Weymouth or Poole-Channel Islands

Sightings Archives: July 2015

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘Condor Liberation’ Poole-Guernsey 29 July 2015

Posted 30 July 2015

MARINElife/Guernsey WLO Christine Arnold

Weather: Sunny and breezy

Summary of sightings:

Seabirds:
Shelduck
Manx Shearwater
Gannet
Cormorant
Little Egret
Grey Heron
Great Black-backed Gull
Herring Gull
Black-headed Gull
Common Tern
Sandwich Tern

On Guernsey:
Herring Gull
Black-headed Gull
Goldfinch

I excitedly boarded the Condor Liberation through the car terminal with my bike and was joined by many other interested voyagers on deck. One man who had specifically booked on to a Marine Life trip mentioned that the approaching clouds looked ominous.

As we set sail it rained briefly but that did not put the passengers off. People graciously accepted the MARINElife leaflets and other people came over to see what they were too. Many people were on their holidays or just making the day trip and asked interesting questions about what wildlife they might see and also about the surrounding Poole and Purbeck areas.

As we sailed past the Brownsea lagoon I was able to point out various bird species which were present there. We saw Common and Sandwich Terns, Great Black-backed and Black-headed Gulls, Cormorant, Little Egret, and a Grey Heron. The Liberation increased speed as we journeyed out of Poole Bay, where we saw Cormorant, Sandwich and Common Terns fishing. Just after we had passed the Studland Bay area we saw the first majestic Gannet swooping low over the water. It was quickly joined by another.

Guernsey rock beach Christine Arnold 2015-07
Rocky beach near St Peter Port, Guernsey (Christine Arnold)

I continued to talk with fellow passengers about MARINELife and give out the leaflets. I felt that an unusually high percentage of passengers on this trip showed an interest and more seemed to be on board specifically for the day to see the wildlife.

On approaching Alderney we were lucky enough to see some Manx Shearwaters flying quickly and quite low over the surface of the water. As always I became very enthusiastic telling onlookers about the Gannet colony near Alderney. People thought it was great and today there seemed to be even more Gannets circling than ever before!

We left the ship at Guernsey and I cycled to the beach where there were many interesting rock pools to look in. I was serenaded by a flock of Goldfinches singing overhead. On the journey the many container and freight ships crossing the Channel were of interest to lots of passengers and myself. There was also a cruise ship anchored off Guernsey with little tenders taking the passengers to and from the island.

Guernsey ships Christine Arnold 2015-07
The cruise ship Mein Schiff 1 with Alderney's cargo vessel Valiant which transports goods between Alderney, Guernsey and Poole. (Christine Arnold)

On the return journey we saw the Gannet colony again and I was able to talk to a few families about it. One family with two youngsters were particularly interested in the pictures in the leaflet and went outside to see if they could glimpse anything. We spotted several more Manx Shearwater on the way back and as the Liberation slowed up on approaching Poole Bay we were treated to a lovely sunset. Again the terns were fishing in the waters near Brownsea and on Brownsea lagoon and the Cormorant were beginning to congregate in their roosts as they do each evening. Two Shelduck and some Great Black-backed Gulls flew over also. Just as the ship was about to berth in Poole we saw a graceful Barrel Jellyfish in the water right near the ferry ramp which completed our journey brilliantly.

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 22 July 2015

Posted 24 July 2015

MARINElife/Guernsey WLO Ali Quinney

Weather: Outward: mainly bright sunshine and good visibility with a strong breeze, sea state 3-4.
Return: warm and sunny with lighter winds, sea state 3-4, good visibility with some glare.

Summary of species seen:

Seabirds:
Manx Shearwater
Gannet
Shag
Herring Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Black-headed Gull
Common Tern
Sandwich Tern
Auk sp.

As I arrived at the ferry terminal the weather was looking a little hazy and uncertain but I didn't let that dampen my excitement for a day trip to Guernsey on the Liberation. This was my first solo trip as Wildlife Officer, I had been lucky enough to share my first experience to the Channel Islands with our patron Maya Plass and chair of trustees Rick Morris. After meeting and collecting my Wildlife Officer pack from the passenger service crew I headed straight up to the top deck viewing area to join the many enthusiastic passengers enjoying the sights of Poole Harbour. I am usually part of the research team tucked away on the bridge carrying out surveys but this time I thoroughly enjoyed being out in the fresh air chatting away to the passengers about what we might see and sharing tales of adventures and encounters with marine wildlife.

Common Tern Peter Howlett 07
Common Tern (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

With a light sea breeze on our faces we set sail through the harbour and made our way past Brownsea Lagoon that was full of waders and waterfowl including large numbers of Redshank and Little Egret and Common Terns could be seen feeding and carrying sand eels back to nests on the lagoon.

As school holidays are now upon us the deck was busy with lots of smaller passengers who were very excited to learn that there was a possibility of seeing dolphins and keen to learn how to spot them. Once tips had been shared a flurry of 'I can see a fin!' followed. Unfortunately these sightings went unconfirmed......

Sailing at 35 knots only the hardy and keenest of passengers remained on deck determined to try and see seabirds and cetaceans and to enjoy the fresh sea air. We saw some auks in the distance flapping their wings enthusiastically to carry their rugby ball-shaped bodies out to sea. Gannet sightings were a constant especially as we neared Ortac rock, the impressive gannetry at Alderney.

In the absence of cetaceans we enjoyed views of the characteristic rocky outcrops and lighthouses around the Channel Islands but as we neared St Peter Port we encountered many Black-headed, Herring, Lesser and Great Black-backed Gulls and a few Shags. On Guernsey I wandered around the marina enjoying the inviting clear waters and headed along the coast path to a peaceful spot for lunch near some rock pools.

Manx Shearwater Tim Balmer 01
Manx Shearwater (Archive photo: Tim Balmer)

The Liberation set sail just after 4pm in bright sunshine, lighter winds but stronger tides. The race around Alderney was particularly choppy. There were less people on deck on the return journey to Poole but we were treated to lots of sightings of Manx Shearwaters gliding gracefully just above the waves.

Although we weren't lucky enough to see any cetaceans or marine mammals this time the interest and enthusiasm for the marine environment from fellow passengers was really heart-warming to experience. Sharing knowledge and regaling tales with members of the sailing community, fishermen, coast guards, wildlife enthusiasts, families and general ocean lovers was a humbling reminder how much the marine environment and the services and resources it bestows is appreciated by so many whether for business or pleasure.

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

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘Condor Liberation’ Poole-Guernsey 13 July 2015

Posted 19 July 2015

MARINElife/Guernsey WLO Charles McGibney

Weather: Sea state 5-7, strong winds, mainly cloudy with poor visibility, mist and some rain.

Summary of sightings:

Seabirds
Herring Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Black-headed Gull
Kittiwake
Gannet
Cormorant

I was very excited as I boarded Condor Ferries 'Liberation'. This was my first trip as Wildlife Officer for MARINElife, despite having done a number of marine surveys and being a route coordinator for the charity for some time. After introducing myself to the Cabin Service Manager I located my seat and made my way up to the top deck viewing area. There was a pleasant warm breeze blowing strongly, with almost full cloud cover and patches of drizzle. As I chatted to a few of the passengers explaining what marine life we might see, the first few gull species were recorded.

As we departed Poole terminal with the powerful engines of 'Liberation' roaring, the wind force increased dramatically. As we travelled through Poole harbour, past Brownsea Island and towards Old Harry Rocks, I was hopeful of spotting a group of Bottlenose Dolphins, as the last Wildlife officer reported seeing some in that area last week. Unfortunately no marine mammals or cetaceans could be seen but a number of low flying Cormorant and gull species shot past us as 'Liberation' blasted her way through the swell and mist.

St Peter Port Charles McGibney 01
St Peter Port (Charles McGibney)

There was an interesting and quite dramatic 'dog fight' between two Black-headed Gulls over a highly prized sand eel which I enjoyed watching with a few other passengers for several minutes before they disappeared out of view behind the ship. My hopes of seeing cetaceans were then lifted again with the sight of a few Gannet but sadly they were not diving down into a bait ball beneath, just battling the strong winds whilst scanning the seas for food.

On approach to St Peter Port the weather was improving and, by the time we docked, cloud had been replaced with blue skies and some sunshine. I spent the few hours I had on Guernsey strolling over to the castle and lighthouse where I spotted some Black-headed Gulls grooming themselves on some rocks.

Unfortunately, by the time we boarded 'Liberation' once more and set off, the weather had changed again for the worse with rain and mist setting in. This made spotting cetaceans and other interesting marine life almost impossible!

During the trip back we again saw a number of Gannet. They were usually alone, including an immature bird but I did spot 3 scanning the seas together. With their impressive 2 metre wingspan and specialised respiratory system these pelagic birds were able to keep up with the ship despite her mighty engines pushing her along at up to 35 knots!

Gannet Charles McGibney 01
Immature Gannet (Charles McGibney)

As we passed Old Harry Rocks for the final time the weather had lifted a little, improving visibility slightly but despite all our efforts myself and the passengers were unable to spot any marine mammals or cetaceans before we docked at Poole terminal.

Many thanks to Condor Ferries and the crew of the 'Liberation' for their support and assistance.

Dorset coast Charles McGibney 01
Old Harry Rocks (Charles McGibney)

MARINElife Survey Report: Condor Ferries ‘Condor Liberation’ Poole-Jersey 11 July 2015

Posted 11 July 2015

This survey had to be cancelled for logistical reasons.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: Condor Ferries ‘Condor Liberation’ Poole-Guernsey 8 July 2015

Posted 10 July 2015

This wildlife officer trip was cancelled for operational reasons.