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