Weymouth or Poole-Channel Islands

Sightings Archives: September 2014

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: Condor Ferries ‘Vitesse’ Weymouth-Guernsey 29 September 2014

Posted 30 September 2014

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Ellen Last

Outward - overcast but dry with light winds. Some haze and glare when the sun appeared! Sea state 2
Return - overcast but dry with light winds. Sea state 3

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals:
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 1
Dolphin sp.  1

Sooty Shearwater Puffinus griseus
Gannet Morus bassanus
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis
Great Skua Stercorarius skua
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus
Herring Gull Larus argentatus
Unidentified auk sp.
Unidentified shearwater sp.

Terrestrial birds:
Carrion Crow Corvus corone
Woodpigeon Columba palumbus

Before we departed Weymouth harbour we saw a number of different gull species including juvenile and adult Herring and Lesser Black-backed Gull and a Black-headed Gull in winter plumage. Most of these were following two fishing boats as they left the harbour. A Carrion Crow was also sitting on top of our ferry and a flock of Woodpigeon flew past.

Weymouth Harbour Ellen Last 01
Weymouth harbour (Photo: Ellen Last)

On departure I spotted another Black-headed Gull in winter plumage and an auk, which did a good job of keeping up with the speed of the ferry! A fishing boat in the distance had a number of Gannet and gulls following it. There were also a few Gannet nearer to the ferry, both sitting on the water and in flight.  There were also a number of Great Skua and our first cetacean - a Harbour Porpoise! Before we arrived in Guernsey we were lucky enough to see two Sooty Shearwater as well as a number of Cormorant, Lesser Black-backed Gull and another auk.

After disembarking at Guernsey we had four hours to explore St Peter Port. I decided to look around Victor Hugo's house, which was very impressive and had some spectacular views! I then walked up to the Clarence Battery, just south of St Peter Port, to have lunch, before returning to the ferry terminal.

St Peter Port Ellen Last 01
La Valette and Castle Cornet, Guernsey (Photo: Ellen Last)

On the return journey the sea state had picked up a bit and there were fewer bird sightings. Despite this we saw two Shag on rocks near Herm, a group of Herring Gull on the water, a number of Gannet, some more Cormorant and a few Great Skua. Then, finally, we managed to find a dolphin! It was a confusing sighting however, with only the top half of a white-coloured sleek body being seen spy-hopping out of the water, with splashes. Unfortunately, the fast speed of our ferry meant we didn't have long enough to get an accurate identification but I think what we saw was probably the underside of an individual Common Dolphin doing a half-jump out of the water.

We kept our eyes peeled for more cetaceans after this exciting sighting, but to no avail and there were also no more bird sightings after this until we reached Portland. Around there we saw Cormorant, some unidentified shearwaters and then Lesser Black-backed Gull as we arrived back into Weymouth harbour. Overall it was a great day with lots of exciting sightings! Many thanks to Condor Ferries.

MARINElife survey report: Condor Ferries 'Condor Vitesse' Weymouth-Jersey 27 September 2014

Posted 28 September 2014

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

Weather: Visibility good with no rain, wind 1-3 predominantly from the west.


Summary of sightings:

Gannet Morus bassanus 164
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 6
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 2
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 62
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 55
Black-headed Gull  Chroicocephalus ridibundus 32
Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis  1
Razorbill Alca torda 1
Unidentified gull sp.  52
Auk sp.  2

Terrestrial birds

Brent Goose  Branta bernicla 2
Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus 3
Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica 5
Passerine sp.  206

A very early drive down to Weymouth Harbour for the 7.30am sailing at least has the advantage of very little traffic. Meeting my fellow surveyor Sarah at the check in desk we boarded with the other foot passengers and once the Vitesse had cleared harbour were welcomed onto the bridge to begin surveying.

Condor Vitesse Maggie Gamble

Surveying on the bridge, photo by Maggie Gamble

Bird migration seemed to be well underway with small parties of passerines appearing over much of all legs of the survey. Unfortunately with a closing speed in excess of 30knots we failed to identify most of them apart from the Swallows.  Even averaging 200 miles a day, South Africa (for British Swallows) seems like a long tough trip. Unlike hungry MARINElife surveyors they don't have the option of nipping down to the on-board bistro for a tasty sustaining meal while the Vitesse is in Guernsey and Jersey harbours.

No cetaceans were sighted on this survey - although the large shallow fringing reef off the coast of Guernsey is remarkably (and frustratingly) adept at impersonating distant dolphin splashes!

Gannet Peter Howlett 17

Gannet, Archive Photo by Peter Howlett


Many thanks to the Captain and crew of the Condor Vitesse for welcoming us aboard to carry out this survey.


Maggie Gamble and Sarah Faulkener, Research Surveyors for MARINElife

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: Condor Ferries ‘Express’ Poole-Guernsey 22 September 2014

Posted 24 September 2014

Carol Farmer-Wright Wildlife Officer for MARINElife

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals:

Herring Gull
Great Skua
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Black-headed Gull
Common Tern

Terrestrial birds:
Meadow Pipit

It was a sunny morning as we drove down to Poole to board the 10.30 a.m. ferry to Guernsey. We negotiated the narrow channel that enables larger vessels to enter Poole Harbour, past the harbour entrance at Sandbanks and increased speed as we entered the calm waters of the English Channel. Many birds had started their migration. Small groups of Swallow and Meadow Pipit were seen heading south, the latter could be heard calling on the breeze. As we headed further into the channel we started recording Gannet and the occasional Fulmar. We passed close by a few fishing vessels, one of which was being followed by Lesser and Great Black-backed Gull. As we headed further south sightings became more sporadic. This was to change as we approached the Channel Islands.

Carol FW Andy Farmer-Wright
Carol talking to passengers (Andy Farmer-Wright)

To the west of Alderney the Gannetry on Ortac rock was still busy. Many birds, both adult and juvenile, were seen fishing or resting on the sea in the area. As we approached Guernsey Black-headed Gull were observed on the water while in the air there were adult and juvenile Common Tern.

We disembarked in Guernsey and headed to a restaurant area for lunch. We then walked around the harbour and watched further vessels from the Condor Ferries fleet enter and leave port. Black-head and Herring Gull adults, now in winter plumage, were dotted around the harbour with their young also in attendance.

We returned to the ferry terminal for the 17.50 return sailing. It was a little windier on the journey home through the Channel Islands, the seas were running higher which made looking for cetaceans more difficult. At one point, just out of Guernsey, I spotted some seabird activity but I was unable to spot any fins in the water. As we left the Channel Islands behind, the seas calmed and I was able to record more Gannet and a solitary Great Skua before sunset halted observations for the day.

Common Tern Andy Farmer-Wright 01
Common Terns (Andy Farmer-Wright)

My thanks go to Condor Ferries, the crew of the Condor Express for their support, the passengers for their interest in our work and my husband Andy for taking the majority of the photographs.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: Condor Ferries ‘Express’ Poole-Guernsey 17 September 2014

Posted 19 September 2014

Abi Parsons, Wildlife Officer for MARINElife

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals

Herring Gull Larus argentatus
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus
Gannet Morus bassanus
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis
Swallow Hirundo rustica
Mute Swan Cygnus olor
Little Egret Egretta garzetta

At 8:50 the ferry left Poole harbour and we sailed through the morning sunshine on our way to Guernsey and Jersey. Passing Brownsea Island a flock of Oystercatcher were feeding in the sheltered bay along with some Mute Swan and a Little Egret flew over. There were Shag perched on the large buoys around the harbour and some in the nature reserve, warming up in the early sun. As we sped up and left the harbour I picked out a few Great black-backed Gull circling in the air over Studland beach.

Herring Gull Abi Parsons 01
Herring Gull eyeing up my lunch in St Peter Port (Abi Parsons)

Nearing Alderney there was plenty of Gannet activity with many diving into the sea and others seemingly enjoying the windy weather. On a few occasions during the trip I noticed small flocks of Swallows flying past, strangely they were heading in both directions, towards the UK and also Guernsey!

It was beautifully sunny when we arrived in Guernsey and I had time for a lovely walk around after lunch, before boarding the ferry for the return journey.

It was a little windier on the journey home, which made looking for cetaceans a little tricky, I kept an eye out for Harbour Porpoise and dolphins near Guernsey but with no luck. At one point, just out of Guernsey, I spotted a little bit of seabird activity and managed to convince myself I'd seen a porpoise, before I looked again and realised it was only a buoy!

Despite the lack of cetaceans I spoke to many passengers who told me they had seen lots of dolphins on the way to St. Malo and around the waters of Jersey and Kimmeridge too.

Dorset coast sunset Abi Parsons
Dorset coast sunset (Abi Parsons)

We arrived back in Poole at 7pm, to a lovely sunset!

Many thanks to Condor Ferries for having me aboard! It was a very enjoyable trip.

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

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: Condor Ferries ‘Vitesse’ Weymouth–Guernsey 9 September 2014

Posted 12 September 2014

Lee Slater; MARINElife Guernsey Wildlife Officer (WLO)
Weather: Sunny and clear. Sea state 2-3 with light southerly winds

Gannet Morus bassanus
Herring Gull Larus argentatus
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla
Manx Shearwater  Puffinus puffinus
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo
Great Skua  Stercorarius skua

Terrestrial birds:
Oystercatcher  Haematopus ostralegus
Little Egret  Egretta garzetta

The sun was shining in Weymouth and even though some of the summer crowds had dispersed, the seafront and the subsequent ferry crossing were incredibly busy. I made my way to the top deck and began my introductions as the Condor Vitesse started its journey. The walls of Portland harbour provided Herring and Lesser Black-backed Gull sightings and as we entered the Channel, we saw our first, of a constant stream of Gannet.

Great Skua Adrian Shephard 02I was approached by a range of passengers and they supplemented those who had joined for the MARINElife day trip and soon we were all searching the waves for any sign of a dorsal fin. These were unfortunately not forth coming, but a group of 5 Great Skua made for excellent watching and soon we slipped in to St. Peter Port, Guernsey.

Having never been to Guernsey I was looking forward to exploring St. Peter Port and after a nice walk around this quaint town and a cup of tea, it was time to head to the vessel for the return leg.

Great Skua (Adrian Shephard)

Hope was renewed as we set sail for Weymouth, the clear conditions and bulk of people on the back deck meant that we were all optimistic. The highlight of the return leg was a dazzling flock of Manx Shearwater that were skimming above the water. Soon enough though, the light diminished and we were left to watch the rising of a 'supermoon' as the Condor Vitesse pulled back in to Weymouth.

Thanks to Condor Ferries, the crew of the Condor Vitesse for the support and assistance and to the passengers for their enthusiasm.

Lee Slater; MARINElife Guernsey Wildlife Officer (WLO)

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: Condor Ferries ‘Vitesse’ Weymouth–Guernsey 3 September 2014

Posted 09 September 2014

Ellen Last, Wildlife Officer for MARINElife

Outward - sunny, dry with light winds, visibility not great due to haze.
Return - much glare, dry with slightly stronger winds

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals
Harbour Porpoise, Phocoena phocoena 3

Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis
Gannet Morus bassanus
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus
Herring Gull Larus argentatus
Commic Tern Sterna hirundo/paradisaea

As we departed Weymouth I managed to see Black-headed Gull and a flock of Cormorants, this despite the hazy conditions. On the crossing the passengers who joined me spotted a couple of fins which I was able to identify as Harbour Porpoise. There were numerous Gannet to watch all the way to Guernsey and another Harbour Porpoise sighting added some further excitement.

Harbour Porpoise Peter Howlett 16
Harbour Porpoise (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

In Guernsey harbour there were quite a few Commic Tern and Shag to look at. After dise
mbarking I bought some lunch and passed the time ashore by walking up to Castle Cornet and having a delicious lemon meringue ice cream!

On the return journey there was quite a lot of glare, which meant it became very difficult to observe, despite this many Gannets were seen. On the approach to Weymouth harbour I sighted a Cormorant and a Fulmar.

Castle Cornet Ellen Last
Castle Cornet (Photo: Ellen Last)

The passengers who joined me thoroughly enjoyed their day and gained a good insight into the species that occur in the English Channel. Many thanks go to Condor Ferries for supporting the work of MARINElife.