seen flying, along with groups of gulls.

Many thanks to Condor Ferries and the crew of the Condor Liberation for the support and assistance given.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘Condor Liberation’ Poole-Guernsey 29 May 2018

Posted 30 May 2018

MARINElife Wildlife Officers: Terry & Donna Bridgwood

Weather: wind NE 2-4, sea state slight, fair with good visibility and some mist.

Summary of sightings:

Seabirds
Black-headed Gull
Cormorant
Roseate Tern
Great Black-backed Gull
Gannet

Terrestrial birds
Swift
Crow

We set of from home for the trip down to Poole. The journey was pleasant enough with slightly more traffic than usual as it was a later crossing.

Upon arrival at the ferry terminal we checked in and boarded. Once on board we found our seats and grabbed a delicious cheese and bacon roll, washed down with a cup of tea. We went a saw the cabin manager, handed over the passenger announcement, collected the WLO tabards and headed up on deck. We took our usual positions on the upper deck, starboard side just aft of the bridge. This position gives good visibility with a bit of shelter from the wind.

From the berth, past Brownsea Island to Old Harry Rocks we were able to identify some Black-headed and Great Black-backed Gulls and the usual Cormorants drying their wings. A Crow flew past and we saw 2 bumble bees. Passing the chain ferry, around Studland we were lucky enough to spot a Roseate Tern and passing Old Harry Rocks a Gannet.

During the passage to Guernsey we met a couple of people that were going to Jersey to write a feature about Scuba diving in Jersey for Diver magazine. We had a good old chat with them and then I asked if they could take a picture of the lady talking to Donna and looking for wildlife. Hopefully it might make it into the feature.

We saw some Razorbills rafting and a couple of Swifts flew by.

Ortac rock was covered with Gannet as usual, they were getting up to all sorts: flying, diving, rafting, resting and feeding - there is always something to see at Ortac.

We arrived at Guernsey and disembarked. Our few hours ashore were spent window shopping and wandering to the Terrace Garden Café where we had lunch. Sitting outside on the terrace we had a good view of the marina.

All to soon it was time to board the ferry for the journey back to Poole. There were fewer people on deck on the return, everyone seemed to be snoozing. As we were a later sailing we didn't have as much daylight and so were able to take our seats for a rest ourselves.

Disembarking at Poole we retrieved our car and drove home.

MARINElife Training Survey Report: Condor Ferries Liberation Poole-Jersey 14 May 2018

Posted 15 May 2018

Steve McAusland, Rachel Keay and Donna Bridgwood; Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884)

Weather:   Sunny, SW winds with a sea state of 1-4 during the sailings.

Summary of sightings:

Seabirds
Storm Petrel  Hydrobates pelagicus 2
Manx Shearwater  Puffinus puffinus 13
Fulmar  Fulmarus glacialis 2
Gannet  Morus bassanus 140
Cormorant  Phalacrocorax carbo 3
Shag  Phalacrocorax aristotelis 3
Oystercatcher  Haematopus ostralegus 1
Great Skua  Stercorarius skua 1
Herring Gull  Larus argentatus 13
Lesser Black-backed Gull  Larus fuscus 3
Sandwich Tern  Sterna sandvicensis 3
Guillemot  Uria aalge 1
Puffin  Fratercula arctica 2
Gull sp. 97
Tern sp.   19
Auk sp.  2

This was my first training survey as a team leader, we are very grateful for Condor Ferries' support for these as it enables us to have a team leader and two trainees on board rather than the usual team of two.

We met at the ferry terminal in Poole and were joined by Terry Bridgwood (Donna's husband) who was onboard as MARINElife Wildlife Officer for the day. Once on board I made contact with the crew and we all awaited access to the bridge and Terry to the decks.

Donna and Rachel surveying
Donna and Rachel surveying (Steve McAusland)

As we set up on the ship's starboard wing I ran through the bridge protocols and instruments before commencing the survey. The weather was great with superb visibility and plenty of birds were seen throughout the survey.

Our first leg of the survey was from Poole to Guernsey where we stopped for a short while as some of the passengers disembarked. We were soon leaving Guernsey and heading towards Jersey.

Puffin Steve McAusland 03
Puffin (Library photo: Steve McAusland)

We remained on board in Jersey and were soon surveying as we left St Helier harbour. An hour later we arrived back at Guernsey and then it was on to Poole for the final part of the survey. As the ship maneuvered its way through Poole harbour we saw Glynis Northwood-Long a fellow MARINElife surveyor following the ship in a small but speedy vessel.

Highlights during the day were Great Skua, Puffin, Manx Shearwater and Storm Petrel.

We thanked Captain Giles and his crew for supporting our ongoing training and for making us welcome.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report ‘Condor Liberation’ Poole-Jersey 14 May 2018

Posted 15 May 2018

MARINElife Wildlife Officer: Terry Bridgwood

Weather: Wind NNW, sea state slight to smooth, fair with good visibility.

Summary of sightings:

Seabirds
Gannet
Manx Shearwater
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Cormorant
Shag
Oystercatcher
Puffin?

Terrestrial birds
Swallow

We travelled to Poole the night before, to catch the Condor Liberation and stayed with a friend. I was the WLO for the trip whilst the very knowledgeable Steve McAusland was the survey trainer with Rachel Keays and Donna Bridgwood the trainees.

Boarding passes were shown and we took our seats on the slinky bus to the ship. Once on-board introductions were made to the cabin manager. I handed over my passenger announcement and in exchange took the MARINElife tabard. We all had breakfast and a cuppa before I went out on deck. The rest of the team had to wait until we were out of the red zone before they were allowed on the bridge to carry out the survey.

On the way through the navigation channel we passed Brownsea Island and the chain ferry at Sandbanks. To our right was Studland bay, one of the most important sites for seahorses in the British Isles. I spotted a tern diving repeatedly trying to ingest a fish that seemed a bit too large for it, however it persevered and it paid off. You could hear the Oystercatchers on the shore and see the Cormorants in their "Batman" like stance on the marker buoys.

En-route to Guernsey I saw some Swallows passing by, strangely heading towards England rather than south. Gannet, Shag, Cormorant, Great and Lesser Black-backed Gulls were also seen (I'm sure I saw a Puffin) but that could be wishful thinking. There was also the lovely sight of Manx Shearwater gliding over the surface of the sea.

For me it's not always about the wildlife you see, or don't see. Once you don the MARINElife tabard people seem to have an excuse to talk to you and it is interacting with the passengers that can be the best part of the trip.

On this occasion I met a lovely gentleman. He was covered head to toe. Long trousers, long sleeved coat, sunglasses, gloves and a floppy hat to top it off. We got talking and he told me he was from Ontario, Canada. An octogenarian (his words), still a practicing physician who cycled to and from work every day and took the 18 flights of stairs to his office. He explained that he was covered up because he had had skin cancer a couple of times in the past. There was I short sleeves and no sunscreen - take heed and take care folks. He explained that he had been born during the 50s and had seen the rise of plastic and the damage that it is doing to our planet, he'd also served on destroyers in the Navy. It was fascinating and a privilege to be able to talk to this gentleman.

It might be that I was so engrossed in talking to passengers that I missed lots of wildlife!

We waved goodbye to the passengers that disembarked at Guernsey and stayed on the Liberation hoping to see some dolphins nearer Jersey, sadly this was not the case. The crew always say to us: 'Did you see the dolphins?' to which we always reply: 'No', then they say: 'you should have been here yesterday'. Perhaps we should leave the day before in future.

The journey back to Poole was quiet with much of the same seabirds being seen on the way back. I think everyone was tired by this time. We docked, disembarked, said our farewells and headed home.

Another thoroughly enjoyable, if not tiring day.

MARINElife blog: Condor Ferries ‘Condor Liberation’ Poole-Jersey 21 April 2018

Posted 01 May 2018

Julie Hatcher and Christine Roberts, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884)

Weather: Warm, bright and sunny but hazy, especially around the coast, with light winds.

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals
None recorded

Seabirds
Mute Swan Cygnus olor 2
Mallard Anas platyrhynchos 2
Gannet Morus bassanus 138
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 14
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 11
Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus 3
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 37
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 19
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 6
Guillemot Uria aalge 5
Razorbill Alca torda 1
Gull sp. 73
Auk sp. 11

On boarding the ferry we were welcomed to the bridge by Captain John Dowd and his crew and readied ourselves for the survey. As we waited to depart we were surprised to see a couple of Herring Gulls in front of the bridge windows, struggling with a lively pipefish they had caught. A third gull flew by with another pipefish in its beak and landed on the roof. It was a treat to see this interesting behaviour at close quarters.

Herring Gull Julie Hatcher 01
Herring Gull with Pipefish (Julie Hatcher)

It was a beautiful, calm, sunny day as we travelled out of Poole harbour and through Poole Bay and we could see a crowd of people on the aft deck enjoying the scenery in the warm sunshine. Although quite hazy we spotted a few gulls and Cormorants before we picked up speed and headed out into the Channel. After a very smooth crossing we started to record Gannets and knew we were approaching Alderney with its spectacular Gannet colony, and sure enough the distinctive, white-topped rock of Ortac loomed out of the haze.

Ortac Christine Arnold 2015 05
Ortac (Library photo: Christine Arnold)

The voyage between the islands to Jersey was equally smooth and we spotted a few Shags flying low over the sea or diving as the ferry approached. We passed several small fishing vessels, some accompanied by gulls, including quite a few Great Black-backed Gulls, both adults and immature birds.

The return trip, via Guernsey was very comfortable and enjoyable, and we added to our tally of Gannets, gulls and Cormorants. We concluded our survey on arrival back in Poole and thanked the Captain and his staff for their hospitality before heading ashore.