MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: Condor Ferries ‘Condor Liberation’ Poole-Guernsey 22 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:

Manx Shearwater
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.