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

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.