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