Weymouth or Poole-Channel Islands

Sightings Archives: June 2015

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: Condor Ferries ‘Condor Liberation’ Poole-Guernsey 30 June 2015

Posted 05 July 2015

MARINElife/Guernsey WLO  Andy Gilbert

Weather: Sunny, clear visibility, wind ENE, sea state 2-3.

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals
Bottlenose Dolphin 5

Seabirds
Sandwich Tern
Common Tern
Herring Gull
Black Headed Gull
Lesser Black Back Gull
Great Black Back Gull
Mediterranean Gull
Guillemot
Cormorant
Kittiwake
Gannet
Manx Shearwater

Other
Little Egret
Canada Goose
Spoonbill
Oystercatcher

The Condor Liberation left Poole Harbour at 10am with predictions of a sunny day but with moderately high easterly winds expected. As we passed Brownsea Island lagoon the large number of passengers out on the viewing deck had sightings of good numbers of Oystercatcher, Great Black-backed Gull, Cormorant, Canada Geese plus a few Little Egrets with a Spoonbill feeding amongst them. Huge Barrel jelly fish floated past us. Common Terns were abundant and as we headed towards Old Harry Rocks good numbers of diving Sandwich Terns entertained us with their spectacular feeding. After chatting to passengers in the beautiful morning sunshine about all the possible wildlife encounters that the trip offered, the wind increased as we turned into the Channel and many people sought the comfort of their seats, leaving a hardy group on deck.

BND Andy Gilbert 01
Bottlenose Dolphin (Andy Gilbert)

Sightings were initially quiet and consisted mainly of Gannets until we reached the tidal race around Alderney and the Ortac gannetry. The 70 foot high guano covered sandstone rock is an impressive element to this Channel Islands crossing and the spectacular sight of thousands of Gannets using it during breeding season, making it the most southerly Gannetry in the British Isles, makes this trip worth doing on its own.

Some Guillemot and two Mediterranean Gulls appeared off Guernsey and we arrived to a baking hot St Peter Port. The next few hours were spent eating our lunch on the harbour wall and walking the cliffs before re-boarding.

A few Manx Shearwater were in evidence on the return journey and we scanned the turbulent waters around Alderney for Harbour Porpoise or even Minke Whale but to no avail. We cut across the path of an impressive square rigger in full sail in the distance on the return. At around 7.30 pm, as we passed the entrance to Poole Harbour, the highlight of the trip appeared. I spotted five Bottlenose Dolphin some distance from us and was able to direct excited passengers to the sighting.  They headed directly towards us on the port side but unfortunately were turned away by the presence of jet skis alongside the ferry. After that we managed to watch them showing at the rear of the ship for a while and came away extremely happy with this great end to the day's trip.

Sign on Condor Liberation Andy Gilbert
The wonderfully fitting sign Condor have put on the Liberation (Andy Gilbert)

As always, many thanks to the Captain of Liberation and to Condor Ferries for their support of our work.

MARINElife Survey Report: Condor Ferries ‘Condor Liberation’ Poole-Jersey 27 June 2015

Posted 01 July 2015

MARINElife Surveyors Steve Morgan and Christine Arnold

Weather: sea state 2-3, wind south-westerly 5-10 knots, mainly bright with very good visibility.

Summary of sightings

Seabirds:
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 1
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 3
Gannet Morus bassanus 101 (+ c.1000 at Ortac)
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 10
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 54
Great Skua Stercorarius skua 1
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 13
Greater Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 9
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 67
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 3
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 21
Common Tern Sterna hirundo 7
Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis 3
Guillemot Uria aalge 6
Razorbill Alca torda 1
Puffin Fratercula arctica 1
Unidentified tern sp.  1
Unidentified gull sp.  13

I met  Steve outside the ferry terminal . Both of us found out that this was the first time we'd done this survey route. I'd never been to Jersey before and this was my first survey.

Filled with excitement and enthusiasm we boarded the Condor's bridge where the panoramic views over the harbour were superb.

Steve showed me what I needed to do in order to complete the survey. There was a lot involved e.g. noting down the wind speed and direction, speed and direction of the ship, cloud cover and sea state. On the other sheet we noted our observations such as bird species, behaviour, age of bird and number of birds. I found this routine very interesting and learnt a lot too.

Brownsea lagoon Christine Arnold 2015
Brownsea Island (Christine Arnold)

First we passed Brownsea Island lagoon, a haven for wildlife, where we saw Cormorants, Common Terns, Sandwich Terns, Little Egret, Canada Goose , Grey Heron, Shelduck, Black-headed Gull , Great Black-backed and Herring Gulls. After passing Brownsea we continued out of the harbour where there were Common Terns feeding.

On the way to Guernsey, our first stop, we had sightings of Fulmar, Gannet, Guillemot, Cormorant , Shag and Razorbill. On the way we passed Ortac rock with its large Gannet colony. Gannets were becoming more and more visible as we approached the rocks. I love the way Gannets can soar so gracefully and also at other times fly quickly when they need to. Steve and I estimated at roughly 1000 of them on the rock. Off the southern edge of Alderney we could see Les Etacs, two more Gannet covered rocks.

Ortac Christine Arnold 2015-06
Ortac (Christine Arnold)

There were two cruise liners anchored off St Peter Port. I was intrigued at how they lower small boats off the side to get passengers ashore as the cruise liners are too large to enter the port. When approaching Guernsey's St Peter Port we saw many Herring Gulls congregating and circling around, some near fishing boats. I was amazed at how the Captain manoeuvred the ship into such a tight space with such ease.

After a brief stop to let Guernsey passengers disembark, we were able to continue to Jersey. On this leg of the journey we were fortunate enough to see a solitary Puffin quite near the ship, it was flapping quite vigorously - quite comical really. After about an hour we docked at St Helier and watched many Herring Gulls circling around.

On the return trip  we were fortunate enough to see Manx Shearwaters and a flock of Gannet flying in a v formation past the boat. At one point a Gannet was flying furiously alongside the boat which was going at nearly 40 miles an hour allowing me time to take some photos of it in action.

Gannet Christine Arnold 02
Gannet (Christine Arnold)

After more splendid views of circling Gannets round the colony  we were alerted to a Gannet flying right above the bridge. This friendly Gannet continued to fly above the bridge gliding and soaring just in front of us for nearly an hour.

Whilst returning to Poole Harbour we were fortunate enough to see many Barrel Jellyfish - perhaps 50 or so - it was wonderful to see them alive in their natural habitat as I've often seen them washed up on the beaches around Poole. We returned past Brownsea where the Common and Sandwich Terns were still busily feeding sand eels to their offspring.

Thanks to Steve for his kindness and helping me to learn how to survey for MARINElife and to Condor Ferries and the crew of the Condor Liberation for the support and assistance. Special thanks go to Captain Giles Wade for making us so welcome on the bridge.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘Condor Liberation’ Poole-Guernsey 23 June 2015

Posted 24 June 2015

MARINElife/Guernsey WLO Sarah Hodgson

Weather: Sunny, light breeze, sea state 2 (3 at times), good visibility

Summary of sightings:

Seabirds:
Manx Shearwater
Fulmar
Gannet
Cormorant
European Shag
Herring Gull
Black-headed Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Common Tern
Sandwich Tern
Guillemot

Other birds:
Shelduck
Little Egret
Oystercatcher

I arrived in Poole in glorious sunshine and once on board Condor Liberation, made my way to the outside viewing deck along with many other fellow passengers. There was barely ripple on the surface of the water within Poole harbour and I was looking forward to a smooth crossing and great viewing conditions.

Brownsea lagoon was a hive of activity with numerous gulls and terns, diving into the water after small fish, no doubt with hungry chicks to feed. I also managed to spot a deer at the water's edge, just emerging from the reeds. Leaving the harbour I noticed lots of barrel jellyfish just below the surface of the water, which have been a familiar sight along the south coast this summer.

 

As the boat sped up many passengers retreated inside but I was able to have a good chat with several people who were keen to learn more about the wildlife that we might encounter on the crossing to Guernsey. We spotted the occasional Fulmar and Manx Shearwater and plenty of Gannet, especially as we neared Alderney. On arrival in Guernsey we were treated to the sight of a large group of Shag just outside the harbour walls.

Fermain Bay Sarah Hodgson 2015 01
Fermain Bay, Guernsey (Sarah Hodgson)

Once ashore I was feeling adventurous and determined to make the most of the lovely weather, so I caught a bus out of St Peter Port to find a secluded bay I had seen pictures of. Fermain Bay definitely didn't disappoint and was the perfect spot for lunch. Having consulted my map, I decided I had enough time to walk back into St. Peter Port along the cliff path and was rewarded with some spectacular views along the south east coast of the island and across to Sark and Herm.

 

Still bathed in sunshine and ever hopeful of spotting cetaceans we set off on the return journey back to Poole.  Wildlife sightings weren't much different from the outward leg, with the addition of a few Guillemot. At one point a lone Gannet appeared right above us on the outside deck and impressively kept up for a while, which was probably the highlight of the trip for me. Unfortunately the cetaceans eluded us this time.

Gannet Graham Ekins 04
Gannet (Archive photo: Graham Ekins)

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

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

Posted 17 June 2015

MARINElife/Guernsey WLO Rick Morris

Weather:
Southbound: Overcast with light to moderate winds. Northbound: Sunny with cold NE wind with mostly good visibility both ways.

Summary of sightings:

Cetaceans:
Harbour Porpoise 2

Seabirds:
Arctic Tern
Common Tern
Sandwich Tern
Herring Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Yellow-legged Gull
Mediterranean Gull
Black-headed Gull
European Shag
Cormorant
Fulmar
Manx Shearwater
Gannet
Guillemot
Razorbill
Oystercatcher

Other Birds:
Shelduck
Carrion Crow
Little Egret
Canada Goose
Mallard
Gadwall

I was joined on today's wildlife trip by Karrie Langdon, Karrie has taken over as the Guernsey WLO coordinator and as such, came along to see what is involved!

We arrived at the busy check-in and were handed our boarding cards by the ever helpful desk staff and made our way to catch the bus that would take us to the impressive 'Condor Liberation'. Upon boarding we introduced ourselves as the Wildlife Officers at the information desk before making our way up to the outside viewing deck.

Harbour Porpoise Peter Howlett 15b
Harbour Porpoise (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

Leaving Poole we soon began picking up good numbers of Common and Sandwich Tern as well as the odd Arctic Tern with many seen fishing and flying with their catch. Passing Brownsea Island there were Cormorant, Shelduck, Gadwall, Mallard, Little Egret, Canada Geese, Herring, Lesser, Greater and Black-headed Gull to be seen.

As we headed out into the Channel bird numbers decreased, with Gannet being mostly observed in ones and twos. That is until we neared Ortac and Les Etacs, off Alderney, where hundreds could be seen on and around the rocks.

Leaving Alderney behind us and with Guernsey in sight we were ever hopeful of seeing some cetaceans and as we approached the island of Herm a lone Harbour Porpoise provided the only mammal to be seen on this leg.

Queen Elizabeth Rick Morris 2015
Queen Elizabeth (Rick Morris)

As we made our way towards the harbour we were greeted with great views of the Queen Elizabeth cruise ship that was on a stopover, allowing her passengers to go sightseeing in St Peter Port. Once on Guernsey we decided on a walk along the harbour front and up to the breakwater by Castle Cornet. We were identifying the different gulls when Karrie spotted a Yellow-legged Gull which I confirmed. A stop at the refreshments hut for a cuppa and then it was time to make our way back for the return home.

Back aboard, we enjoyed an excellent meal of piri piri chicken and rice before heading outside ready for the return to Poole. The northeast wind had increased somewhat and once we passed Ortac we ventured down to the forward observation lounge where we engaged several of the passengers in conversation on the wildlife that can be encountered on this route.

YL Gull Peter Howlett 04
Yellow-legged Gull (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

Another lone Harbour Porpoise was seen by Karrie of which I just had a fleeting glimpse of the tiny triangular dorsal fin before it disappeared below the surface. The sea flattened out to sea state 2 as we neared the Dorset coast and we thought this may give us more cetacean sightings, but alas, none were to be seen. The calm conditions did provide us with good views of Guillemot and Razorbill that were sat on the surface.

Reaching our berth in Poole, we said thanks and farewells to the onboard service team and made our way ashore.

We would like to thank Condor Ferries and the crew of the Condor Liberation for the friendly and helpful support and assistance.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘Condor Ferries ‘Liberation’ Poole-Guernsey 10 June 2015

Posted 12 June 2015

MARINElife/Guernsey WLO Julie Hatcher

Weather
Outward: sunny, dry with strong breeze, good visibility but some glare from the sun
Return: sunny and dry with very strong winds

Summary of sightings

Seabirds:
Gannet
Cormorant
European Shag Herring Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Black-headed Gull
Common Tern

As we left Poole Harbour we watched a stream of Common Terns flying in and out on feeding forays for their chicks on Brownsea Island. A mixture of gulls were also spotted along with several Cormorants sat in their characteristic pose drying their wings.

Gannet Peter Howlett 18
Gannet (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

Heading away from the coast we quickly left the clouds behind, enjoying the sunshine tempered by a stiff breeze. A number of solitary Gannets passed by the ship swooping low over the waves as we headed for Guernsey. The number of these increased as we approached the Channel Islands and we passed close to their breeding colony on the rocky outcrop of Ortac, which was quite a spectacle.

As we entered the harbour at Guernsey more gulls and several Shags could be seen.

St Peter Port Julie Hatcher June 2015
St Peter Port, Guernsey (Julie Hatcher)

For the return trip the breeze had increased. Another good view of the Gannet colony and the foraging birds indicated that we were leaving the Channel Islands behind. Feeling slightly sunburnt and windswept we retired to the Horizon Lounge with its panoramic forward views for the last part of the trip. Despite the uninterrupted views we did not manage to spot any dolphins on this trip. We did however have fantastic views of the Dorset coast, Old Harry Rocks and Poole Harbour to end a very enjoyable day.

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

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: Condor Ferries ‘Condor Liberation’ Poole-Guernsey 5 June 2015

Posted 11 June 2015

MARINElife/Guernsey WLO Glynis Northwood-Long

Weather: Rain to start, sun at the very end, otherwise overcast with moderate to strong winds, sea state 4-6.

Summary of species seen:

Cetaceans
No sightings

Seabirds
Fulmar
Gannet
Cormorant
Herring Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Black-headed Gull
Common Tern


This was my first trip representing MARINElife as Wildlife Officer although I had the privilege of accompanying MARINElife's patron, Maya Plass, Rick Morris, our Wildlife Officer Co-ordinator and volunteer Ali Quinney on a similar trip in April.

Although it was chilly and overcast, I was hopeful that the weather would improve during the day. I was greeted with a warm smile by the friendly staff at the Condor check-in desk and I quickly boarded the Liberation. Shortly after departure, it started to rain and the service manager was kind enough to allow me to view from the fabulous panoramic Ocean Plus lounge. After breakfast, I went out onto the viewing deck but few passengers were tempted outside. So I walked round the ship and had the opportunity to chat to people about how MARINElife aims to conserve marine life through research and education.

Ortac Nigel Northwood 2015 06
Ortac Gannet colony (Nigel Northwood)

Approaching Alderney, I was chatting with a couple from Australia and as the ship passed quite close to Ortac, they were amazed at the spectacular sight of the Gannet colony. After that, I was joined by a couple on a bird watching holiday and as we came into port in Guernsey, we saw adult and juvenile Herring Gull, Cormorant and Lesser Black-backed Gull.

I disembarked at St Peter Port and having a few hours ashore, I wandered around the harbour watching gulls swooping around fishing boats and a group of Cormorant sitting on moored boats, drying out their wings.

Gannet Carol Farmer-Wright 02
Gannet (Archive photo: Carol Farmer-Wright)

On the return journey, I was joined on the viewing deck by several people from Guernsey. As we marvelled at the sight of the Gannets circling around and nesting on Ortac, we wondered how many thousands there were in the Gannet colonies on Ortac and Les Etacs rocks.

As we sailed back towards Poole, the sun came out over Old Harry Rocks and we saw a variety of birds including Common Tern diving for fish, Cormorant were swimming and  gulls were following the fishing boats.

Thanks to Condor Ferries and the crew of the Condor Liberation for making me so welcome onboard.