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