MARINElife wildlife Officer: Christine Arnold
Outward - sunny, dry with light winds, good visibility but some glare.
Return - more cloud, dry with slightly stronger winds, good visibility.
Summary of sightings:
Great Black-backed Gull
This was my first trip representing MARINElife as a Wildlife Officer in partnership with Condor Ferries and also my first visit to Guernsey. The aim of the trip was to look for cetaceans and seabirds, whilst interacting with the passengers to educate them about the species that can be found in the English Channel.
After departing from Poole a good range of species were seen on the lagoon on Brownsea Island. These included Herring, Lesser and Great Black-backed Gull, Cormorants, tern sp., Shelduck, Canada Goose and Raven.
Gannet (Christine Arnold)
The English Channel was calm and the public and I were able to see many Gannets flying quite low over the water. On approaching Alderney we had good views of the Ortac Gannet colony, the white covered rock really standing out in the clear weather.
Just after we passed Ortac we saw two Razorbills flying separately alongside the vessel. Their wings a blur with the effort they put into flying.
In St Peter Port there were the usual Black-headed and Herring Gulls.
On the journey back more passengers were out on the deck and able to enjoy the views of the Ortac Gannet colony. It became quite a talking point especially as the Gannets could be seen cirling round the top and landing gracefully in the water. The rocks looked from a distance like they may have been covered in snow but actually they were white with birds and guano.
Ortac Gannet colony (Christine Arnold)
Unfortunately we did not have any cetaceans on this trip.
All in all a very interesting and memorable trip and I am looking forward to enjoying another one again soon. Many thanks to Condor Ferries for welcoming me aboard.
If you like the sound of joining one of our trips down to Guernsey, then you can book online here
MARINElife/Guernsey WLO Julia Benson
Weather: Sunny, strong winds. Sea state 3-4
Summary of species seen:
Great Black-backed Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Despite the sun shining when I arrived at Poole it was quite a cold morning but the forecast and sea conditions were looking good for the day. Following a swift check-in I was soon boarding the Condor Liberation and, after finding my seat, made my way to the outside top deck to join the passengers who were braving the chilly morning. As we sailed slowly out of Poole harbour we saw a variety of birds including Black-headed, Herring, Great Black-backed and Lesser Black-backed Gulls, Cormorant and Common Tern.
Gannet (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)
As we headed out into open water, the passengers returned to the warmth and comfort of their seats and shortly afterwards I joined them to warm up with a nice hot cup of tea from the café. I returned to the outside deck a few times throughout the outbound journey armed with my binoculars and camera. There was only the occasional bird to be seen, mostly Gannet and the odd gull. Soon we were passing the unmistakable Ortac Rock topped off in white with many Gannets circling above it. There were also a few formations of Gannet seen flying close by, all in a line.
As we arrived in Guernsey more gulls species were seen flying close by.
With a few hours to spend onshore I wandered around the town before buying a picnic to lunch to enjoy in Candie Gardens where I enjoyed the beautiful plants and sunshine.
Guillemot (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)
It was soon time to board the ship again for the return journey and soon after boarding I headed out on to the top deck but despite the sun shining the wind was quite chilly. I remained on the top deck with some of the passengers and saw a Guillemot sitting on the water, followed a short while later by a Razorbill which was also sitting on the water. As we neared Ortac Rock Gannets began to appear, many were flying around whilst others sat on the water. Once the bird activity had died down I went inside to warm up with another hot drink. I had been hopeful of seeing dolphins as they had been sighted by the WLO on the previous trip. Unfortunately they were a no show for us today. We were soon back in Poole harbour and it was time to head home after a very enjoyable day.
Thanks to Condor Ferries and the crew of the Condor Liberation for their continued support.
Sarah Hodgson & James McCarthy, Research Surveyors for MARINElife
Weather: Outward - mainly sunny with some cloud
coverage, good visibility: NW wind, sea state 2-3
Return - sunny, good visibility with glare at times: WNW wind, sea state 2-3
Summary of species recorded:
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 6
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 11
Gannet Morus bassanus 67
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 147
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 17
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 17
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 5
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 5
Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis 4
Arctic Tern Sterna paradisaea 3
Guillemot Uria aalge 28
Razorbill Alca torda 4
Puffin Fratercula arctica 2
Gull sp. 100
Auk sp. 1
Swallow Hirundo rustica 7
As we made our way to the port in Poole the sun was shining, there was a cool breeze and conditions looked favourable for our survey. After an efficient check in by the helpful Condor staff, we boarded Condor Liberation and made our way to the outside viewing deck to await departure. We had good views of gulls, terns and waders as the ferry passed Brownsea lagoon, before being invited onto the bridge by Captain Ben Roper and crew to begin our survey.
Arctic Tern (Archive photo: Rob Petley-Jones)
The conditions were good, with slight seas and a bit of cloud coverage providing great visibility. As we left the Dorset coastline behind us, we started to record individual Gannet, Fulmar and the occasional Swallow, as well as 3 Arctic Tern overhead. Sightings of Gannet remained fairly constant, increasing as we neared the colony on Ortac Rock. We also started to pick up several auks before slowing for our approach to Guernsey. Coming into St. Peter Port, we made out a large flock of around 120 Shag feeding just outside the harbour and a group of gulls sitting on the water in the distance.
After a brief stop, we carried on to Jersey in glorious sunshine. The return journey was much the same, with clear skies and a fresh northwesterly breeze. On leaving Jersey, the visibility was slightly affected by the glare from the bright sunshine, but the viewing conditions soon improved. We continued to record gulls, Gannet, Fulmar and Guillemot, along with a couple of solitary Puffin and Razorbill. Mid-Channel several Manx shearwater caught our eye, flying fast and low over the surface of the water. After a smooth crossing, the familiar sight of Old Harry Rocks came into view and we were soon entering Poole Harbour which marked the end of our survey.
Manx Shearwater (Archive photo: Tim Balmer)
Thanks to Condor Ferries, Captain Ben Roper and the crew of the Condor Liberation for their support and assistance.
MARINElife/Guernsey WLO Maggie Gamble
Weather: Sunny with large patches of cloud, light winds. Sea state 1-3
Summary of species seen:
Bottlenose Dolphin 3
Lesser Black-backed Gull
This was my first time on the new Condor Liberation, a very impressive vessel with good side and rear views from the top deck. We enjoyed a very smooth crossing to Guernsey in good conditions but quiet on the wildlife sightings. As we approached Alderney the number of Gannets increased and we had nice views of Ortac rock showing white with nesting Gannets and its surrounding halo of flying birds. The return trip from Guernsey passed even closer, providing great views of the larger colony and two smaller ones behind it nearer to the Alderney coast.
At Guernsey Condor Liberation manoeuvred into the harbour and moored with seemingly much less trouble than I have parking my car. Once ashore I made use of the excellent bus service (£1 per trip) and went to the north of the island and had lunch at one of the many small food huts that are dotted all around the Guernsey coast. I had considered staying on the bus for a round the entire Island trip but lunch beckoned.
The return leg started in brilliant sunshine but then a bank of cloud and the top deck catching the wind meant that passengers retired to the comfort of the inner decks and I followed for a warm up! The announcement by the Captain that we were approaching the Dorset coast brought a resurgence of passengers back to the top deck to admire the beautiful coastal scenery and some impressive real estate.
Bottlenose Dolphin (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)
Near Old Harry Rocks we slowed down for the approach to Poole Harbour where I succumbed to the bane of the wildlife officer by looking the wrong way at the right time. Some passengers on the lower back deck quietly enjoyed some good views of 3 exuberant Bottlenose Dolphins having a thoroughly good time around 2 smaller boats following us in. Frustratingly I'd inspected those boats a short time previously thinking that they looked tempting to any thrill seeking dolphin but to no avail!
Thank you to Condor Ferries for having MARINElife aboard and apologies to the wildlife seeking passengers for missing the dolphins.