Weymouth or Poole-Channel Islands

Sightings Archives: April 2015

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report ‘Condor Liberation’ Poole-Guernsey 29 April 2015

Posted 30 April 2015

MARINElife/Guernsey WLO Sarah Hodgson

Outward: strong winds, heavy showers, poor visibility, sea state 4-6
Inward: sunny, strong winds, good visibility, sea state 4-6

Summary of species seen:

Unidentified dolphin sp. 2

Herring Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Black-headed Gull
Sandwich Tern

There was a chilly breeze and a cloudy start to the day but I was excited about my first day trip to Guernsey as a Wildlife Officer for MARINElife. After a very swift check in by the friendly Condor staff, I soon boarded the smart, new Condor Liberation and set about finding my way around the vessel. Shortly afterwards we were off, however, just as we left port the first heavy shower hit. As the conditions weren't conducive for viewing outside, I had the opportunity to view from the warmth of the Ocean Plus lounge right at the front.  We made our way through Poole Harbour and past Brownsea Lagoon and soon spotted quite a few birds including gulls, terns, Cormorant and Oystercatcher. The Captain had announced that the crossing was going to be a bit choppy and on leaving the shelter of Poole harbour there were certainly plenty of whitecaps to be seen. As we left the UK mainland behind us, just a few Gannet and a solitary Fulmar were all that seemed to be venturing very far offshore.

Gannet Carol Farmer-Wright 01a
Gannet (Archive photo: Carol Farmer-Wright)

In what seemed like no time at all, we were approaching Alderney and the weather looked to be improving.  I headed outside onto the deck to chat with other hardy passengers and just in time to see the hundreds of Gannet surrounding Ortac Rock. As we made our way into St. Peter Port on Guernsey, the sun finally made an appearance, albeit briefly.

With a few hours to spare on Guernsey, I found somewhere nice for a quick bite to eat (whilst waiting for the next shower to clear). Following lunch and with blue skies overhead, I had a lovely walk along the harbourside, past the impressive Castle Cornet to the lighthouse.  As I made my way back, I stopped to admire the Shag and Cormorant in the harbour making the most of the sunshine to dry their wings.

St Peter Port Sarah Hodgson 2015 01
Shag, St Peter Port harbour (Sarah Hodgson)

The weather conditions had certainly improved for the return journey and although there was still a stiff breeze we had plenty of sun and blue skies, such a contrast to earlier in the day.  I was able to view from the outside deck along with several other passengers and we had further sightings of gulls, Gannet and Fulmar.  I briefly left the deck to get a coffee only to discover from some of the passengers inside that they had spotted a couple of dolphins passing close to the vessel on the port side, whilst I was viewing from the starboard side!

As we neared the Purbeck coastline, I still had my eyes peeled for cetaceans, as only the day before a small pod of Bottlenose Dolphin had been reported in the area. Unfortunately, they didn't make an appearance, so instead I enjoyed the magnificent aerial abilities of the various gulls and Gannet.

After carefully manoeuvring amongst the numerous small sailing dinghies in the harbour, we were soon docked alongside in Poole and ready to disembark. It was a thoroughly enjoyable day and a pleasantly smooth crossing, despite the rough conditions at times.

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

MARINElife blog: Condor Ferries ‘Condor Liberation’ Poole-Jersey 25 April 2015

Posted 27 April 2015

Nick Adams and Simon Hartill, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884)

Weather: Mostly cloudy with patches of fog and occasional showers. Sea state 2-3, wind light southwesterly.

Summary of species recorded:

Marine Mammals
Common Dolphin  Delphinus delphis 1
Harbour Porpoise  Phocoena phocoena 1

Fulmar  Fulmarus glacialis 3
Manx Shearwater  Puffinus puffinus 3
Gannet  Morus bassanus 129
Cormorant  Phalacrocorax carbo 2
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 3
Herring Gull  Larus argentatus 314
Lesser Black-backed Gull  Larus fuscus 3
Great Black-backed Gull  Larus marinus 71
Guillemot  Uria aalge 15
Razorbill  Alca torda 2
Auk sp. 7

Terrestrial Birds
Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus 26
Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus 1
Swallow Hirundo rustica 6

We picked up our tickets and boarded the ship with the rest of the foot passengers, we introduced ourselves to the Services Manager who kindly offered to take us to the bridge once we were out of the harbour.

Ortac Rock Nick Adams 2015 01
Gannet colony on Ortac Rock (Nick Adams)

This gave us a chance to look around the ship, this was the first MARINELife survey on the Liberation, it having replaced the catamarans that ran from Weymouth.

We were soon on the bridge and having had a brief chat with the welcoming crew we were started our survey.

We had a steady flow of seabird sightings as we neared Alderney with Gannet being the most numerous, we soon realised why!

We soon reached the Channel Islands and whilst commuting between Guernsey and Jersey we picked up both Harbour Porpoise and Common Dolphin as well as a few Manx Shearwater loafing on the sea.

Common Dolphin Peter Howlett 04
COmmon Dolphin (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

Seabirds kept coming for the rest of our journey, mostly gulls and Gannets, but also a sprinkling of Guillemot and Razorbill. A few Swallow were racing us back to England and the final bird of the survey was a Whimbrel heading into Poole harbour.

We concluded our survey on arrival at Old harry Rocks and thanked the Captain and his staff for their hospitality before heading off the bridge.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: Condor Ferries ‘Condor Liberation’ Poole-Guernsey 22 April 2015

Posted 24 April 2015

MARINElife/Guernsey WLO Julia Benson

Weather: Sunny, strong winds. Sea state 2-7

Summay of sightings:

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

It was a beautiful sunny morning though rather breezy when I arrived in Poole. Soon after checking in I was boarding the Condor Ferries ship Liberation. After meeting the service manager on board I made my way to the outside top deck as we waited for the ship to depart where I joined several other passengers. As we made our way down Poole harbour we saw a number of gulls, a Cormorant flying low over the water, a Sandwich Tern and Brownsea Castle sitting proudly among the trees.

Brownsea House Julia Benson 2015
Brownsea Castle (Julia Benson)

As we left the harbour the wind grew stronger and the sea became a little choppy with many whitecaps, not the best conditions for spotting cetaceans. Despite the wind and the sea conditions the sun was shining and visibility was good. Bird sightings were few and far between but as we approached the gannetry on Ortac Rock Gannet numbers increased and as we got closer to the rock we could see a large number of them flying above it. Shortly afterwards, a lone fulmar was also spotted gliding gracefully low to the water.

As we arrived in Guernsey more gulls species were seen flying close by. After disembarking I had a few hours to walk around St Peter Port and do some window shopping followed by a pot of tea at a café overlooking the port.

It was soon time to board the ship for the return journey. I made my way on to the top deck as we headed out to sea but the wind had picked up considerably since the morning and I was unable to fight against it to get on to the deck so had to retreat inside. I was allowed to go into the lounge and observe from the window at the front of the ship. The sea conditions had changed considerably and were not conducive to spotting cetaceans and seabirds, except for Gannet which were easy to spot. A few auk and gull species were seen but they were not close enough to fully identify, as well as a Great Skua.

Great Skua Peter Howlett 02
Great Skua (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

Whilst observing from the lounge I spoke to a number of passengers about what I was looking for and about MARINElife and heard about some of their own encounters with whales and dolphins.

We were soon back in Poole Harbour and it was time to drive back home. Despite the wind and sea conditions it was a very enjoyable trip.

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

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report ‘Condor Liberation’ Poole-Guernsey 15 April 2015

Posted 16 April 2015

Rick Morris MARINElife/Guernsey WLO

Weather: Sunny, light winds. Sea state 0-2

Summary of sightings:

Unidentified dolphin dorsal fin 1

Herring Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Black-headed Gull
Red-throated Diver

Terrestrial birds seen from ship
Ring Ouzel
Carrion Crow
Feral pigeon

I had the company on today's trip with MARINElife's patron, Maya Plass and volunteers Ali Quinney and Glynis Northwood-Long. Maya was doing a piece for her column in Coast Mag and Ali and Glynis came along so that I could show them how we conduct the WLO role on this route.

WLO crew 15 April 2015
Glynis, Ali and Maya in St Peter Port (Rick Morris)

We all met at Poole and after checking in, were shortly boarding Condor Ferries new ship the 'Liberation'. We made ourselves known to the on board service manager and I arranged for us to have a bridge visit on route. We were going to do this in pairs (so there was always a presence on deck), but shortly after leaving Poole we were joined by a flight of Royal Navy helicopters that requested a line drop onto the back deck. This provided all of us with the opportunity to visit the bridge together.

Back on the outside deck, we were soon recording gulls, auks and the odd Gannet. There was a bit of sea mist around initially, but this soon burnt off leaving us under a glorious blue sky.

The sea was very calm and conditions for cetacean sightings was near perfect, but alas, all that was briefly seen was a lone dorsal fin from an unidentified dolphin species!

Ortac Rock Rick Morris 2015
Ortac Rock (Rick Morris)

Gannet numbers started to increase as we drew nearer to Alderney, with thousands present on and around Ortac rock. I paused and wondered how on earth the hundreds of birds in flight would find a spot on the already heavily populated rock!

I was ever optimistic that the approach to Guernsey would produce a few Harbour Porpoise sightings, especially as we had a near mirror calm sea, but none were to be seen. I did however spot a Ring Ouzel flying toward St Peter Port.

Arriving in Guernsey, we disembarked to enjoy a few hours exploring St Peter Port. Looking down into the water of the harbour lots of Mullet could be seen in the clear water. We ended up at the light house on the end of the breakwater by Castle Cornet. Maya had a phone call from someone from BBC Guernsey in the morning before we left Poole and we met up with one of their reporters who conducted an interview with Maya and myself on the wildlife trips. After enjoying a cup of tea and ice cream for the girls at the refreshments hut, we made our way back to the terminal.

Mullet Rick Morris 2015
Grey Mullet (Rick Morris)

The wind had picked up a little on the return crossing, but we still enjoyed a very calm sea all the way back to Poole. We had increasing numbers of passengers wanting to know what we were doing and what could be seen, which is always rewarding being able to provide information on the marine wildlife we see and of the valuable work MARINElife does on this route with the support of Condor Ferries.

Bird sightings remained constant with Gannet in the middle section and plenty of Guillemot and Razorbill nearer the Dorset coast, easily spotted in the sea state 1 we had on the approach to Poole. After passing by Old Harry Rocks, a Red-throated Diver flew down the starboard side and I managed to get Ali onto it.

We passed Brownsea Island and observed a good variety of birds on the lagoon before reaching our berth and disembarking with the passengers. We said our farewells in the car park and headed for home from this very enjoyable trip.

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

MARINElife/Guernsey WLO Rick Morris