MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report ‘Condor Express’ Poole-Guernsey 27 August 2014


MARINElife/Guernsey WLO Andy Gilbert

Dry but overcast, wind F4, Sea state 2-4

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals:
Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus 1

Common Tern  Sterna hirundo
Arctic Tern  Sterna paradisaea
Sandwich Tern  Sterna sandvicensis
Gannet  Morus bassanus
Herring Gull  Larus argentatus
Lesser Black Backed Gull  Larus fuscus
Great Black Backed Gull  Larus marinus
Black Headed Gull  Chroicocephalus ridibundus
Manx Shearwater  Puffinus puffinus
European Shag  Phalacrocorax aristotelis
Cormorant Phalacorax carbo
Great Skua  Stercorarius skua
Pomarine Skua  Stercorarius pomarinus

Terrestrial birds:
Oystercatcher  Haematopus ostralegus
Little Egret  Egretta garzetta
Canada Goose  Branta canadensis
Grey Heron  Ardea cinerea

After days of rain it was great to find dry skies as I arrived at 6am in the car park at the Condor ferry terminal in Poole.  I was greeted by Rick Morris who was joining me on today's crossing to talk to the blogger, "One Tired Mummy", real name Laura, who was also taking the trip. As we left Poole the harbour was relatively calm with little wind and we enjoyed Brownsea Island lagoon where we counted easily over two hundred Cormorant and watched a juvenile Grey Heron fishing, along with Oystercatcher and Canada Goose. In the harbour, both adult and juvenile Common and Arctic Tern were spotted, as was a solitary Gannet gliding around the harbour, which Rick and I agreed was unusual so close to shore and in sheltered waters.

WLO Andy Gilbert Rick Morris
WLO Andy Gilbert at work (RIck Morris)

The sea state on the crossing was a bit challenging, probably reaching sea state 4 at times, particularly through the tidal race around Alderney. Despite this a fair number of passengers were up on deck and came and chatted, whilst we watched Gannet carving through the air and were rewarded with not just one but three Great Skua sightings throughout the journey. We concluded that, considering the scarcity of other birds in this part of the Channel, there was little to sustain these kleptoparasites today. Further into the crossing the Poole-Guernsey route provides an alternative perspective to the Weymouth-Guernsey sailing as it passes between (rather than to the west) of Les Casquets lighthouse rock and the Ortac Gannet colony. Superb views of this solitary rock covered white with guano with thousands of Gannets swirling above can be had on this route. First colonised in 1940 the rock now holds over 2,000 Gannet with the nearby Les Etacs rocks on Alderney (seen in the distance from the ship) housing another 4-5,000. Gannet tagged from these colonies have been recorded travelling up to 340km on foraging trips and will make up many of the birds we see off the southern coast of England. Once past the choppy tidal races, the seas into Guernsey were a little more forgiving and Rick spotted a Grey Seal off Herm before we arrived to the sight of another cruise ship moored off St Peter Port.

A wander around the harbour and coffee by the yacht club, along with the impressive sight of a flock of 6 Grey Heron passing over us, filled the time before we returned to port for the second leg. We enjoyed another view of Ortac and some Manx Shearwaters on the way home. I was going to call this "the voyage of the Bonxie" but as we approached the Dorset coast and listened to a passenger telling us about the pod of 20 or so dolphins she had seen off the Guernsey coast the day before, a Pomarine Skua showed itself and put an end to that thought!

Ortac Rock Rick Morris
Ortac rock (Rick Morris)

A great day was had with some good avian sightings and our thanks, as always, to the Captain of the Condor Express and all the crew and staff.