Weymouth or Poole-Channel Islands

Recent Sightings

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 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 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.

MARINElife Training Survey Report: Condor Ferries ‘Liberation’ Poole-Jersey 6 April 2018

Posted 11 April 2018

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

Weather: Mainly cloudy, wind SE 4, sea state 4

Summary of sightings

Marine Mammals
None seen

Seabirds
Common Scoter Melanitta nigra 2
Great Northern Diver Gavia immer 1
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 2
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 2
Gannet Morus bassanus 109
CormorantPhalacrocorax carbo 1
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 9
Great Skua Stercorarius skua 2
Common Gull  Larus canus 7
Mediterranean Gull Larus melanocephalus 1
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 38
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 15
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 6
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 2
Sandwich Tern  Sterna sandvicensis 2
Common Tern Sterna hirundo 9
Guillemot Uria aalge 8
Razorbill  Alca torda 3
Auk Sp. 4

This was the first training survey kindly supported by Condor Ferries and the three of us met at the terminal and proceeded directly to the boarding gate, and onward to the bus that would take us to our survey vessel.  Once on board I introduced Terry and Darren to the cabins manager and explained the procedure for gaining access to the bridge. As we were in the red zone we decided that this would be the ideal time for a spot of breakfast before going up.

Common Gull Rick Morris 01a
Common Gull (Library photo: Rick Morris)

Once up on the bridge we ran through the bridge protocols and instruments before commencing the survey. The weather was a little unkind for this first training survey, with force 4/5 winds making the sea state a little challenging for spotting cetaceans. Seabirds were fairly low in volume, probably due to many now visiting their nesting sites, however the variety of species did not disappoint with 18 different species recorded, including 7 Common Gull (a first for me on this route) and a couple of Bonxies (Great Skua).

As the weather was a bit lively on the way out we sailed direct to Jersey, calling into Guernsey on the return to home. This meant we travelled between Alderney and the French coast, so missing the views of the Gannet colonies on Ortac Rock and Les Etac's.

We stayed on board in Jersey and commenced surveying immediately we left Saint Helier harbour in the hope we might catch sight of the resident Bottlenose Dolphin population - alas, this was not to be.

Terry-Darren Rick Morris 2018a
Terry and Darren surveying (Rick Morris)

After a stop to Guernsey, we were again surveying as we left port. Still no cetaceans were seen, but a good diversity of seabirds were recorded, if not in high numbers. Passing Ortac Rock, now on our starboard side, gave great views of the nesting Gannet with many feeding in the surrounding sea.

As we passed Old Harry Rocks on the Dorset coast, we reached the start of the red zone and concluded our survey. As we left the bridge we said thanks and farewell to Captain Giles Wade and the bridge crew.

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

MARINElife blog: Condor Ferries ‘Condor Liberation’ Poole-Jersey 24 March 2018

Posted 29 March 2018

Steve Boswell & JoJo Southgate, Research Surveyors  for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884)

Weather: Wind E with full cloud cover throughout, sea state 2 with a moderate swell on the first leg, improving later.

Summary of sightings

Seabirds
Brent Goose Branta bernicla 7
Common Scoter Melanitta nigra 2
Fulmar  Fulmarus glacialis 3
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 1
Gannet Morus bassanus 62
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 5
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 21
Great Skua Stercorarius skua 1
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 12
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 121
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 20
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 9
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 32
Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis 1
Razorbill Alca torda 1
Guillemot Uria aalge 20
Auk sp. 3

Terrestrial Birds
Meadow Pipit Anthus pratensis 21

After boarding the Condor Liberation we waited in the lounge area until we were out beyond the harbour area when we were given the all clear to access the bridge. We began our survey in bright but cloudy conditions with a moderate swell coming in from a storm in the Bay of Biscay.

Guillemot JoJo Southgate 01
Guillemot (joJo Southgate)

The first birds we encountered were three groups of Meadow Pipit on their northward migration. Two Common Scoter were sighted as we headed into the Channel along with a nice flock of adult Kittiwake. A Great Skua flew powerfully alongside us as we headed towards Guernsey. A Sandwich Tern was the next notable sighting outside Guernsey harbour.

After a quick turnaround we headed towards Jersey with steady seabird sightings in improved weather conditions, mainly Herring Gull but also a few Shag and Guillemot. On the return leg we logged a flock of seven Brent Geese close to the ship just out of St Helier but the highlight was an early Manx Shearwater seen sitting on the water before flying off giving good close views as we approached.

Gannet JoJo Southgate 01
Gannet (JoJo Southgate)

On the last leg of the survey between Guernsey and Poole Gannet was the most numerous bird recorded and as we passed by Ortac we could see there were already large numbers of Gannet back ready for the breeding season. We continued surveying until light and the onset of rain concluded the day. We thanked the Captain Giles Ward before our early arrival in Poole.

MARINElife blog: Condor Ferries ‘Condor Liberation’ Poole-Jersey 24 February 2018

Posted 27 February 2018

Steve Boswell and Sarah Hodgson, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884)

Weather: NE wind gusting up to 30 knots on the return leg. Full sun in Poole and the Channel Islands with cloud cover in mid-Channel. Excellent visibility throughout.

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals
Bottlenose Dolphin Tursiops truncatus 11

Seabirds
Brent Goose Branta bernicla 1
Red-throated Diver Gavia stellata 1
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 18
Gannet Morus bassanus 54
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 2
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 14
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 9
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 194
Lesser Black-backed Gull  Larus fuscus 7
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 42
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 10
Guillemot Uria aalge 20
Auk sp.  4

We boarded the Condor Liberation and after reporting to reception waited on deck until we passed through the harbour entrance. Sarah explained to me the work she did in the summer as a Wildlife Officer on this route.

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

Captain Ainscow soon called us up to the bridge and after introducing ourselves to the crew we began our survey. We encountered the usual seabirds expected at this time of year with a Red- throated Diver being the highlight. As we approached Guernsey a large group of gulls were sat on the sea in the bright sunshine. A lone Brent Goose flew close by. We were then asked to move to the port side of the bridge as we were about to manoeuvre into harbour. As we arrived with our survey forms we saw a group of Bottlenose Dolphin which took an interest in us, a few even following us into the harbour.

On the journey between Guernsey and Jersey we saw a group of 13 Fulmar wheeling in the increasing North-easterly wind. A feeding party of 8 Shag were also seen. All Gannets seen were adults.

Shag Adrian Shephard 01a
Shag (Library photo: Adrian Shephard)

As we sailed passed Ortac Captain Ainscow requested that we leave the bridge and remain seated downstairs as the wind increased further as we entered the open Channel. We thanked the crew and positioned ourselves in the lounge area.

MARINElife blog: Condor Ferries ‘Condor Liberation’ Poole-Jersey 14 October 2017

Posted 16 October 2017

Rick Morris and Glynis Northwood-Long; Research Surveyors from MARINElife
Wind: SSW-S 4 decreasing to 2. Sea state: 1-4 Cloudy with sunny periods

Summary of Sightings:

Seabirds

Gannet Morus bassanus 40
Balearic Shearwater Puffinus mauretanicus 3
Great Skua Stercorarius skua 1
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 8
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 2
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 12
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundas 10
Mediterranean Gull Larus melanocephalus 2
Guillemot Uria aalge 2
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 6
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 1
Larus gull Sp. 150
Wader Sp.1

We arrived at the terminal and proceeded directly to the boarding gate as we had e-boarding cards on the mobile phone, so it was a simple matter of getting them scanned, then onto the bus and board the ship.

We enjoyed a hearty breakfast before heading up to the bridge to commence our survey just as we were exiting the 'red zone' near Old Harry Rocks. This was Glynis' first survey since being made up to team leader and so I suggested she lead this one

We logged our first effort entry at 09:40 and it was not until 11:01 that we recorded our first seabird, a Gannet. Throughout the survey, seabird species and numbers remained low, with a few small groups of Gannet, some of which were juveniles.

Juv Gannet Rick Morris 15

Gannets (Rick Morris)

Nearing Alderney, Ortac Rock could be seen, now void of the many breeding Gannet that colonise this every year. As we approached Guernsey, many gulls were seen on the surface with some flying and actively feeding.

Once tied alongside in Saint Peter Port we went out on deck for some fresh air in the sunshine where Glynis made friends with a juvenile gull before commencing the onward leg to Jersey. Once in St Helier, Jersey we enjoyed lunch al fresco up on the viewing deck before heading back to the bridge ready for the return

Glynis & Herring Gull Rick Morris

Glynis & Herring Gull (Rick Morris)

We were hoping eagerly for a sight of the resident Bottlenose Dolphin that often make an appearance just outside the port of St Helier, but alas, none was seen. We did have a great sighting between Jersey and Guernsey of 3 Balearic Shearwater though, which Glynis first spotted just in front of the starboard beam.

Balearic Shear Tom Brereton 04

Balearic Shearwater (Tom Brereton)

After a quick turn-around at Guernsey, we were on our way to Poole, this time in fog for the first half an hour. The remainder of the crossing was much like that of the outbound section, with very little in the way of sightings, apart from a brief sighting of a Great Skua that appeared in front of us

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

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

Rick Morris and Glynis Northwood-Long, Research Surveyors for MARINElife

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘Condor Liberation’ Poole-Guernsey 27 September 2017

Posted 05 October 2017

Christine Arnold; MARINElife Wildlife Officer (WLO)

Summary of sightings:
Cetaceans:
Bottlenose dolphin 1
Unidentified Dolphin Spp. 2

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

Terrestrial birds:
Oystercatcher
Swallow
Rock pipit
Black-tailed godwit
Avocet
Spoonbill

I boarded Condor Liberation and collected the vest and leaflets then went out on deck where I was met by those people who were booked on the MARINElife day and were excited about what they were hoping to see.

I chatted away to them telling them about the local area and the Brownsea lagoon which hosted 7 Spoonbill, many Black-tailed Godwit, Cormorant and Avocet. Suddenly all the birds flew up and circled round probably put up by the Peregrine Falcon which often sits on the sea wall.

Passengers were keen to find out more about Brownsea and the area as well as MARINElife, so I handed out some leaflets. As we left the harbour, we saw several Great Black-backed Gull, Cormorant, Shag and Herring gull.

Herring Gull Graham Ekins 08

Herring Gull - Adult and Juvenile (Graham Ekins)

We passed Portland Bill in the distance and then as we made our way across the Channel we saw many Hirundine species (Martin and Swallow). They looked like Swallow and I was surprised at how many there were, they were flying just above the level of the boat.

After passing Alderney, we saw the Ortac rock with many hundreds of Gannet on, they were circling round the top. During the crossing people often asked what the big dark grey coloured birds were, this caused slight confusion because most people could not work out what they were. I informed them that they were in fact juvenile Gannet which are darker in colour.

On reaching Guernsey, we were just making the turn when people reported seeing 2 separate groups of dolphins, a group of 2 and a single one playing near the smaller boats and in the open water.

Guernsey Harbour_Christine Arnold

Harbour Views (Christine Arnold)

Had a walk round Guernsey seeing Turnstone, Oystercatcher, Rock Pipit and 2 Red Admiral butterflies.

After re-boarding and as the Condor Liberation made the turn out of Guernsey we were delighted to see 2 dolphins jumping out of the water in the distance, too far away to see which species they were, but a closer Bottlenose Dolphin leapt vertically out of the water on several occasions - it was absolutely magical!

BND Adrian Shephard 03

Bottlenose Dolphin (Adrian Shephard)

On the crossing back, we saw several freight vessels which were enormous travelling across the channel. As it got dark I went inside and chatted to the passengers and handed out more leaflets. It is always lovely to hear stories of other people's wildlife sightings, holidays and day trip experiences.

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

Castle Cornet Lighthouse_C Arnold

Castle Cornet Lighthouse (Christine Arnold)

Christine Arnold; MARINElife Wildlife Officer (WLO)

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘Condor Liberation’ Poole-Guernsey 18 September 2017

Posted 22 September 2017

MARINElife/Guernsey WLO Julie Hatcher

Weather: Fair with light winds and calm sea conditions on the outward journey. Slightly stronger winds on the return.

Summary of sightings:

Cetaceans:
Bottlenose Dolphin  11

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

Terrestrial birds:
Oystercatcher
Swallow

The outer deck was packed with people as we sailed through Poole Harbour aboard the Condor Liberation on a calm, sunny morning. A few Swallows swooped overhead feeding up in preparation for their migration south and there were large flocks of Oystercatchers and Cormorant roosting in the lagoon on Brownsea Island. The Jurassic Coast cliffs looked spectacular as we left the Dorset coastline behind and as the ship picked up speed three Bottlenose Dolphins were spotted 100m off the starboard side, breaching and playing.

BND Peter Howlett 15
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. Although seabirds were few we spotted a number of Gannet, a Fulmar and a Shag as we crossed the Channel, Gannet numbers picking up as we approached Alderney. We passed close to the Gannet colony on Ortac and because of the low tide, took the scenic route between Sark and Herm to reach Guernsey. As we slowed to enter the harbour at St. Peter Port four Bottlenose Dolphin were clearly seen playing in the waves created at the back of the ferry, to the delight of all the passengers.

After a lovely afternoon in St Peter Port we boarded the ferry for the return crossing. As we waited for departure we were once again treated to a dolphin display as a group of eight Bottlenose Dolphin played in full view just outside the harbour wall. As we left the harbour they approached the ship but fell behind as we picked up speed for our return voyage.

Gannet Peter Howlett 30
Sunset Gannets (Library photo: Peter Howlett)

To cap a superb day there was a stunning sunset as we passed Ortac and we watched lines of Gannet heading out low over the sea as the sun dropped below the horizon.

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

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘Condor Liberation’ Poole-Guernsey 14 September 2017

Posted 18 September 2017

MARINElife/Guernsey WLO Terry Bridgwood

Weather: South: Cloudy, NW 5-6, sea state 2-6 with 2m swell at times.
North: Cloudy with occasional showers, NW 4-5, sea state 5 with 1m swell.

Summary of sightings:

Cetaceans:
Harbour Porpoise 2
Bottlenose Dolphin  7

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

Terrestrial birds:
Wood Pigeon
Swallow
Carrion Crow

I really looked forward to this training trip with Glynis and Rick. It was my first hands-on training with experienced officers. This was also Donna's first trip as a Wildlife Officer and our first together.

With the traffic light we had an uneventful journey to Poole to catch the Condor Liberation. Having parked we went into disembarkation to meet up with Glynis and Rick.  We all boarded together, collected our tabards  and took our seats. After the obligatory cheese and bacon baguettes we headed out on deck. The sun was shining and there was plenty of blue sky although it was a little bit lively.

Cruising out of Poole harbour we saw some Cormorant, Shag and Herring Gull. Further out to sea some Fulmar and Black-headed and Great Black-backed Gulls graced us with their presence. As we passed by Ortac rock we saw a plethora of Gannets still around the colony.

About half a mile from Guernsey we saw seven Bottlenose Dolphin and also a couple of Harbour Porpoise. Then just outside St Peter Port we were treated to an aerial display from the Guernsey Air show, the Liberation even pausing outside the harbour for a short while so we could watch it.

Stone dolphins Terry Bridgwood
Stone dolphins at the Terrace Cafe - the only dolphin photo I could manage today (Terry Bridgwood)

We docked and disembarked then, heading into the town, we window shopped for a while before deciding a much deserved cup of tea was in order. The Terrace Garden Cafe was ahead of us so we went there. Sitting in the sun and enjoying our cuppas we took in the view. After our repast we strolled down Castle pier and past Castle Cornet (no ice cream though) to the end of the pier and the lighthouse. All too soon it was time to head back to the terminal and board the ferry home.

The homeward crossing was less lively although the sun didn't stay with us for long. As we passed Ortac Rock the rain started and we dived indoors for shelter. However, it did present us with some amazing cloud formations and a beautiful sunset after it passed. We even witnessed a tornado forming but sadly it didn't materialise into a water spout.

Channel sunset Terry Bridgwood 01
Sunset after the rain (Terry Bridgwood)

Our day trip came to an end, we said our farewells to Glynis and Rick and started the hour long journey home.

A thoroughly enjoyable day.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘Condor Liberation’ Poole-Guernsey 5 September 2017

Posted 07 September 2017

MARINElife/Guernsey WLO Christine Arnold

Weather: Misty at first then sunny spells with slight drizzle

Summary of sightings:

Cetaceans:
Dolphin sp. (poss. Bottlenose Dolphin)  7

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

Terrestrial birds:
Little Egret
Oystercatcher
Rock Pipit

I boarded Condor Liberation, went straight to collect my leaflets and MARINElife vest then went to the top deck. After the vessel set sail and the announcement was made that I was on board several people came over to me so I could talk about what I was doing and looking out for. Several people had booked specifically for the MARINElife day and were kitted out with binoculars and waterproofs. Birds seen as we passed Brownsea Lagoon and headed out to see included Shag, Cormorant, Little Egret, Great Black-backed, Herring and Black-headed Gull and I had some interesting conversations about people's background interest in wildlife.

Just after passing Portland in the far distance we saw our first Gannets swooping and soaring low to the water. After crossing the shipping lanes and seeing several cargo vessels and more Gannets I saw a solitary Manx Shearwater flying low over the water.

On approaching Guernsey we went down the Big Russel as the tide was low so we had great views of the surrounding islands; Sark to the east, Herm and Jethou to the west. Just as the boat made its turn towards St Peter Port I spotted a dorsal fin, sadly it was such a quick sighting that I was unable to identify it. Another passenger was also pointing and together we saw a splash as it breached. As we came into St Peter Port the cruise ship Azamara Journey was just setting sail in the direction of Jersey after having been anchored off Guernsey.

Azamara Journey Christine Arnold
The Azamara Journey (Christine Arnold)

I disembarked and went and sat on the beach and looked in a few rockpools for a while before taking a short walk along the coast. As the crossing was later today I was able to enjoy Guernsey in the late afternoon/early evening which was very pleasant as there was a beautiful autumn feel in the air. Wildlife seen included Rock Pipit and many Black-headed Gulls and bees making the most of the season's last nectar.

I reboarded and as we departed the people on the wildlife trip and another couple told me they had seen 7 dolphins leaping out of the water swimming away from the ship back in the direction of Jersey not long before arriving back in St Peter Port. However, I got told they were a different species by both, though the couple that had been on one of the MARINElife-run ID workshops were adamant they were Bottlenose Dolphin. Consequently by this point the public were very excited.

BND Peter Howlett 26
Bottlenose Dolphin - the species likely seen by passengers on board between Jersey and Guernsey
(Library photo: Peter Howlett)

On the return journey north we saw several more large container ships making their way across the Channel along with a magnificent orange and pink sunset. Shortly afterwards a golden-orange moon appeared to the left of the vessel and darkness shortly descended. As it was dark we saw an amazing multitude of different coloured lights on entering Bournemouth bay and Poole Harbour.

Thanks to Condor Ferries and the crew of the Condor Liberation for the support and assistance and making this another successful wildlife officer trip.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘Condor Liberation’ Poole-Guernsey Wednesday 16 August 2017

Posted 23 August 2017

MARINElife/Guernsey WLO Glynis Northwood-Long

Weather:
Outward - Overcast with sunny spells, wind S 1-2, sea state smooth to slight, visibility good.
Return - Sunny with increasing cloud, wind SW 2-3, sea state slight to moderate, visibility good.

Summary of sightings:

Cetaceans:
Harbour Porpoise 1

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

Terrestrial birds:
Little Egret
Oystercatcher
Black-tailed Godwit
Avocet
Sanderling
Peregrine Falcon

This was the only WLO trip in August and so it was great to see plenty of passengers on the upper viewing deck as we departed the port. Whilst chatting to them, I was able to point out the various islands in Poole Harbour including Brownsea Island with its large sheltered lagoon;  particularly important for overwintering & summer breeding birds.

Several passengers introduced themselves as having booked on the MARINElife day trip and  we kept a keen look out from the rear viewing deck, easily spotting the Little Egret, Oystercatchers, Avocets and terns on the lagoon.

Leaving the harbour, as we passed Old Harry Rocks, I met up with a couple on the MARINElife day trip and who were also soon to attend one of MARINElife's marine mammal and sea bird identification courses.  Although conditions were ideal for spotting cetaceans, we didn't see any on this occasion.

Ortac Glynis Northwood-Long 2017
Ortac Gannet colony (Glynis Northwood-Long)

Later on, as we approached Alderney, I tell the passengers to look out for the Gannet colony on Ortac. We start to spot Gannet flying by and as we get nearer to Ortac rock we can see Gannet circling all around and many more on their colony on the rock itself, which is a spectacular sight to see.

Approaching Guernsey, the sun came out and it promised to be a lovely afternoon for a stroll. Once we had disembarked the Liberation at St Peter Port, we walked around the harbour and then round to La Vallette for lunch whilst watching people swim in the bathing pools nearby.

I later found out that a couple of my fellow passengers had been lucky enough to see a Peregrine Falcon on one of the cranes in the harbour but by the time I returned, it had gone.  It appeared that I was missing out because once back on board the Liberation for the return journey, I was greeted by passengers who had been on the Liberation coming from Jersey and just seen a few cetaceans as they were coming into St Peter Port. From the description they gave, I said that they had probably seen Harbour Porpoise. We were just about to leave the harbour when a passenger pointed and I was able to get a quick glimpse of a fin of a Harbour Porpoise myself.

Dorset coast Glynis Northwood Long 01
Late afternoon over the Dorset coast (Glynis Northwood-Long)

We were hopeful of further cetacean sightings, especially when another passenger showed me a video clip of Common Dolphin they had seen near Herm a few days before. However, we had to be satisfied with just seeing the Harbour Porpoise and the impressive sight of the Gannet colony on Ortac rock again, this time in the brilliant sunshine.

As we returned to Poole Bay, we were treated to a dramatic sky over Swanage and Old Harry Rocks as the clouds started to loom around the setting sun. Birds were feeding in the evening light as we approached the harbour where, thanks to Helen and Tom who are avid birders, we spotted Sanderling, Black-tailed Godwit as well as Cormorant and Oystercatcher in the lagoon.

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

Note: If you are interested in attending one of MARINElife's courses, please look on our website here

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

Posted 06 August 2017

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

Weather
Outward - overcast with sunny spells, wind SW 6, visibility good.
Return - overcast with sunny spells wind W 5-6, visibility good.

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 2

Seabirds
Manx shearwater Puffinus puffinus 10
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 2
Storm Petrel Hydrobates pelagicus 1
Gannet Morus bassanus 119
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 5
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 1
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 3
Greater Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 7
Common Tern Sterna hirundo 16
Gull sp.  3
Tern sp.  3
Auk sp.  1

The friendly Condor crew escorted us to the bridge once the ferry had cleared Poole Harbour approach and we immediately settled into recording. Despite the challenging conditions at sea we spotted several juvenile and immature Gannet recognisable by the varying amount of colour in their plumage. Towards mid-Channel we passed a number of adult Gannet resting on the water. However sightings were fairly quiet on the voyage across to the Channel Islands.

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

The return voyage was very different though and as we left port on Jersey we noticed a swarm of Barrel Jellyfish in the clear water, all of a similar smallish size. Not far from port we had a brief glimpse of a couple of Harbour Porpoise before they disappeared down the port side of the ship. These were quickly followed by very clear views of Manx Shearwater gliding over the waves in their characteristic flight and as we approached Guernsey we spotted a number of Shag flying low over the sea or diving as the ship drew near.

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

Sailing north towards Alderney and its Gannet colony on Ortac, the numbers of Gannet started to increase and we watched one bird dive into the sea, plunging at high speed with wings swept back to catch a fish. We were delighted as we passed Ortac to see the host of birds circling in the air above, their white plumage gleaming in the sunshine, making a spectacular sight. In the middle of the Channel we watched more Manx Shearwater effortlessly shearing over the waves and flying alongside us for quite a few minutes. Our highlight was a European Storm Petrel, looking tiny and delicate as it flitted across the  surface of the sea. As we neared Poole we recorded a number of Common Tern and finished our survey as we entered the harbour. We expressed our thanks to Captain Crowe and his crew for their hospitality and facilitating another interesting survey.

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

Posted 21 July 2017

MARINElife WLO: Christine Arnold

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

Summary of sightings:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted 11 July 2017

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

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

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals
Common Dolphin Delphinus delphis 12

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted 08 July 2017

MARINElife WLO: Stephie Millin

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

Summary of Sightings

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

Terrestrial Birds
Canada Goose
Shelduck
Oystercatcher
Little Egret
Carrion Crow

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

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

Gannet Stephie Millin 01
GAnnet (Stephie Millin)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted 03 July 2017

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

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

Summary of sightings

Marine mammals:
Dolphin Sp. 4

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

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

Gannet Rick Morris 12
Gannet (Rick Morris)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted 24 June 2017

MARINElife WLO Jenny Ball

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

Summary of sightings:

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

Terrestrial birds:
Canada Goose
Shelduck
Little Egret
Oystercatcher
Swift

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

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

Castle Cornet Jenny Ball 01
Castle Cornet (Jenny Ball)

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

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

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

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

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

Posted 20 June 2017

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

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

Summary of sightings:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted 05 June 2017

MARINElife WLO: Chris Gleed-Owen

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

Summary of sightings:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Many thanks to Condor Ferries for its hospitality once again.

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

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

Posted 25 May 2017

MARINElife WLO: Hazel Pittwood

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

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals:
Dolphin sp. Distant splashes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted 12 May 2017

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

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

Summary of sightings:

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

Terrestrial birds:
Canada Goose
Oystercatcher
Swallow

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted 10 May 2017

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

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

Summary of sightings

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted 04 May 2017

MARINElife/Guernsey WLO Christine Arnold

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

Summary of sightings:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Carribean Princess Christine Arnold 01

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

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

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

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

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

Poole Harbour Christine Arnold 02

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

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

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

Posted 26 April 2017

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

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

Summary of species recorded

Marine Mammals
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 3

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

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

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

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

Ortac Rick Morris 04
Ortac Gannetry (Rick Morris)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted 19 March 2017

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

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

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals
Common Dolphin Delphinus delphis 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gannet Sarah Hodgson 01
Gannet (Sarah Hodgson)

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

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

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

Posted 25 February 2017

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

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

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals
Common Dolphin Delphinus delphis 46

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted 17 December 2016

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

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

Summary of sightings:

Cetaceans
Common Dolphin Delphinus delphis 7

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted 22 October 2016

MARINElife/Guernsey WLO Alan Altoft

Summary of sightings:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted 21 October 2016

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

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

Summary of sightings:

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted 18 October 2016

MARINElife/Guernsey WLO Glynis Northwood-Long

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

Summary of Species seen:

Cetaceans: No sightings

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

Other water birds:
Oystercatcher
Spoonbill
Avocet
Little Egret

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

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

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

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

Old Harry Rocks Rick Morris



 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Old Harry Rocks (Archive photo: Rick Morris)

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

Floral display Guernsey Glynis Northwood-Long

Liberation Glynis Northwood-Long

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

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

BH Gull Glynis Northwood-LongJuv Shag Glynis Northwood-Long

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

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

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

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

MARINElife/Guernsey WLO Glynis Northwood-Long

 

 

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

Posted 26 September 2016

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

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

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals
No marine mammals recorded

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ortac Jon Butterfield 01
Ortac Gannet colony (Jon Butterfield)

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

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

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

Posted 23 September 2016

MARINElife/Guernsey WLO Christine Arnold

Weather: Cloudy then sunny, light winds

Summary of sightings:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brownsea Lagoon Christine Arnold 01
Brownsea Lagoon (Christine Arnold)

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